AlphaTauri showcased their 2020 AT01 car at the circuit in Misano, Italy over the recent weekend. If you’ve not heard of the team before, you’re not alone. Formerly known as Toro Rosso, the second level Red Bull team, it was renamed late in 2019 to reflect a change in marketing direction. AlphaTauri still has “Bull” links thanks to the Tauri part, and the brand reflects the drive to promote the parent company’s push into clothing. However, the drivers will be the same, with Russian Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly at the helms of the two cars for the team. With the regulations allowing a film day and 100 kilometers of driving, Kvyat drove first and handed over to Gasly to complete the allowed test distance.
Scuderia Toro Rosso first saw the light of day back in 2006, when the former Minardi team was bought out by the Austrian based energy drink maker. AlphaTauri was founded four years ago by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz and there was no expense spared at the recent team launch at his “Hangar 7” premises in Salzburg, Austria. The car shown at the launch was a modified 2019 chassis with some of the changes for aero in 2020. And with Toro Rosso seeing the podium twice in 2019, a first for the team, both drivers are keen to improve and repay the faith shown in them.
Gasly, at the Hangar 7 event, spoke about having gone away over the winter and worked hard physically and mentally and his goal is to “try to take myself to another level and be competitive.” This could be a great year for him. Kvyat saw the coming season in a jovial way, saying that the team will have a lot of washing to do during the season because the new race suits are all white but joking he doesn’t care because he doesn’t have to do it.
The “other” team with an R, Renault, is looking to make up for a lack-luster 2019 season. Esteban Ocon will partner Daniel Ricciardo for the 2020 season at least, as the Australian is out of contract at the end of the year whilst Ocon himself has been signed for two. A clearly delighted Ocon is keen to get the season underway as he’s also had input into the car he’ll drive this year.
“I’ve had the best preparation for a new season in years,” says Ocon. “I was very much involved in the development of this year’s car and now it’s exciting times because you didn’t see much here but it is pretty different. The guys at the factory say it’s probably the biggest step in three or four years, so it’s exciting times and I’m looking forward to getting on track.”
His enthusiasm is perhaps tempered by non-executive director Alain Prost thoughts that the team won’t be as competitive as expected. Although the legendary driver may be sowing the seeds of misleading information, for 2020, they’ve drafted in new Technical Director (Chassis) Pat Fry who was instrumental at his former team of McLaren. The issue the team faces is Ricciardo; he’s unequivocally stated that he expects results this year if he’s to stay beyond the season’s end. And with rumors continuing to be floated that Ferrari may have a door open for him, Prost, a four-time F1 world champion, said that Ricciardo would need to have faith in a brighter future if he wanted to re-sign; with seats available at Mercedes, Ferrari and his old team Red Bull in 2021.
The team itself is yet to formally unveil its 2020 look but has released some teaser images ahead of the scheduled test day on February 19, at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Before this gets underway, Ricciardo says it’s important that the team understand how the whole team works. “I’m looking forward to blending into the team better on the back of having a full season behind us,” he said. “Things are going to be easier in that sense. I learned a lot about myself and obviously a lot about the team lat year. One of the most important learnings for me was that it’s not just about having the smartest guy in the Formula 1 paddock – you need every individual across the team getting the most out of themselves.”