Contrasting fortunes at AlphaTauri as ‘incredible’ race for Gasly tempered by rear wing issues for Tsunoda
After getting both cars into Q3 for just the second time this season, the mood down at AlphaTauri was one of confidence heading into the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. But in the end, only one of the team’s drivers managed to deliver points in a frantic race that saw plenty of overtaking in the tightly packed midfield.
Pierre Gasly qualified sixth at the venue of his last F1 podium, while Yuki Tsunoda lined up eighth. But it was Gasly who netted his first points finish since Australia, biding his time and slowly making his way back through the field after an early pit stop under a Virtual Safety Car.
Ultimately, Gasly would nurse his hard compound tyres for 42 of the 51 laps before coming home a season-best fifth, in what he described as a “pretty incredible” result, adding: “Finishing in the top five is really good, especially considering how the start of our year has played out.
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“We’ve not had that much luck so far, so it was important to get a clean weekend, which is what we’ve achieved here in Baku.”
It wasn’t an easy way to make it to the flag, after the team opted for track position over fresh tyres late on when a second Virtual Safety Car was called. That left the Frenchman with a freshly-shod Lewis Hamilton on his tail, and although the Mercedes man eventually got past, he was made to work for the move as Gasly put up a stout defence.
“Unfortunately, we had the second Virtual Safety Car, and we knew that wouldn’t play out in our favour. I tried to defend against Lewis the best I could once he pitted for new tyres, but he was much faster – I tried to nurse my tyres through the race, but they really weren’t in great shape by that point. At the end of the day, to be in a position to fight with the Mercedes means that we’re doing a really good job.”
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For much of the afternoon it looked as if Tsunoda would also come home in the points, with the Japanese racer running just behind his team mate. But he too found himself overtaken by Hamilton – before an unusual reliability issue became apparent, with only half of his DRS flap opening. That earned the youngster a black and orange flag from Race Control, sending him into the pits late on to try and fix the issue – and leaving him a disappointed P13 at the flag.
“We just repaired it with some kind of tape, it was the only thing we can do. Just the complete rear wing was broken,” he said afterwards.
“I’m really disappointed today. Until the reliability issue the race was going really well for me, we were really in control of the tyres and the pace was good, so I think we could’ve easily finished in P6 today.”
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For Tsunoda, the quest for his first points finish since Spain continues, but at least he can take solace in the fact that the AT03 was much more on the pace of its midfield rivals in Baku. Canada is up next for the team – and while Gasly has experience of the Montreal track, Tsunoda does not, with the circuit not featured on the calendar in his rookie year.