F1 2023 | AlphaTauri | Yet another up-and-down start

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Scuderia AlphaTauri’s 2023 has definitely not been off to a very positive start. The Italian team, the sister team of championship winners Red Bull, has only scored two points this season, compared to the 16 achieved last year in the same number of rounds.

What are the reasons behind such a falloff? Tsunoda has been performing consistently, but the AT04 seems to consistently be slower than almost all the other cars.

The main issue the team had to tackle last year, the low speed corners, is yet to be solved, with an additional lack of grip as new source of displeasure for the drivers.

There have definitely been some improvements compared to last year’s challenger, such as the pace in high speed corners, but AlphaTauri’s rivals seem to have unlocked more potential from their concepts.

A great deal of performance is expected to come from the upgrade package that should have debuted in Imola, which involve a completely renovated floor and the revised wing debuted in Miami and it’s supposed to be a “big step forward” in the words of Head of Aereodynamics Dickson Balmforth.

On a management point of view, the team has started a transition phase, with long time Team Principal Franz Tost to step down at the end of this season. His successor Laurent Mekies, who is currently working for Ferrari, will thus have to take a period of gardening leave, calling for the signing of former FIA Secretary general Peter Bayer as well.

Another destabilising factor for the team might have been the rumours about Red Bull team’s ownership wanting to sell the sister team, which spread right at the delicate beginning of the season, in spite of a prompt shut down.

It’s also the first time since 2019 that AlphaTauri will not be fielding 2020 Italian GP winner Pierre Gasly, who has switched to Alpine. His former teammate Yuki Tsunoda has stepped up as team leader, showing consistent speed and performance in spite of the pace of his car.

The Japanese driver, in his third year of F1, has finished all the races so far either in the points or just just outside the top ten in P11, pushing his car to the limit without crashing on a Sunday.

Photo credits: Scuderia AlphaTauri

The impressiveness of his results prompted Tost to link him to a move to Red Bull, which in his opinion should come in the upcoming years:

“Yuki doesn’t need good words. He is fast, and he has done a fantastic job over the last two years, and if he continues like this, meaning that he improves race by race, that he shows the performance, then Red Bull will discuss it.

“And I think that he is in a good way, but the rest we will see. He, for sure, needs another year.”

Tsunoda is partnering with Nyck de Vries, a very experienced and titled driver in his first Formula 1 season. The former Formula E champion is struggling to adapt to the new championship and team, after a very impressive debut and P8 scored in Monza last year driving for Williams.

The Dutch driver’s best race result is P14, with a median gap to his more experienced teammate of +0.424s in qualifying . In spite of all the clamor around his signing and the high level of his previous driving experience, the rookie driver probably needs more time to wrap his head around the new series.

However, he might not get it, as rumours of him being replaced by younger Red Bull Academy drivers have intensified after Helmut Marko mentioned a “yellow card” for him if he doesn’t improve his performances soon enough.