The 2021 F1 season opener in Bahrain may not have gone quite to plan for AlphaTauri, although that poses no reason for the team not to remain ambitious. Practice runs have indicated they have a car that can push for podium finishes, yet maintaining consistency remains the biggest challenge.

Formerly known as Torro Rosso and rebranded as AlphaTauri last year, the sister team of Red Bull Racing finished the 2020 F1 season seventh in the Constructors’ Championship standings. The biggest highlight was finishing first at the Italian Grand Prix, when French driver Pierre Gasly earned the first victory of his Formula One career.

Nevertheless, the team was unable to score another podium finish in 2020, which is a situation AlphaTauri is keen to change in 2021. Mercedes remain F1 betting favorites at 2/5 odds for the Constructors’ Championship this year, with Red Bull tipped at 7/4 odds to challenge. The midfield pack is then led by McLaren at 40/1, Ferrari at 50/1, then AlphaTauri at 125/1.

As the odds would suggest, catching Mercedes and Red Bull is practically impossible. However, that doesn’t stop AlphaTauri from believing they can aim for third in the Constructors’ Championship. “The key to that is understanding our car, and its strengths and weaknesses and what makes it tick,” technical director Jody Egginton told The Race after Bahrain. “Last year, we were in that mix but our variance in performance across midfield was a bit greater than we wanted,” Egginton admitted, albeit convinced that AlphaTauri can rise to the challenge.

To do that, they must consistently put points on the board at races in 2021, which is where the team fell disappointingly short in 2020. However, the qualifying pace of the cars at Bahrain suggests the team can genuinely compete. That pace just needs to be converted into reliability and of course, a little more good fortune during the actual races, if AlphaTauri is to compete alongside Ferrari and McLaren to lead the midfield battle.

After impressive qualifying runs placed Gasly fifth on the grid in Bahrain, he was unfortunate to hit the back of Ricciardo, ending his race prematurely. Meanwhile, debuting Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda achieved the second-fastest time in Q1 qualifying, proving the AlphaTauri cars do have the potential to achieve great things this year.

In the end, Tsunoda could only manage to finish ninth in Bahrain, scoring the first two points of the season for his team. That said, there were periods in the race when his car matched the McLaren pace of Lando Noris, and the lap times marked by Charles Leclerc with Ferrari.

This would suggest that AlphaTauri can genuinely compete alongside their biggest rivals. Furthermore, there is an abundance of confidence surrounding Tsunoda, with AlphaTauri team boss Helmut Marko full of praise for the talented young driver, convinced he will become the first Japanese racer to win a Grand Prix. Providing the team can keep the cars competitive, there’s no reason why they can’t achieve top six or even podium finishes in 2021.