RACE DEBRIEF

    AlphaTauri were one of the surprise performers of 2021 pre-season testing, the Italian team’s AT02 running fast and faultlessly across the three days in Bahrain. And having put in some starring performances in 2020, team leader Pierre Gasly is hoping for more of the same in 2021.

    It was 2020 Italian Grand Prix winner Gasly who managed the most amount of laps of any driver in Bahrain, putting 237 on the board, and in turn helping AlphaTauri to the joint-most laps team-wise with 422 – shared with the equally reliable Alfa Romeo squad.

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    But with the Frenchman and new rookie team mate Yuki Tsunoda having looked plenty fast as well as reliable, Gasly was in a buoyant mood at the test’s conclusion.

    “We’ve got a good package,” said Gasly. “We’re trying to work on the areas that we have to work on, because this car, even if it seems to be quite good, there’s still areas that we need to improve. But I think there are good reasons to be excited, and I hope that we’ll be able to put in some strong performances early on in the season, because it’s going to be important.

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    “I’m really excited,” he added. “We’ve managed to do all the programme we wanted to do. I think we have a good idea of what we have, what we need to improve, what are our strengths. It’s been really positive.”

    Gasly and Tsunoda’s performances in Bahrain have led some to speculate that AlphaTauri could be fighting for midfield honours against the likes of McLaren and Aston Martin this season.

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    But despite Honda having fast-tracked their 2022 power unit to be ready for 2021 for both AlphaTauri and Red Bull – and with that unit having shown strong pace and reliability in both cars over testing – Gasly said he was particularly wary of the threat from AlphaTauri’s Mercedes-powered midfield rivals this year.

    “So far, we’re really happy,” said Gasly of the new Honda engine. “It’s a step forward compared to last year, reliability has been perfect all three days so far, so really positive on this side.

    Formula 1 Testing in Bahrain - Day 2
    Gasly said he was wary of AlphaTauri's Mercedes-powered rivals

    “But we saw Mercedes have a very strong engine. They showed it with McLaren and Williams, and you can see that they have a lot of potential. I don’t want to get too excited before we get to qualifying [in Bahrain], and then I think we’ll get the full picture in two weeks.

    READ MORE: AlphaTauri rookie Tsunoda thrilled after setting second quickest time of pre-season testing

    “But to be honest, after three days, it’s a lot better than where we were at the same time in Barcelona, after the same amount of time [in 2020],” he added. “I’m really happy; I think we know which opponents are going to be very fast as well, we already have some ideas… But I really hope we can be in the fight, and especially for some good points.”

    Gasly and Tsunoda will be out on track for AlphaTauri at the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 26-28.