Alpine ‘did a better job than us’ says Gasly, as front-row start goes unrewarded in Qatar
Pierre Gasly took the first ever front row start of his career in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, starting P2 to Fernando Alonso’s P3. But while Alonso would go on to finish on the podium in Losail, Gasly ended his race down in 11th – and bewildered about where his AlphaTauri’s sensational pace had disappeared to.
Gasly had looked in fine fettle from the very start of the Qatar weekend, taking P2 in both Friday practice sessions. His excellent P4 in qualifying then became P2 on the grid when Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas were handed grid drops – earned for driving through yellow flags covering an incident involving Gasly, after the Frenchman lost his front wing and suffered a puncture after running off track at Turn 15.
But despite running at the front early on – albeit that he lost his P2 to Fernando Alonso on Lap 1 – a two-stop strategy choice came to nought for Gasly, as he finished the race down in P11, as Alonso’s one-stop strategy secured him the first podium of his F1 comeback.
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“It’s fair to say we just didn’t have the pace the whole race,” said a stormy-faced Gasly on Sunday evening. “The whole day we were just nowhere. We both started, with Yuki [Tsunoda], in the top 10, and we both finished outside the top 10 with no pace the whole race. So honestly, I don’t have the answers.
“From the start, we had no pace. I tried to stay with Fernando throughout the first five or six laps, and after that, we just wore the tyres massively. We tried the two-stop strategy but we were never quick enough.
“Even when I was trying to push as hard as I could with the two [stop] strategy we had, we never could match the McLarens and the Alpines. It’s very frustrating.”
Evaluating whether his dramatic off at the end of qualifying might have affected the performance of his AT02 on Sunday, Gasly replied: “I don’t know. After yesterday’s incident, we changed the front wing, we changed the floor, I don’t know if that had an impact. We used also our two mediums in quali so they were not new in the race. I don’t know if it had an impact.
“There were a couple of things that were different than usual but very frustrating not to be able to fight with all these guys.”
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As Gasly said, Tsunoda had also made it into Q3 on Saturday, but fared just as badly with his two-stop strategy, dropping from P8 on the grid to P13 by the flag – with Tsunoda hinting darkly at a deeper issue going on with his AlphaTauri.
“The first stint, especially the soft tyre, was too slow,” said Tsunoda. “We struggled too much. It’s a shame. Overall we had really strong pace, and suddenly the pace dropped quite a lot in the race, which is the most important session. We have to come back stronger.
“It felt much better [on the hard tyres],” added Tsunoda. “There was a bit of a reason in the background, not just the tyre. It’s a bit of an issue as well.”
The upshot of AlphaTauri’s point-less evening at the Losail International Circuit – as Alpine finished third and fifth with Alonso and Esteban Ocon, both of whom started one place behind the respective AlphaTauri drivers – meant that, having been tied on points going into the event, Alpine moved 25 clear of AlphaTauri in P5 with two races to go.
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But Gasly was more concerned about where it had gone wrong for AlphaTauri in Qatar, saying: “It’s tough, but at the end of the day, we just need to be objective with ourselves, and they did a much better job than we did, it’s as simple as that.
“They finished third and fifth and we started in front of these two cars. They were a lot faster than us today, and there was nothing we could do. They just did a better job, and congrats to them. We’ll try to do as good as we can for the last two.”
Alpine moved 25 points clear of AlphaTauri