A tough pre-season
With all the drivers in new cars and a lot in new teams, testing is all about adapting to your new package.
Unfortunately for Pierre Gasly, that proved to be extremely difficult. He crashed in both the first and second tests.
On day two of the opening test – his first day in his new car – Gasly lost the back of the car and ended up in the barriers at turn 12.
Worse was to follow on the penultimate day of the F1 testing as he had an enormous shunt at the high-speed turn 9. The car was heavily damaged – but Gasly thankfully walked away uninjured.
Those crashes immediately put him on the back foot heading to the season-opener at Albert Park.
Challenging weekends in Australia and Bahrain
Gasly certainly wasn’t helped by his team in the opening qualifying session of 2019 at Albert Park.
A 1:23.020 from Gasly was only 0.144s off team-mate Max Verstappen’s best time in Q1. However, Red Bull decided to keep both cars in the garage after a single run – and they paid the price. Lots of drivers improved and the Frenchman found himself down in P17. Qualifying ended for him much sooner than it should have.
It left him with a mountain to climb in the race. Unfortunately for him, the Frenchman couldn’t get into the points and finished down in P11. During the two stints, Gasly got stuck in DRS trains and that certainly proved costly.
Verstappen’s podium finish showed the car had good pace in Melbourne. Red Bull’s error in Q1 ruined the French driver’s chances, as he looked quite close to his Dutch partner in Australia.
Bahrain, however, was more of a combination of driver and team.
Red Bull struggled throughout the event and instead of trying to challenge Ferrari and Mercedes, they had the likes of Haas and McLaren breathing down Verstappen’s neck in qualifying and early in the race.
Gasly had a really poor weekend, though. Following the high of his 4th place at the same venue in 2018, this was probably one of his lowest points since he started racing in Formula 1.
A Q2 exit looked on the cards throughout the free practice sessions – and it came to pass. The Frenchman found himself down in P13, 0.417s adrift of Verstappen’s lap in that segment.
His Sunday wasn’t much better. He got done by a stunning overtake on Lando Norris in the early stages and toiled in positions 10-13 for most of the race. A late overtake on Ricciardo and Hulkenberg’s retirement meant he salvaged an 8th place finish. Gasly finished over 40 seconds behind Verstappen.
Can Gasly turn things around?
Red Bull have had a hard time trying to understand their package – and that is something that’s hurt Gasly quite a lot. Helmut Marko told Motorsport.com that they’ve found what the main weakness is.
"In Bahrain we identified a weakness in the aerodynamics. We think we know the cause and have already implemented amendments. Verstappen's time on Tuesday was quite okay.
It's not a conceptual problem, but a detail thing – and it's not for the first time it has happened. But the wind in Bahrain multiplied it.
We do know the cause, yes. But the extent to which we can correct this for China is not clear as of today. At the very latest for Barcelona it should be done."
Gasly trails Verstappen by 23 points in the Drivers’ Championship after just two races. Verstappen is one of the stars of the sport – but that’s already a sizeable gap.
Despite Red Bull’s problems, he’ll need to get much closer to the Dutchman or he could find himself dropped by the team at the end of 2019. The pressure is very much on following a bad start to his campaign.