Where Does Pierre Gasly Go From Here?
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
After picking up his maiden F1 victory with Alpha Tauri, where does Gasly's career go from here?
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We are a few days removed from a historic 2020 Italian Grand Prix and yet the buzz around Pierre Gasly's victory is still swirling around the motor sport world. I'm sure Gasly is still in disbelief as to what transpired in Monza on Sunday but unfortunately the time for celebrations have passed as another race in Mugello awaits this Sunday. As Pierre Gasly heads into the Tuscan hills of northern Italy, he will be entering the paddock as a Formula One Grand Prix winner with Alpha Tauri. Just writing that statement is a testament to how wild this year has been in many different ways but here we are. So after a tumultuous time at Red Bull last season to reinvigorating his career by going back to Toro Rosso/Alpha Tauri, it got me wondering just where does Pierre Gasly go from here? In terms of the 2021 driver market, the options are limited as many of the top teams have locked down their driver lineup for next season. The obvious suggestion would be a second chance with Red Bull but is that the right move for the 24 year old Frenchman? It's a bit of a conundrum at the moment but I'm going to take a look at Gasly's options and where he could end up in the future.
Is a Red Bull Return the Right Move?
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I'll be the first to admit that I was too tough on Gasly during his tenure at Red Bull. At the time, I looked at Gasly's performances in comparison to Verstappen and believed that Gasly was not good enough to make it at a big team. Especially at a race like Austria 2019 where he was lapped by Verstappen who then went on to win the race. But when Alex Albon got promoted in Gasly's seat, I saw an almost carbon copy of the Pierre Gasly situation. Both drivers have had their fair share of crashes and have not been able to get within touching distance of Max Verstappen. Another common theme has been both Albon and Gasly's difficulties with the Red Bull chassis and coming to grips with maximizing the results of the car. Alex Albon's tenure at Red Bull has shown to me that the problem might not lie with the driver but perhaps the environment in which they are thrown into. It's also been revealed recently that Albon has been driving a different car than Verstappen due to some wind tunnel disparities at the beginning of the season.
It's difficult to pin point the exact problem that Pierre Gasly faced during his short Red Bull career. In his own words, he knows what that is but will not make it public. "I think I know exactly why it didn't click there [at Red Bull]," he said as recently as the Belgian Grand Prix "And the thing that didn't work." When asked if he could add more detail, he said: "Unfortunately not." Regardless of the factors contributing to his struggles, Pierre Gasly has proven himself to be a top flight Formula 1 driver upon his return to the 'B' team. What impresses me the most about Gasly is how he has rebounded after all of the difficult things he's had to go through on and off the track. Since his demotion in August of 2019, Gasly has scored his first F1 podium, led Toro Rosso to 6th in the Constructors standings, and picked up his first F1 victory. Without a doubt, he's ready for another shot at a top team in F1, but is going back to Red Bull the right move? I think that responsibility lies on Red Bull, Christian Horner, and Helmut Marko. Judging by his comments that I previously mentioned, it seems like Gasly has learned from his mistakes, but has Red Bull? I don't think Red Bull particularly handled the Gasly situation very well and they certainty didn't do a good job of hiding their displeasure in public. If Gasly were to make a return to Red Bull, I think it would be in the team's best interest to support Gasly as much as they do Verstappen. In an era of Mercedes domination, putting all of your chips behind just one driver and leaving the other one to just 'figure it out' is not a strategy that is going to win championships.
Staying at Alpha Tauri the Most Stable Option
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I made the argument after the Belgian Grand Prix that Pierre Gasly could be the driver of the year. After his win in Monza, that argument got solidified as I made the case in this video here. Gasly has had so much momentum since his podium in Brazil last season and his stock just keeps on rising. The environment at Alpha Tauri was a breath of fresh air for Gasly and it's clearly a team that he thrives in. I think a lot of credit has to go to Franz Tost as well for organizing his team and putting a lot of faith in his drivers. With the confidence that Pierre has at the moment, Alpha Tauri is Gasly's best option to keep his good run of form going. As I mentioned above, Gasly is ready for another run at Red Bull but their is always a risk of repeating the same mistakes. What if Gasly and Albon swap seats again but Pierre struggles because of the Red Bull system? It would be a shame if that were to happen and it would be another step back after months of climbing to the top once again. Gasly is still young at the age of 24 and with his win at Monza, he's pretty much solidified his future in F1 for the next couple of years. Although Alpha Tauri have seemed to take a slight step back in performance compared to 2019, the calm environment of the Faenza based squad might be the best choice for the next season or two.
Should Gasly Break Away from the Red Bull Program?
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Personally I think the Red Bull Junior program has taken a hit in the last few seasons. It's worked wonders for drivers like Max Verstappen but the common theme at Red Bull the last two seasons has been the lack of performance from their second car. The revolving door of drivers between the 'A' team and the 'B' team in recent years has actually worked out more for the 'B' team than anything else. Being a Red Bull contracted driver, your options are very limited so I wonder if it's time for Gasly to look elsewhere on the grid. It's difficult to say whether Red Bull will produce a championship winning car come 2022 when the major rule changes come into effect but the last seven years have shown they've struggled massively to make gains on Mercedes. Timing is everything in Formula 1 and if Red Bull gets their act together, Verstappen and whoever is in that second seat could hit the jackpot once the new cars are rolled out. But I think it's worth keeping an eye on other teams that could require a young drivers service. The issue with that is the options are limited in relation to top end teams in F1. Ferrari's driver lineup is secured for the next few seasons. Mercedes would most likely look to one of their young driver pupils like George Russell. McLaren are set with Norris and Ricciardo so the only other option with a 'big team' would be Renault if they decide to part ways with Esteban Ocon.
The reason I bring up this point is that breaking away from the Red Bull program has seemed to work for Carlos Sainz. It arguably should've been Sainz who got the Red Bull seat after Daniel Ricciardo departed for Renault but it never materialized. Sainz didn't lose out however as he's built a really strong and re surging team around him at McLaren. The Woking outfit already has two podiums this season and came within a second of tasting victory. Of course, Sainz was allured by the myth of Ferrari and will now move to Maranello starting next season. Normally that would be quite the dream but considering Ferrari's form lately, many are thinking he should've stayed at McLaren. Either way, Sainz's options opened up dramatically when he wasn't tied down to a Red Bull contract so it could be worth looking into if your Pierre Gasly.
Either Way, it's Full GAS Ahead for the Future!
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I've just scribbled down some potential options for Pierre Gasly's future (Pierre if you need a manager I'm available!) but we have no idea what is going to happen as things move forward. One thing I do know is that Gasly's career is only just getting started and he has a bright future ahead of him. The way he was able to handle himself at the Italian Grand Prix when put in an unprecedented situation was incredible. He nailed the restart getting past Stroll and intelligently didn't force things going into turn one knowing Hamilton was getting a penalty. He was then able to manage his pace like a veteran race winner and coped with the relentless pressure put on him by Carlos Sainz. Many drivers would have folded but Gasly stepped up when he needed to the most. It's an exciting future for the sport with the young crop of drivers coming through and having current success against legends of the sport like Hamilton and Vettel. Gasly's victory at the Italian Grand Prix was one of the most popular in F1 history and we hope the first of many in what will be a long and prosperous career. When Gasly got demoted to Toro Rosso, his late friend Antoine Hubert told him to 'prove them wrong'. 12 months later, Gasly has done that and has made his friend very proud of the driver and sportsman he has become.