In a race full of incident and drama, Pierre Gasly pounced on a completely unexpected opportunity to take his first Grand Prix victory at Monza yesterday. The journey he went through to reach it could easily be made into a movie. It’s something truly incredible.
2017 – Finally given a chance at Toro Rosso
Gasly won the GP2 Championship back in 2016 after narrowly beating Prema teammate and now fellow F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi.
However, he spent most of 2017 in the Super Formula Championship in Japan as Helmut Marko decided not to give him a shot at Toro Rosso initially. Daniil Kvyat’s poor form prompted the Austrian to put Gasly in the car from Malaysia onwards (with the exception of the US Grand Prix due to a clash with Super Formula), though.
In his first qualifying session in Formula 1, he finished P15. Gasly was only 0.156s slower than teammate Carlos Sainz; the Spaniard was finishing his third season at Toro Rosso at the time. It was an impressive debut and it showed the talent he had.
2018 – An impressive first full season in F1
The Frenchman eventually got the opportunity to compete in a full season two years ago – and he really showed why he deserved the chance. He produced some really impressive performances.
The obvious highlight was Bahrain. He qualified in 6th before penalties got applied. Gasly drove an incredibly mature and calm race to finish a sensational P4, 13s ahead of his main midfield rival Kevin Magnussen.
Gasly was just as good in Hungary. Qualifying P6, he finished P6. He was best of the rest behind the big three and the only midfield runner not to get lapped. 7th in Monaco was another excellent weekend, too.
In the most important areas, he comfortably beat Hartley: 29-4 in points and 15-6 in qualifying.
The French driver’s impressive performances earned him a promotion to Red Bull Racing alongside Max Verstappen after Daniel Ricciardo decided to leave the team. At the time, it seemed like an amazing opportunity...
2019 – A torrid spell at Red Bull and the tragic loss of his friend Anthoine Hubert
Unfortunately for Gasly, the amazing opportunity that seemed to have opened up at Red Bull turned out to be a complete nightmare.
Pre-season testing was a prelude of things to come. He crashed twice in Barcelona and things never really got better from there.
Gasly only beat Verstappen once in both qualifying and race trim. Even then, that was only thanks to a red flag in qualifying during Q2 in Canada and Vettel hitting Verstappen at Silverstone. The Frenchman was also lapped by Verstappen at the Red Bull Ring and Hungary, too.
His only really promising weekend in the RB15 was at Silverstone where he qualified 5th (ahead of Vettel) and crossed the line in P4 after some great battles with the Ferraris during the race.
Marko called his performances ‘’simply unacceptable’’ and Gasly was demoted to Toro Rosso before the Belgian Grand Prix, with Alexander Albon heading the other way.
In what was already a tough time for Gasly, tragedy, grief and personal loss came his way when friend and former karting rival Anthoine Hubert tragically lost his life in an accident at Spa in the Formula 2 feature race last year. He admitted that when he returned Spa just over a week ago that he’s still finding it hard to accept that Hubert is no longer here.
Today is your day, and will always be.👼🏼 You taught me life can be a lot shorter than we think, and has to be fully enjoyed while we can. Thanks for all the great memories Tonio. We are missing you.🤍 #AH19 pic.twitter.com/pSSfUQYvbd— PIERRE GASLY 🇫🇷 (@PierreGASLY) August 31, 2020
September 2019 and 2020 – Gasly stars and leads Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri to glory
Since his return to the Italian team, Gasly has been one of the best and most consistent drivers on the grid.
The stats vs his teammate Daniil Kvyat say a lot about the job he has done over the last 12 months. He’s 14-3 (7-1 in 2020) up against the Russian on a Saturday afternoon and has outscored him 75-14 (43-4 in 2020) in their 17 races as stablemates.
Gasly had already bagged points at Belgium, Singapore, Japan and Mexico. It gave us evidence that he was already showing his real ability once again, even before that incredible day in Interlagos last year.
He qualified a superb 7th, aka the winner of the best of the rest competition in 2019. His race performance was marvellous, too. The Frenchman led the midfield fight from start to finish and avoided the carnage and chaos in front of him to collect a magnificent 2nd place finish, beating Hamilton in a drag race to the line.
That was only Toro Rosso’s second ever podium and the first for Gasly in Formula One. It was totally merited after he put together a stunning weekend as he bossed the fight behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
WOOOOW, 2nd!!!!!!— PIERRE GASLY 🇫🇷 (@PierreGASLY) November 17, 2019
I’m just lost for words... simply incredible day!! Just wanna THANKS each single person that helped and supported me since day 1 to live this moment and emotions, best day of my life. Thinking about you Anthoine, that one is for you my friend. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ML8e8Ht0pR
Yesterday’s race presented Gasly with a golden chance to take his maiden win and he grabbed it with both hands.
He pitted from P10 just a lap before the pit lane was closed as they moved Kevin Magnussen’s broken Haas away from pit entry. That + the red flag for Leclerc left the Frenchman in P3, which was a net P2 due to Hamilton’s penalty.
The standing (re)start was critical and Gasly got a super launch off the line to jump Lance Stroll to take P2. That became P1 at the end of the lap after Hamilton boxed to take his penalty.
It was far from straightforward after that, though. McLaren had the second quickest car at Monza and when Carlos Sainz overtook Kimi Raikkonen for 2nd on lap 34, the gap was 4.389s.
Car 55 slowly but surely chipped away at that gap and got within a second of the AlphaTauri on the final lap. Gasly stayed calm and did not crack under the pressure of going for his maiden win. He held on to take the spoils by 0.415s.
Did he need some luck to win? Absolutely. However, Gasly’s composure throughout the second part of the race and closing stages whilst in the lead was top quality. It truly was a sensational and deserved victory as he fended off a quicker package at the end.
P1!! My first victory in F1!!🏆— PIERRE GASLY 🇫🇷 (@PierreGASLY) September 6, 2020
I’m lost for words, still struggling to realise, its just amazing!!
Everything was perfect, just missed the tifosis down under the podium. @alphatauri we have done it!! Thanks everyone for all the messages & support!! Today is a day I’ll remember. pic.twitter.com/3eILYSMsIu
Gasly at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri
- The second driver to win a race for the team
- The first driver to score more than one podium for the team
- The first French winner of a race since Olivier Panis at the 1996 Monaco GP
Questions about Red Bull need to be asked
With Gasly thriving at AlphaTauri after his struggles at Red Bull and his replacement at the senior team Alex Albon really struggling, you have to wonder about the environment inside Red Bull Racing.
Let’s be clear, Max Verstappen is a phenomenal talent and is probably the most complete driver in the sport along with Lewis Hamilton right now. Nonetheless, there’s no chance that Gasly is as far off the Dutchman as 2019 suggested.
Is he really a second or more a lap off in races and well behind Verstappen in qualifying on pure talent as last year suggested? Absolutely not. His driving since he went back to the junior squad certainly proves that.
Albon’s problems show that it’s not just Gasly who was the problem. The car needs to be more driver-friendly to give the likes of Albon and Gasly a better chance to be properly competitive.
Gasly never got the support in that environment that Albon has, either. He was booted out after just 12 races and continually got heavily criticised Helmut Marko before it happened.
For the future, Gasly’s best option is to stay at AlphaTauri or find a drive outside the Red Bull squad where his talent will be appreciated. Going back to the senior team (if he got the offer) would seem like a big mistake right now.
Gasly proves them wrong
During an interview shown by Sky Sports at during the Belgian GP weekend, Gasly said that Hubert texted him following his demotion to Toro Rosso last year to ‘’prove them wrong.’’ He’s proven Helmut Marko, many journalists and lots of fans wrong.
As well as dealing with the loss of his drive at a top team, he had to try and cope with the loss of a friend and fellow racer, too. His mental resilience to cope with everything that’s been thrown at him is extraordinary. Gasly deserves huge praise and respect for that.
The consistent stellar drives he’s put in since he returned to the Faenza-based squad shows his real ability and the bundles of talent he has at his disposal. He’s at a team where he’s appreciated and supported; that would give any driver a huge boost and to get the best out of themselves.
Pierre Gasly has done himself and Anthione proud. Well done on your first win and becoming the 109th different driver to win a Formula One race, Pierre.