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END OF YEAR REPORT: A tale of two halves for AlphaTauri in Tost’s final season as team boss

Staff Writer

Mike Seymour
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AlphaTauri started the 2023 campaign with one of the worst cars – if not the worst car – on the grid, but a raft of updates as the year wore on turned the situation around and saw them leapfrog Haas and Alfa Romeo at the foot of the constructors’ standings. P8 was still a disappointing return, however, and much more will be expected from Red Bull’s sister team in 2024. Here’s the Faenza outfit’s season review...

Best finish

Daniel Ricciardo – 7th in Mexico

In only his second weekend back since sustaining a broken hand at Zandvoort, Ricciardo was one of the stars of the Mexican Grand Prix as he took AlphaTauri’s highest finish of the year.

After a shock P4 in qualifying, the Australian bagged seventh place in the race and was in a buoyant mood afterwards despite feeling like the red flag for Kevin Magnussen’s crash had cost him. From his perspective a fifth place could have been achievable.

TECH TUESDAY: How AlphaTauri transformed their performance after starting 2023 as the slowest car

His team mate Yuki Tsunoda also bagged P6 during the Sao Paulo Sprint and had been on course for a strong result too in Mexico, having charged his way up the order from 18th on the grid, only to clash with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and tumble out of the top 10 positions.

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Tsunoda started the season alongside De Vries before stints with Ricciardo and Lawson

Qualifying head-to-head

Tsunoda 16-2/1/3 De Vries/Lawson/Ricciardo

Tsunoda came out on top against all three of his team mates in the 2023 qualifying stakes, leading De Vries 8-2, Lawson 4-1, and Ricciardo 4-3, while saving the best until last with a sixth-place grid slot at the Abu Dhabi finale, underlining AlphaTauri’s progress.

It was Ricciardo who achieved the squad’s outright strongest qualifying result of the season, though, lining up a remarkable fourth in Mexico, while Lawson – following a mistake from Tsunoda – turned heads with his run to Q3 in Singapore, which included knocking out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

READ MORE: No regrets for Tsunoda as AlphaTauri narrowly miss out on P7 in the championship to Williams

Race head-to-head

Tsunoda 14-2/3/3 De Vries/Lawson/Ricciardo

It was a similar story on race days, with Tsunoda comfortably beating De Vries during the period from Bahrain to Britain and then edging out Lawson and Ricciardo – three points finishes in the last five races cementing his authority.

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Tsunoda gave AlphaTauri their best finish of the season with a late surge from driver and team

Best moment

As touched on above, and while Tsunoda’s late points haul was more valuable to the team, it’s hard to look past Ricciardo’s qualifying performance in Mexico for the element of surprise and feel-good factor generated – while also doing plenty for his own confidence levels.

In a thrilling final phase, Ricciardo wound up little more than two tenths off pole position, lapping slower than only the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and Verstappen’s Red Bull, and beating a host of drivers who were arguably in much more competitive machinery.

BEYOND THE GRID: Daniel Ricciardo on his return to the grid in 2023, his goals for the rest of his career and much more

Worst moment

Ricciardo had lit up the F1 paddock with his trademark grin when he returned to the sport mid-season, but after two encouraging weekends at the Hungaroring and Spa-Francorchamps, the 34-year-old’s comeback was stopped in its tracks by a practice crash at Zandvoort.

Holding his hand as he clambered out of the cockpit, there were immediately fears that Ricciardo’s injuries could be more than simple bruising and the diagnosis of a broken metacarpal agonisingly kept him on the sidelines for five races.

Qualifying Highlights: 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix

Going forward

It’s all change at the top of AlphaTauri for 2024 as Tost steps away from the Team Principal role after 18 years in charge and Laurent Mekies arrives from Ferrari to take his place, while former FIA F1 Executive Director Peter Bayer oversees operations as CEO.

Speaking to our very own Lawrence Barretto ahead of his retirement, Tost lamented the one missed objective from his lengthy spell at the helm, explaining: “I am not happy or proud – the target was to finish fifth in the constructors’ championship and we didn’t achieve this goal.”

READ MORE: ‘I’m not happy or proud’ – Franz Tost on his 18-year AlphaTauri tenure, retiring from F1, and pushing until the very end

Alongside an anticipated team rebrand, it’s now up to the new structure to take that challenge on and ensure the momentum that built during the second half of 2023 – which so nearly saw AlphaTauri pip Williams to P7 – doesn’t go down the drain over the winter.

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