Pierre Gasly vs Yuki Tsunoda: Who will come out on top?

Pierre Gasly vs Yuki Tsunoda: Who will come out on top?

12-04-2021 10:00

It’s part five of our teammate battle series and it’s time for AlphaTauri who have combined two young drivers this year, albeit one with plenty of experience in Formula One, and another who is a complete rookie.

Of course I’m talking about Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda who have both already displayed their talent behind the wheel in the opening round of 2021, with Gasly qualifying in P5 and Tsunoda finishing the race in P9; it was an impressive, although slightly disappointing opening round for the team given the speed that they had shown in testing and throughout the weekend.

Tsunoda has been promoted to F1 following his impressive year in F2 last year to partner Gasly, who is now into his fourth full season in the premier competition of motorsport, to form a truly exciting pair who could well fight for podiums on a semi-regular basis.

Gasly has the edge in terms of experience over his rookie teammate, but the name Yuki Tsunoda is on the lips of every F1 fan, with the Japanese driver already impressing immensely in his, so far, short time in the paddock, and he could well spring a surprise.

But who will come out on top?

The Frenchman Gasly has well and truly bounced back from his difficult time at Red Bull, and now looks assertive, confident and most important quick in the AlphaTauri car, three things he struggled with when driving alongside Max Verstappen, and if 2020 is anything to go by, he appears to be one of the strongest drivers on the grid.

Whilst 10th in the Drivers’ Championship doesn’t sound incredible without context, Gasly won his first ever F1 race, at Monza, and whilst driving for AlphaTauri, who finished P7 in the Constructors’ Championship, he was able to squeeze every last km/h from the car to beat the likes of Lance Stroll in the standings, who was in a far more competitive car.

He now has the nous of an experienced driver, and no longer looks nervy behind the wheel; he’s the epitome of a brilliant comeback story and he could repeat his 2020 feats this time around.

Comparably, Tsunoda was the most impressive driver in F2 last year in many fans’ eyes, and whilst he finished P3 in the championship, behind Callum Ilott and current Haas driver Mick Schumacher, he was rapid throughout the season.

He won three races, more than eventual title winner Schumacher’s two, and appeared on the podium a further four times, but the issue was that there were 11 races in which he didn’t score a single point, with reliability issues, and a few inconsistencies in driving performance meaning he was unable to launch a title battle with Schumacher.

Before the 2020 season kicked off it would’ve been far more conceivable to see Alexander Albon or Red Bull junior driver Juri Vips take the second AlphaTauri seat this year, but Tsunoda’s form, and his connection with Honda, meant he was able to accompany Gasly at the team, and he’s already repaid some of the faith shown in him.

Tsunoda achieved a P9 finish on his F1 debut, despite starting in P13, and was hailed as “the best rookie F1 has had for years” by Formula 1 sporting director Ross Brawn after the race; it’s been a dream start for the Japanese driver.

Round One to Tsunoda:

Whilst F1 testing is usually inconclusive, Tsunoda tore apart the script of Mercedes and Red Bull dominating, with a P2 finish in the third day of this year’s testing, just 0.093 seconds behind Verstappen; could he really challenge at the front of the grid? ‘Surely not’ was the answer most had to that ridiculous thought, and qualifying proved that.

Tsunoda failed to make it into Q3, with his time of 1:31.203 in Q2 only good enough for P13; as a rookie, that is still mightily impressive though.

However, Gasly qualified P5 and looked as though he could challenge both McLaren’s and both Ferrari’s. Such hopes were ruined when he damaged his front wing upon contact with Daniel Ricciardo, and he finished in 17th, meaning Tsunoda is currently leading the battle, with two points.

Now, Gasly would almost certainly have finished in the points and ahead of his teammate had he avoided the damage he suffered, but F1 is all about taking your opportunities and Tsunoda did exactly that in Bahrain.

Both drivers appear relaxed off track and confident in the car, and with the speed both possess, AlphaTauri could seriously challenge for P3 or P4 in the championship this year.

As for who will win this particular teammate battle, I would have to side with Gasly and the experience he has; although Tsunoda has garnered much excitement, and I’m fully on board the hype train, he may need a year to adjust to the demands of F1, just like Lando Norris did in 2019.

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