Failing to escape Q1 while his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda made the top 10, Pierre Gasly does not understand what went wrong in France.
Gasly came into his home race with high hopes of climbing up the order in an upgraded AT03, AlphaTauri having fallen to the back of the pack last time out in Austria.
For Gasly though, it was something of a nightmare Q1 session as he fell at the first hurdle, a far cry from the ambitions of troubling Mercedes and even Sergio Perez in the Red Bull which he held coming into the weekend.
As for what went wrong, the Frenchman does not yet have an answer.
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“Yesterday we were really comfortable in the top,” Gasly told reporters after qualifying, “and since this morning already it was a lot more difficult.
“I don’t fully understand why yet, but obviously extremely disappointed to miss out on Q2 for I think one or two hundredths.”
That means that instead of starting P16, Gasly will instead launch from P14.
However, Gasly said that AlphaTauri’s pace was not particularly impressive during the race simulations in practice.
“Well yesterday the long-run pace wasn’t great,” he stated, “but tomorrow is a different day and obviously from where we start we’ve got nothing to lose.
“So we’ll analyse everything tonight and try to come with a good plan tomorrow.”
Tsunoda had no such troubles putting the AlphaTauri’s upgrades to full effect, even after having “struggled so much” with them on Friday.
He will line up eighth on the grid for the French Grand Prix.
“I’m satisfied with the result and the performance today,” he confirmed.
“I think a good comeback especially from FP2, I struggled so much with the new updates, but we came back from that and was able to end up in a nice position for tomorrow, so just have to put it all together tomorrow.”
Asked how much of a step forward he felt AlphaTauri had made, Tsunoda explained that he felt the difference in the AT03 as soon as he left the pit lane, citing a clear improvement in the high-speed corners.
“I felt straight away at the exit of the pit lane, even the out-lap, just different, especially more toward high-speed corners,” said the Japanese racer.
“All of the people in the factory did a fantastic job to achieve the target. Now just our side at the track, engineers, mechanics, we just have to put it all together, also as do the drivers.”