The day started with the news that yet another scalp had been taken in the Red Bull Junior programme. The unlucky hopeful to be shown the exit door was the runner up of European Formula 3 last year - Dan Ticktum. The departure was signaled with a familiar no nonsense comment from Red Bull’s Motorsport Advisor Dr Helmut Marko revealing that Ticktum is “now no longer a member of our programme”. Many would expect Pierre Gasly to be anxious as to his own future (although the Frenchman shows he is not overly concerned) so when Max Verstappen lost the rear of his Red Bull at the apex of the last corner at the Red Bull Ring, the focus was on how Gasly could perform for the team - and he did not disappoint by setting the third best time of the session.
Free Practice 2 was certainly eventful (which made a nice change for those watching). First, Max Verstappen lost the rear of his Red Bull at the apex of the last corner and in doing so went into the wall – that was the end of FP2 for Max. Soon after, Valtteri Bottas lost the rear of his W10 at Turn 6 and the Mercedes driver soon found himself heading across the gravel and into the wall. Finally, 4 time World Champion Sebastian Vettel also lost it at turn 10 – but avoided a crash as his Scuderia Ferrari lived on to fight through the rest of the session - although only achieving the 8th best time.
So, what was responsible for this trio of incidents? The wind and the unpredictability of the tail wind catching drivers off guard. Is it too much to hope it comes around on race day? Whatever was to blame though, finally fortune seemed to be changing for the mild mannered Frenchman.
Speaking of fortunes, back in Shanghai, Pierre Gasly was seen signing empty boxes which would soon have miniature replicas of his car in and no doubt be sold at a considerably higher price. However, whilst someone is making money off Gasly’s name on a toy car (if the media is to be believed) the Frenchman is in a battle to hold onto his own seat in his actual car – with a particular spotlight being shone on Nico Hulkenberg. So, when his Dutch teammate totaled his Red Bull early in the session, a lot of track time was still available and the team looked to Gasly to gather the data.
The top time of the session went to Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with 1:05.086 and second place was taken by Valterri Bottas who despite crashing out early on, could still not be dislodged from the top. However, in third lay Pierre Gasly with a time just 0.401s from the top. Being ahead of the 5 times World Champion Lewis Hamilton must surely do the youngster the world of good; particularly after a less than successful home race last time out which saw him get a lucky point due to Daniel Ricciardo’s off track venture.
Before the start of Free Practice 2, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Twitter feed was filled with 6 consecutive messages about Max Verstappen and then some messages of Gasly taking to the sky in a Red Bull stunt over Spielberg. There is no doubt as to whom the attention and positive column inches are being written about. However, when you consider that in FP1, Gasly was just over a tenth slower than Verstappen getting 6th overall with a 1:05.378 compared to his Dutch teammate's 1:05.260, the FP2 performance should not be such a shock.
So far so good for Pierre Gasly this weeknd and if he can continue this form and deliver at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday in Austria of all places, maybe he will start to silence the critics…as well as the team owners. Also, we may see a few more people looking for a signature from the promising young Frenchman.