RACING

What is the place of F1’s ‘out of phase’ team in the midfield?

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Pierre Gasly was not worried the day after the Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix. His AlphaTauri F1 team is in trouble and needs to change things quickly.

“At the moment there’s just nothing to do, so we desperately need this upgrade on the car to be able to get a decent result,” he said. “[We] just can’t go on like this.

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Such a feeling is understandable when both cars have just finished well outside the points after a difficult race, and the team lost a place in the constructors’ championship because its nearest rival (Haas) has just won its most big score of the season.

“It’s no wonder if you don’t have new parts, others are improving and you see at the beginning of the year we fight with the guys up front [of the midfield] and U.S [are now] finishing 20, 30 seconds behind,” added Gasly. “We lose four or five tenths per lap and that’s what we have to find.”

At the season-opener in Bahrain, Gasly’s fastest qualifying time was 1.18% slower than Charles Leclerc’s pole lap and 0.66% of Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, which topped midfield runners.

In Austria, Gasly was 1.32% off Ferrari’s pace in the second quarter and 1.78% off the ultimate pace set by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. Gasly didn’t make Q3, but was just 0.4% slower than Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in Q2. The gap to the ultimate best midfielder in Q3: Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, was… 0.66%.

It is therefore certain that AlphaTauri has moved away from the ultimate pace over the course of the season, but its deficit compared to the midfield car is stable. As recently as in Baku, the AlphaTauri was the fastest car in midfield and capable of driving Mercedes.

So there’s an element in which Gasly and AlphaTauri are the architects of their own downfall here. Gasly nearly made Q3 at the Red Bull Ring but collided with Lewis Hamilton early in the sprint meaning he started the main race in 14th and then was penalized in the grand prix for colliding with Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin.

Conversely, Lando Norris, in an uncompetitive and compromised weekend for McLaren, qualified 15th, raced to 11th in the sprint, then finished seventh in the grand prix, separating the two Haas cars.

AlphaTauri lost several potentially better results due to crashes, errors and unreliability.

It’s also worth noting that Haas heads to France after his most successful race of the season so far, although he’s made hardly any updates to his car – so maybe Guenther Steiner has right to say that it’s not all about upgrades…

Nevertheless, it’s probably true to say that the baseline Haas is relatively more competitive than the AlphaTauri, which seems to work well on circuits with long straights and short, slow corners – like Baku – and worse on more conventional tracks with longer tracks. turns that require higher levels of aerodynamic loading.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Spanish Grand Prix Race Day Barcelona, ​​Spain

This is similar to the problem Aston Martin is facing and hopes to solve with improvements to the radical change in concept adopted in Barcelona. AlphaTauri has what technical director Jody Egginton calls a “reasonably big update coming to France, body and floor”.

This is the car’s first major update since round four at Imola, where AlphaTauri tweaked the airflow conditioning behind the front wheels and tweaked the floor to make it run more consistently on a range of ride heights, and as a result, AlphaTauri was one of the least porpoising teams.

But since the start of the season, drivers have complained that the car simply didn’t have enough grip in high-speed corners and that all four wheels would slip if pushed too hard. It’s something that Yuki Tsunoda mentioned in Bahrain, and Gasly reiterated in Austria.

Tsunoda suggests the issues are somewhat masked by the spike in tire grip when testing with new tires in qualifying, while they become a serious limitation on heavier fuel tanks, making it more difficult to recovery of ground lost in the race.

“We know we lose overall downforce at high speeds and we lose way too much time to our rivals,” Gasly said in Austria. “We see it in turns six, seven, nine, 10, right now we’re sliding all four wheels. So we just need more load.

“And then we try to get the front to work a little better at the top because we’re struggling with the washes. [understeer].”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Race Day Silverstone England

Understeer in this cornering phase is something that Gasly is particularly sensitive to – and has been dealt with very well by the developments of the previous generation car from AlphaTauri, allowing Gasly to regularly work wonders. The current generation of cars and tires have a greater tendency to understeer anyway, which could exacerbate Gasly’s relative struggles this season.

Gasly is naturally hoping for a serious performance boost for his home race at Paul Ricard, but as always that will depend on how the upgrade correlates between the track and the wind tunnel, and how quickly the team can put in place. places a revised configuration that extracts performance from it. Sometimes this process is quick; sometimes it takes a few errands.

“We’re out of step with a lot of teams,” Egginton said. “But if it lives up to expectations, it should give us a car that’s a bit easier to tune and manage.

“His [Gasly’s] comments are generally correct really – [we’re] We’re not fighting a problem car, we’re trying to increase the performance of a car that we think we have reasonable vision on.

With closest rivals Haas and Alfa Romeo concerned about lingering reliability issues with Ferrari’s new engine, there’s a vulnerability for AlphaTauri to exploit – but to do so he must quickly pick up his own car’s racing pace during its pilots stop doing it. a lot of direct errors.

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