Charging Bulls in Austria

A Red Bull Ring double header has us taking a closer look at the Red Bull and Alpha Tauri drivers’ history and their on track performance last weekend.

Written by Gaby Woodhouse

June 30, 2021

This week F1 returned to the Red Bull Ring and what teams are better to focus on than those on their home turf: Red Bull and AlphaTauri. Both teams have seen a change to their driver lineups this year, with Perez joining Max at Red Bull and rookie Tsunoda joining Gasly at AlphaTauri. Here we take a look at their journeys into F1 and their performances this week.

Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez

Perez started racing in 1996 at age 6,  competing in junior championships and becoming the youngest entrant in the Easy Kart 125 shootout in 2003.  For the next three years, he competed in Skip Barber, Formula BMW, and the A1 Grand Prix before breaking into Formula 3 in 2007, competing in the National Class for T-Sport, winning by a comfortable margin and earning a promotion to Premier International Class for the 2008 season.  Perez also drove in GP2 for the 2008-2009 season, partnering Petrov at Campos Grand Prix team. In 2009, Perez moved to Arden International, where he completed two main seasons finishing 2nd in the 2010-2011 season.

Perez’s break into Formula 1 came when he joined the Sauber F1 Team at the start of 2011.  He remained at Sauber for two seasons finishing 16th in the first year with 14 points and 10th at the end of the following year.  A change of teams for 2013 saw Perez joining McLaren alongside Jenson Button. He ended the season in 11th  and the following year made a move to Force India.  

Sergio Perez on the podium after winning Baku (Photo via @redbullracing on Twitter)

Perez remained at Force India for 7 seasons.  The first 3 saw him paired with Hülkenberg, creating a tight battle between teammates.  Hülkenberg finished one place above Perez in 2014 in P9, and the positions were swapped in 2015. The 2016 season saw Perez finish 7th overall, and when Ocon joined him in 2017, he was able to replicate that result. Ocon and Perez remained paired for 2018, and Perez had another successful year with an overall P8 once the season finished.

Force India changed to Racing Point for 2019, bringing a new teammate in Lance Stroll. Perez had another consistent year finishing 10th place with 52 points. In 2020, Perez had to miss the British Grand Prix but still finished 4th in the drivers’ championship, his highest career finish. After his standout performance at the Sakhir GP in late December, he signed with Red Bull for the 2021 season. He settled into the seat well, given his recent win in Baku and consistent P4 finished leading into the Styrian GP. 

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen is one of the youngest drivers on the grid, and his entry into F1 did not come without controversy….and, later on, rule changes. Verstappen first started karting at age four before moving to the Rotax Max Minimax class, winning several championships and going on to win the Flemish minimax championship with Team Pex Racing.  He stepped up to international karting in 2010 at age 12 continuing to collect an impressive number of wins.  His final karting season was 2013 where he won the World KZ Championship.

Verstappen stepped into Formula 3 in 2014 with Van Amersfoort Racing, finishing 3rd place overall with 10 race wins under his belt. He joined the Red Bull Junior team during this time and had the opportunity to do a practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix. Verstappen’s first full season in F1 came in 2015 when he joined Toro Rosso, managing to finish his rookie year 12th in the driver’s championship. Verstappen started the 2016 season at Toro Rosso, competing in four races before moving to Red Bull Racing completing the season 5th in the drivers’ championship.

Max Verstappen winning the Styrian GP (Photo via @redbullracing on Twitter )

Verstappen suffered seven retirements in the first 14 races of 2017 before improving from Malaysia onwards and finishing 6th, one place behind his teammate. However, 2018 was a successful one which saw him picking up two P1 finishes and 247 racing points, finishing two places ahead of his teammate in P4.  Verstappen found himself alongside a new teammate in 2019, with Gasly taking the second seat; however, there was a driver change before the Belgian Grand Prix with Albon replacing Gasly. However, the team changes didn’t affect Verstappen’s performance, and he finished the 2019 season P3 with 278 points.

Verstappen remained paired with Albon for the 2020 season; however, the season did not seem to go in his favor, with a total of five retirements and one finish out of the top 3.  Despite the retirements throughout the season, Verstappen still managed to provide excellent results in the remaining races finishing 3rd in the driver’s championship with 214 points.  Verstappen has been joined at Red Bull by Perez for the 2021 season and has so far proved to be a force to be reckoned with and is currently leading the driver’s championship as we enter the Austrian Grand Prix.

Pierre Gasly

Gasly began karting in 2006, moving to international karting in 2009, completing 2 seasons, and coming runner up in the CIK-FIA European Championship.  He moved to Formula Renault in 2011, competing in the French F4 Championship 1.6 litre category before progressing to 2-litres for 2012, joining R-Ace GP for the Formula Renault Eurocup and Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup having success in both categories finishing 10th in Eurocup.

The 2013 season saw Gasly move to Tech 1 Racing. He took five podiums and the title before moving to Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2014, signing for Arden under the Red Bull Junior Team and finishing the second place behind Sainz.  

The 2014 season was busy for Gasly. He participated in testing for both Toro Rosso and Red Bull and debuted in GP2 racing in Monza as a replacement driver for Caterham Racing before signing to DAMS for the 2015 season, finishing 8th in the championships. He moved to Prema Powerteam in 2016 alongside Giovinazzi, finishing the year as GP2 series champion.

Pierre Gasly on the podium in Baku (Photo via @AlphaTauriF1 on Twitter)

Gasly made the step into F1 in 2017, driving for Toro Rosso as a backup driver in Malaysia, Japan, and Mexico before becoming a permanent driver for the 2018 season alongside Brendon Hartley, finishing his rookie season in P15 with 29 points earning him a promotion to the Red Bull seat. 2019 wasn’t Gasly’s best start, beginning with Red Bull for 12 races before moving back to Toro Rosso. The rest of the season was much more successful, and he finished the year in 7th. Gasly remained at the newly rebranded AlphaTauri for 2020, performing strongly and coming in tenth, guaranteeing his seat the following year.  So far, 2021 has also been a strong season for Gasly, collecting points in all but 1 race so far.

Yuki Tsunoda

AlphaTauri has a rookie this year in Tsunoda.  Tsunoda also began in karts beginning his professional career in 2010 at age 10. He progressed through the categories joining the national class in 2014 completing 2 seasons. He moved to Formula 4 in 2016 as a member of the Honda Formula Dream Project and made his single-seater debut in the F4 Japanese Championship, driving for Sutekina Racing Team. Tsunoda completed his first full season in F4 in 2017, winning the title in the regional championship and coming third in the National F4 Championship.  He continued to compete in F4 in the 2018 season and went on to win the title with 7 race wins under his belt.  

Yuki Tsunoda after qualifying during the Styrian GP (Photo via @AlphaTauriF1 on Twitter)

In 2019 Tsunoda joined the Red Bull Junior Team, progressing to Formula 3.  He completed one season in F3 driving for Jenzer Motorsport, finishing in 9th place before moving up to F2, joining Carlin in 2020.  Tsunoda showed great potential in his rookie season, finishing in 3rd place.  Tsunoda went on to replace Kvyat at AlphaTauri for the 2021 season with mixed results so far this year, However, he has shown some flairs of brilliance and has the potential to have a successful rookie season. 

The Styrian Grand Prix

Sunday arrived, bringing hotter track temperatures than we had seen so far this weekend as the drivers lined up on the grid.  Verstappen was on the front row after qualifying P1 on Saturday, with Perez and Gasly making up the third row in P5 and P6 respectively. Tsunoda qualified P8 on Saturday, but a 3-place grid penalty saw him in P11 on Sunday.  The lights went out, and Verstappen flew off the line keeping his lead. Perez also had a good start jostling with Norris for third place before conceding the place back to Norris in turn 4.  The AlphaTauri drivers didn’t have as good a start due to a turn 1 incident causing a left rear puncture for Gasly and an early exit from the race.  Tsunoda also found himself caught up in the turn 1 incident; however, he escaped with no damage and gained a position moving to P10.  The race settled down as the second lap started with Verstappen creating a comfortable gap between himself and Hamilton in P2.  Tsunoda gained a further position as Ricciardo dropped back due to a power issue on lap 8.  Perez moved on Norris in lap 10, which the young Brit yielded with no fight allowing Perez to close the gap to Hamilton ahead.

Tsunoda started pushing Russell on lap 13, closing the gap to the Williams in P8, while Perez in P3 had Bottas chasing him down and closing the gap lap by lap. Tsunoda moved to 8th place when Russell pitted on lap 27. Perez pitted on the same lap, and his slow stop brought him out behind Norris in P4.  Tsunoda was next into the pits on lap 27 with a quick stop from AlphaTauri, re-joining the track in P13. He was followed into the pits by Bottas, who pulled the undercut coming out on track ahead of Perez in P4. Verstappen pitted on lap 29; however, he was ahead of Hamilton enough to re-join the track in P1 with 42 laps remaining. Perez moved to P4 when Norris pitted on lap 32, allowing him to chase down the Mercedes of Bottas ahead.  

Tsunoda moved to P10 on lap 39 as the rest of the grid pitted, putting him into the points.  He continued to have a strong race getting as high as P9 before Leclerc completed an overtake on lap 55. The race finished after 71 high-paced laps, with Verstappen bringing home a very comfortable P1 while Perez was P4 and Tsunoda finished P10.

Both teams together in a Red Bull challenge video (Photo via @redbullracing on Twitter)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I fell in love with motorsport watching the Formula 1 with my mum every Sunday and have fond memories of the early 90’s and Senna. I’ve supported and followed McLaren for as long as I can remember. I specialise in F1 and the feeder series. Outside of motorsport I work in change delivery and can be found most weekends at a karting track supporting my girls in the Honda Cadet Series.

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