On Sunday in Brazil, Pierre Gasly was beaming on the podium following a hard fought second place having effectively out drag-raced Lewis Hamilton down the main straight at the culmination of the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix. Absent from the podium was Alexander Albon who had looked certain to take second place behind his teammate Max Verstappen. However, had that been the case you can almost guarantee that the Frenchman would not have been on the podium at all. Sometimes, in Formula One, the fairytale ending is possible and no one deserves it more than Pierre Gasly.
Pierre Gasly has had quite the season. Having started the year partnering Max Verstappen at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, he was then unceremoniously swapped with Alexander Albon in August and since Spa-Francorchamps had been racing in the sister team – Toro Rosso. We all know the Red Bull Racing program is ruthless but having been declaring some weeks earlier to the media that Gasly’s seat was secure until the end of the season – this clearly was not the case. Also, at Spa, tragedy befell motorsport once more when Gasly’s former roommate from their junior days and close friend sadly lost his life in a Formula 2 event. The man was Anthoine Hubert and as Gasly said when paying tribute on Twitter to the 22-year old Frenchman ‘I’ll keep chasing the dream we both had since very little. I will miss you a lot my friend.’
In Brazil, during the post-race press conference, Pierre Gasly made clear his feelings on such a historic occasion and the dream becoming a reality – one he never thought would happen.
“It’s just the best day of my life. As a kid you dream about being in Formula One, and then when it happens it becomes the best day of your life and then after you dream about your first podium. To be fair, I didn’t think this would happen, coming back with Toro Rosso during the second part of the season. I just kept working on myself, tried to push the team as much as I could, telling them, OK, we need to make the best out of all the opportunities we have until the end of the year. And today it just came to us…quite intense finish and just incredible to get my first podium in Formula 1.”
This was the first one-two for the Honda engine in 28 years. However, there was also a chance for this piece of history to have been made by Alexander Albon had Lewis Hamilton not collided with him. Following a move which saw the newly crowned 6-time F1 Champion receive a 5 second penalty and 2 points on his license – Albon finished far down the field and well out of the points. However, too long this season have the names of Albon and Gasly been in the same sentence and that is why it was only right that Sunday’s moment in the sun was saved for the much admired Frenchman alone.
Pierre Gasly is admired by many in the paddock for the way that he handles his ‘demotion’ seeing how he only ever speaks well of his former team, makes clear his intention to perform as well as he can for Toro Rosso (hardly surprising to see him retain his seat in 2020 when they rebrand as ‘Alpha Tauri’ ) and he always maintains a smile on his face to rival that of Daniel Ricciardo. The former teammate of both of these drivers, Max Verstappen, was also delighted to see Pierre Gasly stood to the side of him on Sunday as he made clear in the same post-race press conference.
How I rate Pierre’s podium? Incredible. Of course, he anyway already had a great race. I think you were best of the rest, right? That’s already a good result and then yeah, you just stay out of trouble and other people, of course, make mistakes and you profit from that. I think it’s great to see Pierre up here. Now it’s also the second podium for Toro Rosso already this year, so I think they are very happy with this, and yeah, like I said, I’m very happy to see Pierre up on the podium. I always knew he was a very quick driver. I think this year in the beginning maybe didn’t work out the way it should but, as you can see, I think Pierre is very strong and, at Toro Rosso again, he regrouped and he had already before this race a lot of good results. So, this is even, I think, a bigger motivation.”
Pierre Gasly also described his view above the crowd with such passion that it was clear to all how much it meant: “It’s a feeling you miss. I was really missing it…and yeah, today, to be in the middle, in second place between Max and Lewis, my first podium in F1 is just… yeah, just insane, and amazing and really emotional for me.”
The Brazilian GP has produced amazing scenes: Ayrton Senna excruciatingly raising his nation’s flag in 1991; Lewis Hamilton’s last corner dramatics in 2008 and now in 2019 – Pierre Gasly’s glorious Grand Prix.