Pierre Gasly says an unidentified problem had held him back after he missed out on Q3 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Gasly has been a qualifying stand-out through much of the 2021 campaign, a regular participant in the final stage of qualifying, but 2021 ended on a low note in that department.
Q1 was fairly strong as Gasly comfortably settled into the top 10, but after managing only P12 in Q2 he was eliminated.
The Frenchman was some six tenths of a second slower than his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in that session – a situation we had been used to seeing in reverse for large parts of the season.
Gasly claimed though that the pace has not been there all weekend, with a problem AlphaTauri cannot yet determine slowing him down.
“Since the start of the weekend we haven’t been there, we struggled a lot,” he told reporters in the Yas Marina paddock.
“We’ve had a lack of load since FP2, yesterday we saw that, and we just didn’t seem to manage to find the solutions to our problems.
“For sure wasn’t ideal, but objectively we have a problem we need to understand because we just don’t have the pace.”
Put to him that the situation had been looking good during Q1, Gasly replied: “All season has been pretty incredible on Saturdays, just need to understand what has happened today.”
that’s P8 for @yukitsunoda07!! 👏
a great Quali from our rookie 💪 pic.twitter.com/TbMKEwGOsK
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) December 11, 2021
Tsunoda, meanwhile, was delighted with his efforts, albeit a little disappointed to see his initial Q3 time deleted for track limits.
Nonetheless, he said his confidence level was at its peak for the season so far, which certainly transferred into on-track performance as he secured P8 on the grid in Abu Dhabi.
“Such a shame about track limits, so shame, I think it was a really good lap, especially without [a] tow,” he said.
“But anyway, I think overall the confidence I feel was really good this week. I would say better than I had in Bahrain [the season-opener].
“So the first time I gained confidence compared to the first race, a good way to finish the last qualifying like this. I just have to put it all together tomorrow.”
Putting it all together on a Sunday has been a struggle for Tsunoda in his rookie F1 campaign.
He qualified well last time out also in Saudi Arabia, but a poor start and later contact with Sebastian Vettel meant his Sunday fell apart.
And so with one opportunity remaining for the season, Tsunoda will put his focus into a complete race-day performance.
The fact he starts on the medium tyres should also give him greater strategic options.
“Yeah, I start on the medium tyre which is…I didn’t expect to go through Q2, that was a good lap,” he said when asked if he had confidence in his long-run pace.
“I was so happy with that lap, but tomorrow is the day we count so just have to focus. Hopefully we can have a good day.”