As we sink closer to the bottom of the Formula 1 Constructors Championship table for 2022, we find a surprise entry at number nine – AlphaTauri.
Whilst a Williams languishing at the bottom is to be expected. Nobody in their right mind would have predicted that the two-way fight for the wooden spoon would have involved Red Bull’s junior team!
The Italian-based team have, with the exception of 2018, reliably finished mid-table for the past eight years. As the younger sibling of Red Bull Racing, nobody would expect them to top older brother.
Although in the 2021 season, the “good doctor” became very animated when Pierre Gasly closed in on the lap times of Max Verstappen. But we would anticipate they’d be trading blows in the upper end of the league.
Hopefully, it comes with a free fire extinguisher
This year’s offering from the design team headed by Technical Director Jody Eggington should have matched past competitive expectations. But it didn’t, for several reasons. In the first instance, AT03, like many cars at the time, was a bit portly at launch.
However, unlike its competitors, it failed to shed its lard ass and remained on the wrong side of the scales for the duration of the Championship. The car also featured push-rod suspension front and rear. One of only two teams to take this path, the other being Alfa Romeo. Like Alfa, most of AlphaTauri’s points were claimed in the first half of the season.
And like Alfa again, they became increasingly less competitive as the season progressed. To add insult to injury, they also lost some early season point-scoring opportunities, with the Red Bull-supplied engine replicating the early reliability problems experienced by the senior team.
This wasn’t the only Red Bull-sourced problem. Whilst the regulations state you have to build your own car – Chassis etc., you are permitted to buy some components, and their related parts, off the shelf.
Naturally, AlphaTauri’s came from Red Bull, an arrangement that had worked well in the past. However, the new regulations threw an unanticipated spanner into the works in the shape of the rapid development pace of the RB18.
Different folks, different strokes
The frantic search for solutions to porpoising and attempts to maximise aero performance meant that AlphaTauri couldn’t always keep up with older brothers’ production of new things. This resulted in major upgrades rather than small, tested steps since AT03 had to be adapted to receive many Red Bull-derived tweaks.
As the team found out, what worked for the RB18 didn’t necessarily work for the AT03. Especially where some of the components doubled as vortice generators designed specifically for the Red Bull aero package.
Empty talent bag at AlphaTauri
By the time we got to August, AlphaTauri’s Team Principal, Franz Tost was not a happy camper. He made it clear that they were not meeting his performance expectations. Little did he know the team had already peaked for the year.
Then came the Zandvoort incident, where the little sister appeared to give big brother a helping hand by precipitating a Safety Car. The circumstantial evidence looked bad. However, the FIA cleared the team of any wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, the social media trolls seemed reluctant to let it go and subjected Red Bull’s innocent and talented Hannah Schmitz to some deplorable vitriol. One of the negative impacts of F1’s new and growing fanbase!
It never rains but pours
However, there was more misery to come for Tost. Where the Tourettically challenged Tsunoda was pretty much confirmed for 2023 once Red Bull told Porsche nein. The ménage à trois between Oscar Piastri, Alpine, and McLaren eventually resulted in a gap for Gasly at the Gallic team.
With the love affair between the Frenchman and Red Bull long since over and Alpine clearly further ahead of the game, he made the logical move and agreed to jump ship. This left AlphaTauri with no adult in the team.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the young Japanese driver. He’s proved feisty in battling others on an unlevel playing field and appeared to have developed over the season. I hope he will emerge a butterfly from his chrysalis in 2023, but either way, he will not be ready to lead.
Fortunately, through the auspices and quick thinking of the good doctor, AlphaTauri signed Nyck de Vries for 2023.
While Tost may regret losing Gasly, the talented de Vries will surely be a comfort for him and the rest of the team. 2022 was a year to forget; hopefully, the new season will be one to remember. Good luck, AlphaTauri and all who sail in her.