If you count F1’s inaugural sprint today as a race, it was the first race of the 2021 season that just one of the four Red Bull-owned cars finished in the top 10.
While Sergio Perez took himself out of the mix with a spin, his error wasn’t enough to elevate either of the junior team AlphaTauri’s cars into the top 10 either, with Pierre Gasly coming home 11th and Yuki Tsunoda 16th.
Gasly, who started 12th, was outfoxed by a soft-shod Esteban Ocon at the start and by a recovering Carlos Sainz later in the race, with Perez’s misfortune meaning the Frenchman finished where he’d lined up – until George Russell received a three-place grid penalty.
It drew a blunt assessment from Gasly, who already on Friday felt he was struggling with car balance “far more than usual”.
“Honestly it’s I think our worst performance of the year so far, very frustrating because I know the car has a lot more potential,” he said after the sprint.
“All season we’ve been strong on pretty much every track, and this weekend for whatever reason we are just extremely slow – in the straights, in the high-speed, having a huge amount of understeer, it just not working.
“I don’t really understand why because, as I say, all season we had many many different tracks, many different conditions, and after the start of the year I was confident we should not have this kind of weekend.
“But now we’re just slow in the straight, which first of all doesn’t make sense with what we see usually, we are slow in the high-speed, which is not what we saw since the start of the year…”
All this left Gasly convinced that “there is clearly something we missed” – but the sprint format meant AlphaTauri had less time than usual to figure out the missing piece.
This was because the cars entered parc ferme in qualifying on Friday, leaving AlphaTauri – a team whose AT02 has usually seemed to work well ‘out of the box’ on Friday practice – unable to make major changes.
“We knew with one session of free practice you have a very small window to change the car, and we tried to make a couple of changes for qualy but you can’t go too extreme as well because you can’t change after that.
“But we were slow yesterday, we had issues, and today we have the same issues, even worse in race trim. So… it wasn’t enjoyable.
“And for tomorrow that’s the package we have so we have to do the best we can, study what we can do with tyre degradation, try to be better, try to play something with the strategy and with the start.
“But yeah, I’m just disappointed because I know we should do a lot better than that.”
Gasly admits that the particularities of his weekend have served to colour his judgment of the new format in the short-term.
“I’ll see after the weekend how it was. Obviously now I would not be objective about it. And you know, obviously, that’s probably the weekend where we started with the worst performance from FP1, and with three free practice [sessions] it would’ve given us more chance to react.
“But I’m not going to complain about this because we have the same amount of time to set our car, and we just didn’t do our job good enough.
“So yeah, it probably didn’t help us but that’s not an excuse.”