For the season opener in Bahrain, AlphaTauri decided to go for a very aggressive strategy in Q2. This decision played to the disadvantage of Yuki Tsunoda, as he did not make it into Q3. However, both drivers admitted to being happy with the team’s decision.
The AT02 looked extremely fast throughout winter testings and the three practice sessions preceding the qualifications. These great first appearances probably gave the team a recharge of self-confidence as they felt comfortable enough to try to qualify for Q3 on medium tires.
Medium tires are harder than the soft ones, and therefore slower, most of the time. However, soft tires have a big disadvantage compared to mediums from the degradation point of view. Indeed, the soft compounds degrade very fast, especially at the beginning of races, when the single-seaters are filled with fuel and therefore much heavier than they are when the time comes for a first pit stop, for example.
This is one of the main reasons why teams mostly prefer starting races on mediums rather than on the softest compound. However, if a driver makes it into Q3, he is forced to use the compound with which he set his fastest time in Q2, at the beginning of Sunday’s race.
This is also why the 11th place on the starting grid is sometimes better than the 10th, as the driver in 11th place probably did not make it into Q3 and is, therefore, able to choose the tires he wants to start on, while his opponent probably had to use soft tires to qualify for Q3.
All in all, qualifying for the last round of qualifications on medium tires is, most of the time, a strategical advantage, compared to drivers that qualified for Q3 on the softest compound, it is however harder to achieve, as the red tires are faster than the yellow ones.
AlphaTauri, being very confident with the current pace of their single-seater, decided to send both its drivers on track, on medium tires to qualify for Q3. However, it did not go as planned, as the Japanese Rookie, Yuki Tsunoda, did not manage to make it into the last section of qualifying, while Pierre Gasly did.
Nonetheless, both drivers seemed happy with the team’s strategy. Tsunoda admitted having “no regrets” about AlphaTauri’s strategy, saying that it helped him gain experience and will probably increase his confidence next time he will use the medium compound in qualifying.
“In our qualifying in Bahrain, I have no regrets about our strategy, because being committed to trying to get through to Q3 on the medium tire was a good experience and for the team, it was a new challenge to try and use that tire,” Tsunoda commented.
“I learned a lot from that, even if I had expected I could have been higher up the grid with the potential to be top five or top six,” he added.
For his part, Gasly pointed out how confident he feels with the Italian team at the moment. The Frenchman qualifies the AT02 as “very encouraging” and looks more motivated than ever approaching the ‘Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio Del Made in Italy E Dell’Emilia Romagna 2021’.
“Overall, in terms of performance and speed, it is very encouraging for the rest of the season, starting with Imola this weekend (…) From what we saw in Bahrain, it seems we have a package that will allow us to fight for the big points and there is no reason for that not to be the case for the coming races.,” Gasly said.
The French driver added that he loves the current energy the team is deploying and that he is happy with the strategy adopted in Q2, in Bahrain. The native of Rouen thinks it was a good way to send a message to the rest of the grid and firmly show them that they should not be neglected this season.
“One example of the team’s confidence was the decision to tackle Q2 at Sakhir on the medium tire as apart from us, there was only the two Mercedes and Max Verstappen who did it. It was a risk, but it proves our belief in our car and our performance level. Now I hope we will be able to do that again at other circuits.”