After a strong run of qualifying performances in recent races, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was one of the favourites to be in the thick of the battle for the top two rows of the grid for this weekend’s Russian GP.
Instead, Gasly and his team mate Yuki Tsunoda both missed the cut at the end of the second round of qualifying, with Gasly now due to start Sunday’s race from 12th and Tsunoda just behind in 13th.
It’s the French driver’s worst showing in qualifying since Spain, although he was forced to start from the back last time in Monza after a mishap in the sprint qualifying race and a penalty for changing his gearbox.
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Saturday’s outcome was a particular surprise given that Gasly had been in the top six in every session prior to that at Sochi. The disappointment left him hitting his Halo cockpit protection device with his fist after the chequered flag.
“I don’t have too much to say right now,” he said when questioned by the media after the end of qualifying. “I think we had the pace to easily make it through to Q3, so I’m obviously frustrated.
“In Q1 I was really fast in these conditions, I felt comfortable in the car and could push straight away. However, for Q2 I stayed out on just one set of [used intermediate] tyres that were completely used by the end of the session.
“I asked to box because I could see the track was drying [but] we didn’t do it,” he continued. “I think this was a big mistake from our side, but I will have to speak to the team to understand more about what happened today.
“I felt the potential. Honestly, the last two laps I was always all over the place,” he added. “I could see that in the lap time, I was missing one tenth but I think 1.5s faster was possible with new tyres.
“When we qualify so far back with such a potential, it gets me mad,” he said. “I knew already in Q1 that we had a huge potential in these conditions to do well.”
When he did finally make a run he was held up in traffic, although he said that he wasn’t blaming that for missing the cut.
“It’s always a bit messy in these conditions, but in the end it’s not the reason why we didn’t make it through,” he accepted. “There was a bit of traffic there, but in the end it wasn’t the problem.
“The problem is we should have boxed, and we didn’t do it,” he stated emphatically. “It’s a missed opportunity not making it through to Q3, but we now need to look forward to tomorrow and see what we can do to make up lost ground.”
“With Pierre we decided to stay out, unfortunately it didn’t pay off, and he couldn’t make it to Q3,” was the succinct verdict of AlphaTauri’s chief engineer for vehicle performance, Claudio Balestri.
“We cannot be satisfied as there was a good opportunity today to start from a good grid position, especially with Pierre. We can’t change today’s result, so we need to simply focus our attention on the race and move forward as much as we can.”
Although he qualified one place behind his team mate, Yuki Tsunoda seemed the happier of the pair back in the team garage. “I’m fairly pleased with today,” he reported.
“I made it through to Q2 which is a step-up for me, particularly after yesterday. My mechanics worked hard last night to get the car in a better position coming into qualifying today and I felt a bit more confident in the car.
“Obviously, the conditions were completely different to yesterday’s sessions, but we’ll hopefully see more improvements tomorrow, in dry conditions.”
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