Following one apprenticeship season in the Japanese Super Formula series, waiting for Daniil Kvyat to be fired from Toro Rosso, and one consequent debut campaign in Formula 1 with the Italian junior team, the 22-year-old talent from Rouen has been fast-tracked to a senior role alongside Max Verstappen for 2019. This resulted from a rock-solid first season which the French, questioned by Autosport, marked as a 8.5 out of 10: "In my first complete season my main target was to make the best out of the package I had. […] I knew there would be two, three, four opportunities in the season to score big points. […] All the opportunities that came to us in Bahrain [fourth], Monaco [seventh], Budapest [sixth], I would say they were the main three ones where we managed to do the right thing.” And a final haul of 29 points for 15th in the standings highlights the remarkable performance despite the sacrifice done by Toro Rosso in a bid to pave the way for the Red Bull-Honda alliance.
Hints that Gasly’s arrival might only serve as a response to Mercedes’ rigid approach with Valtteri Bottas, placing the newcomer as an immediate number two, were not fitting for Red Bull Racing authority Helmut Marko, who recently asserted: “Pierre is a youngster and has to show what he can do. But he and Max will start as equal, there is no predetermined status as a first or second driver. With Max we had a long talk, the problem was he was putting too much pressure on himself.”
As a consequence, Gasly could soon have the opportunity to race for podiums and higher, but much will depend on the integration between the experienced and laurel-crowned Anglo-Austrian outfit, and new engine provider Honda. The Japanese manufacturer comes from a promising build-up campaign with Toro Rosso – which our driver has been crucially involved in – in its effort to re-emerge from the doldrums of its McLaren partnership, and finally meets what Christian Horner refers to as “the best chassis” in the Formula 1 grid.
Helmut Marko expressed the same confidence about the team’s level: “Without Max’s mistakes on one hand, and the team’s on the other, Verstappen could have closed 2nd in the drivers’ championship and us in the constructors’. The second part of the season makes us very positive about the chassis development.”
Thus, should the blending between Red Bull’s top aero and chassis and the improving Honda Power Unit work appropriately, Pierre Gasly could find himself with a golden opportunity in hand to contend with the very best (including his teammate) right from the beginning.