New F1 ‘dark horse’ identified after major upturn in 2023 form

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen dominated the Brazilian Grand Prix, having led from the start. FIA

Max Verstappen leads the pack into the first corner at Interlagos.

Yuki Tsunoda has hailed AlphaTauri as F1’s new “dark horse” after recent upgrades transformed the team’s 2023 trajectory.

Having sat bottom of the Constructors’ standings following last month’s Qatar Grand Prix, the Red Bull junior team now sit eighth having scored points at each of the last three races in the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

Tsunoda came home eighth and ninth in Austin and Sao Paulo respectively, with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo claiming AlphaTauri’s best result of the season with seventh place in Mexico.

AlphaTauri hoping to end F1 2023 on a high

With two rounds remaining in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, AlphaTauri sit just seven points behind Williams in the fight for seventh.

A major upgrade package introduced in Texas – featuring changes to the floor, engine cover and suspension – has been credited with the team’s major leap forward, with AlphaTauri optimising the revised design over recent weeks.

Tsunoda has admitted to being surprised by AlphaTauri’s gains – and has his eyes set on beating Williams to seventh.

According to Motorsport.com, he said: “It’s a big surprise. I think right now we’re a dark horse, especially compared to our other competitors, so I think it’s good.

“So far, we are scoring points three races in a row, so a very good rhythm.

“We need to just keep doing like this for the rest of the races. Now we are closer to P7 in the teams’ Championship. I think it’s possible and we will do our best.”

Tsunoda says the impact of the upgrades has been noticeable both in the results and inside the cockpit, with the AT04 feeling better balanced in recent races.

“Inside the car, I feel quite similar,” he added. “Obviously, I feel better, I feel more balance.

“The results say everything. We definitely made a big step, especially the upgrades we had in Austin. Before Austin, we didn’t score enough points often. Now we’re scoring three races in a row. That shows everything.”

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Following his strong result in Mexico, Ricciardo claimed AlphaTauri “absolutely” could catch Williams for seventh spot, but conceded that Brazil would represent their best chance of closing the gap.

The Australian expressed reservations that the team’s current form would continue at this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, admitting the long straights at the brand-new street circuit may count against AlphaTauri.

“Vegas? Who knows? A lot of long straights, so we’ve got to be a little more slippery than what we normally are,” he commented.

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