‘I belong with Verstappen, Leclerc, Russell and Norris’ – Pierre Gasly exclusive interview

2022 F1 season

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Pierre Gasly pauses as he tried to recall exactly how many seasons he’s raced in Formula 1.

Sitting in the AlphaTauri hospitality suite in a bustling Imola paddock, the one-time grand prix winner has to take a moment to work out that he’s now in the midst of his fifth full F1 campaign – and fourth with the Faenza-based team.

Contracted until the end of the 2023 season, Gasly is on course to beat Daniil Kvyat’s record of most race starts with the Red Bull junior squad, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

But as the news Carlos Sainz Jnr (another product of Red Bull’s young driver programme) has signed a contract extension with Ferrari breaks shortly before RaceFans’ exclusive interview with Gasly begins, talk inevitably turns to his own future.

“So this is my fifth year in Formula 1,” Gasly says, after taking a second to count the years since his late-2017 debut.

Red Bull brought Gasly into F1 in 2017
“I am doing all that because I want to fight at the front. It’s why I’m waking up every day, why I’m training every single day. Why I’m looking after my nutrition, my sleep, my recovery. Every single detail is because I want to fight with the best drivers at the top.”

The last 12 months have been lucrative for Formula 1’s golden generation of exceptionally talented under-25s. Max Verstappen capped off a world championship title by signing a monster six-year extension, Lando Norris committed his future to McLaren at the start of the season and George Russell’s Mercedes dream has finally manifested after three seasons spent toiling away at the back of the grid.

As happy for his peers as Gasly has been, the 26-year-old admits he feels he deserves to be mixing it with that formidable company out on the track every race weekend.

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“I see Charles in a Ferrari, I see Max in the Red Bull, George in the Mercedes, Lando in the McLaren – I’ve been fighting with these guys all my career,” Gasly says. “I know that’s where I belong and I want to get my chance to be in this position as well.”

However this isn’t an unfamiliar position for Gasly – quite the opposite. Back in 2019, the then 22-year-old was handed the opportunity of a lifetime to move into the Red Bull senior team alongside Verstappen as Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull replacement. But half a season later, a points deficit of 118 to the future world champion led to his brutal demotion back to Italy, where he has remained ever since.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Spa-Francorchamps, 2021
Gasly has visited the scene of Hubert’s fatal crash every year since
What followed were the three most rewarding, yet challenging, seasons in his racing career. From the highs of his Monza win and his unexpected podiums to the crushing disappointment of losing one of the best seats in motorsport and the more devastating loss of his good friend Anthoine Hubert, Gasly has been admirably honest about his emotions over the last few years.

One year ago Gasly wrote a one-off piece offering a refreshingly frank insight into the emotional toll and pressure of being a modern Formula 1 driver, especially when grieving. Gasly says that he is not one to shy away from expressing his emotions.

“I’m someone who is very honest. I have nothing to hide,” Gasly says. “I think it’s fine that things should be spoken out, sometimes.

“There are things which have to stay confidential – especially as a professional, I’ve never released confidential details – but I was in a moment where there was obviously the loss of Anthoine which was really heavy to go through and to process. The change of team at the same time. There were a lot of things which were said which were not true or not with the right information.

“For me, I just felt ‘okay, this is also me. This is Pierre Gasly, this is how I am, this is how I feel’. We’re all human. We can be athletes – we are seen as athletes – but at the end, there is a human behind every driver. There is hurt. Emotions. Mentality. It just felt for me that it was important to kind of move on from this negative spiral which I had for these first six months. It was just something important to myself. And obviously by far the most challenging time I’ve ever had to face as a driver.”

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Rather than wilt, Gasly met disappointment with determination. Facing all his F1 dreams disappearing in front of him, Gasly kept his chin up and got his head down.

“Growing up, I always believed in hard work and discipline and believing in that process – that as long as you keep doing the right things, the right outcome will happen at the end,” he explains.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2019
A brief stint alongside Verstappen did not end well
“And that’s the mentality I went through all these years. I mean, at this stage of my career, these are the cards that I have in my hand. How do I play best with what I have in my hand? Whether it’s the best cards or not, doesn’t matter. This is my game and I got to make it work with these cards.

“At the end of the day, work doesn’t lie. Here, we all talented. Everyone that is in this paddock is special. All brilliant drivers. Some a bit more exceptional than others, but at the end of the day, we all are super talented. And to make the difference, you’ve got to work on the small details that will bring you the X-factor compared to others.”

Still very much a part of the Red Bull ecosystem, Gasly has only strengthened his case for a second shot at the factory seat now occupied by Sergio Perez since returning to AlphaTauri – especially after claiming a stunning victory in Monza in 2020 and his regular top five qualifying results in 2021. Although he admits his admiration for the job Perez has been doing at Red Bull in 2022, Gasly says his sights are still set on reclaiming what was once his.

“I feel ready,” he says. “I felt like I’ve shown my potential. I’ve shown that I’m able to deliver once I get the tools that I need in my hands to do it.

“But then after, I also understand them. It’s their decision – I’m fine with that. I think what’s important is that, at the end of the day, when you work with a team – a team works with a driver or a driver works with a team – there needs to be that common will and desire to do it together. Whatever it takes. There needs to be the will to do things together, to have the same target in mind.”

While he offers no excuses for the performance gap between himself and Verstappen over those early months of 2019, Gasly believes his abilities are so far beyond those he possessed three years ago that he is practically a different driver.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, , Monza, 2020
Monza 2020 is a career high Gasly is keen to repeat
“The driver I am today is way better than the driver I was after one year,” he insists. “If they saw at the time I was the right fit for the team after such a short time, then now there are even more reasons to think I’m prepared to get that seat.”

Watching drivers younger than him secure long contracts that should keep them at the front of the field contending for podiums, wins and even championships, it would be easy for Gasly to become frustrated or even disillusioned with Red Bull. However, he says he values still being a part of Red Bull’s programme and will wait for his opportunity, even while he sits on the cusp of a fifth full season with AlphaTauri in 2023.

“I think I’ve always said, at the moment, my priority is to discuss with [Red Bull] and they will always have the priority over others,” he says. “Because I’m very grateful for everything they’ve done in my career and that I’m aware that I’d never be here without the support of Helmut and Red Bull over these past years.

“I’ve told [Helmut] last time that actually this is the longest relationship I’ve ever had in my life, you know? Nine years with Red Bull. It’s been eight-and-a-half years of success, fighting for all the best positions, having a very, very successful ride together. There were the six months that didn’t work out for the reasons that we know.”

Compared to the consistent high performance Gasly and his team enjoyed last season, 2022 has not started quite as successfully as either he or the factory would have wanted. At the time of our chat Gasly lies 12th in the championship. Although he echoes the thoughts of many of his fellow drivers that the new technical regulations for 2022 have achieved their goal of improving racing, Gasly says he’s not entirely satisfied with the impact the new rules have had so far.

Gasly hoped midfield would be more competitive this year
“From a racing point of view, I must say it’s been more fun,” he explains. “I think we did achieve some of the targets which were made with the regulation changes. Is it as good as we would have liked? As long as it’s better, for me, I’m not going to complain. It has had a positive impact on the racing, which is most important. More overtaking, being able to follow more closely.

“The only thing is, I wished that the whole field was closer than it is. I was really hoping, ‘okay, we can see more midfield cars getting closer to the podium positions’. And in the end, last year I had more chances to be in the top five than I have this season. So on that side, it was the only little setback, seeing at the start of the year that Ferrari is on a league of their own, Red Bull sort of managed to get there as well. And then after, there is not like a small gap – it’s like a pretty big world to catch up with these guys. So this is the only downside.

“But I think it was more like dreaming this is achievable when we know in motorsport, every time you’ve got a regulation change. Mercedes got the best of it the last eight years, now Ferrari seems to get it right and slowly I think we’re going to catch up, but it’s probably going to take time.”

With his place at AlphaTauri and in Formula 1 secured until at least the end of next season, Gasly at least knows he has some time ahead to try and help build his team back up to the level of performance they enjoyed last year. But he is also confident he will get an opportunity to make his case for a return to Milton Keynes at some point in the future.

“This is a conversation we need to have that we didn’t have yet,” he says. “Right now, I probably think it might be too early, because it’s also only 2022 and the focus is on making the best season possible with AlphaTauri.

“But I’m sure there are going to be conversations and see what’s good. I know they are happy with the way it works for them at the moment and that also works for me. Checo is doing very good there, so it makes sense. But then, at the end of the day, I also need to look at my own career and what’s best for me, what will give me the most chances to achieve my personal goals, which is to be a world champion over the next few years.”

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 52 comments on “‘I belong with Verstappen, Leclerc, Russell and Norris’ – Pierre Gasly exclusive interview”

    1. No, you don’t.

      Still plenty good enough to have a long career in F1.

      1. Impossible to tell. Yeah, he had that attempt at RB, but nobody understood that car except Max. Also, Gasly improved significantly compared to his early days, I think we’d all agree on that. I’m quote sure he’s not as good as Verstappen or Leclerc, but we really can’t know, only guess. This is not a box or tennis match, this is cars racing each other with slight influence from a driver. Now Russel is faster than Hamilton, but last season he was slower by maybe two seconds a lap, wasn’t he? It’s the car…

        1. I think we can tell, based on his time in the Red Bull with Max Verstappen on the other side of the garage. He got his chance and failed.

          PS: Sorry, I hit the ‘report comment’ button on accident.

          1. @proesterchen Just because he failed the first time doesn’t mean he’d fail again.
            By the next season-opener, he’ll have raced in F1 for five full seasons rather than only one, so he’d definitely be more ready than in early-2019 if he got another chance.

            1. More ready? Probably. Good enough? Seems unlikely.

              I have a really hard time remembering a generational talent getting a chance and not taking advantage of it. IMHO all the drivers he sees himself in league with managed tackle the chances they got, when they got them, impressively.

          2. Agree with proest here, he’s comparing himself with drivers who instead take their first chance and make it count.

      2. I’am harsher, Gasly is not f1 material, he is below average.

    2. I see Max in the Red Bull (…) I’ve been fighting with these guys all my career

      181-63

      1. Andrie Hartan
        29th April 2022, 16:18

        Not only points. I believe he is the only Max’s team mate that got lapped when he didn’t encounter any issues (car problem, spins, etc). HE also never came close to Verstappen, in any official sessions. Albon, at least was closer and even matched one Qualifying session in Suzuka if my memory serves me right

    3. He’s a truly good driver and I think given the right machine and team could challenge for wins and titles, but I don’t think he’s quite on the level of Verstappen/Leclerc/Russell – and while they are at Red Bull, Ferrari & Mercedes if he went to them he’d be considered the 2nd driver. But that’s Gasly’s whole problem – he’s very vocal about not wanting to be the 2nd driver while being not *quite* good enough to be the 1st.

      1. @rocketpanda – I think he tried way to hard during the testdays crashing the car and after the second crash his confidense was gone. Is he as good as the boys at the top probaly yes but the pressure would break him that is clear to everyone.
        So soon there is pressure he will fail so not good enough but he is beter then most drivers just not the top.

    4. Hmmm. I found him rather underwhelming last year, he did very well in qualifying but was often nowhere in the races. Hasn’t particularly stood out this season either, Tsunoda seems to have got on terms with him now. Not convinced he’s a top-level driver, although he is certainly very good and deserving of his place on the grid.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th April 2022, 14:19

        @tflb Gasly’s career is on the line here. He can’t let Tsunoda best him after Yuki had such a bad season last year.

        I was so shocked that Gasly made no attempt on Albon the past weekend even though he managed to close the DRS the moment DRS became enabled so Lewis wouldn’t be able to overtake him.

        Perhaps, he felt he’d do an Alonso but Lewis’ car seemed to have a parachute stuck behind it the moment Lewis stepped out of the slipstream. In the end, Gasly looked like a stationary object holding back a crippled vehicle as opposed to a heroic defender.

        1. @freelittlebirds Yes, he can’t let Tsunoda beat him as otherwise, Tsunoda might get a nod instead.
          I also agree that he should’ve made a stronger attempt on Albon, although I can’t quite figure out your Alonso reference.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            29th April 2022, 17:38

            @jerejj I was referring to Alonso holding up Lewis in Hungary – I feel Pierre wanted to do the same there but he needed to focus on his race, not holding up Lewis whose clearly couldn’t get by Pierre’s.

    5. Still think he is a shoe in for Hamilton at Mercedes if he doesn’t renew again. Good team player and will have the backing of Hamilton all the way.

      1. If RB doesn’t give him a change in the coming seasons, why not?

      2. @ian dearing Or perhaps for Ricciardo at Mclaren, or even Seb at AM.

      3. If Lewis said tomorrow he was quitting at the end of the season, it would be very interesting to see what they would do.

        Might they go for Ocon? He has links to Toto I believe. Or might they even ask Bottas back? Would he come? I suppose Daniel but be another option for them. I am not sure it would be Gasly?

        His best chance for a promotion other than RBR is probably waiting for Alonso to retire. But is Alpine a promotion. It is a works team of course.

    6. Well.. its great that Gasly thinks he’s on the Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris and Russell level, even though any fan of the sport, experienced or inexperienced, would disagree with him 100%.

      I think he should blow his trumpet as loudly as possible now.. its only a matter of time before Tsonuda starts beating him and his top drive dream dies with it.

    7. When Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull after one year and four races, with a week’s notice, he promptly won his first race for Red Bull. When Gasly was promoted after 1 year with a full pre-season to prepare, he promptly was nowhere. That does cast some significant doubt on whether he can really claim to be on the level with him and the others he named.

      That said, he’s clearly not slow, he’s gained a lot of experience since then, and I think he would make -for instance- a good replacement for Ricciardo if McLaren decides his performance after this year isn’t good enough. Or perhaps for Ocon at Renault if they decide to replace him. I doubt any of the top three teams would have any interest in Gasly, though.

      1. +1

        I can’t fault Pierre for trying, but RB have seen what they need to see. It’s like trying to get back with an ex-partner (romantically). What will be so different next time around?

        Keep putting in the good performances and a fresh start somewhere else will be the reward.

    8. Putting aside the nasty comments here from the usual suspects, just wanted to say this was a great article/interview.

    9. Gasly is damaged goods kind of like Perez was after 2013 at Mclaren but the gap between him and Max compared to Perez and Button is maybe something you’ll never recover from reputation wise. Gasly can win the Championship with 21/22 races won but he will always hear that Max would’ve won all 22 races if he were driving that car.

      Red Bull only picked Perez up cause they exhausted all their youth options (and Helmut Marko did not want egg on his face by calling Gasly back) and Perez now looks a solid #2 for Max the next few years as he really picked up his Qaulifying this year so there’s no need for Gasly or another replacement now.

      Will Gasly have the same kind of luck to eventually arrive at a top team like Perez had? Maybe as a #2 to Russell at Mercedes when Hamilton suddenly retires but at this rate I see a career like Hulkenberg’s floundering in the midfield just with a win and more podiums.

      1. I feel like he may have his shot at a big team, but he’s pretty much a Perez level driver – the guy who will nail a race or 5 in a midfield car and get a couple of podiums for his efforts. Unfortunately this type of driver is often looked at a bit with the stinkeye by the absolute top teams perhaps due to the (?) historic patterns lots of these drivers seem to follow – look at for example Frentzen or Capelli in the 90s, or a Heidfeld in the 00s.
        Perez has never ever had true cutting edge pace, but his deserved reputation as a tyre conservation king is perhaps the thing that got him his RB shot, and unfortunately Gasly doesn’t seem to have a standout trait like that in the public and possibly the F1 world consciousness, so his chance may well come about as a result of silly season weirdness or even another team’s young driver program failure…which would be a bit ironic.

      2. That is incorrect. The Perez-Button pair was pretty even. Perez outqualified Button and in terms of points there was only a 25-point difference between the two. Everyone is too quick to discredit Perez’s stint at McLaren but it wasn’t too bad (not good either) when you compare it to his teammate …

        1. Button shouldn’t be judged based on his qualifying performances. His qualifying record against Hamilton(44-14) is even worse than Kovalainen’s qualifying record against Hamilton(26-9). Yikes.

    10. He had his shot and it didn’t work. I do feel this year’s car would suit him better as it does suit Perez better. That is also the main problem now. How do you defend dropping Perez after doing such a great job this year so far? Will/would Gladly really perform better than Perez? I doubt that. Maybe Equal, but better? Maybe Alpine or McLaren or even Aston Martin or Alfa Romeo might be an option?

      1. @w0o0dy Yes, he failed the first time, but this doesn’t mean he’d fail again if given another chance.
        The defense for dropping Perez regardless of performance level is that he only joined for stop-gap purposes in the first place, so fewer reasons to keep him past two seasons.
        However, Gasly doing better than him in the same team may be ungiven, but he’d certainly do better versus 2019 via greater F1 racing experience alone.
        Mclaren or AM I could see as viable options, but neither Alpine nor Alfa since other drivers are a priority for these two.

      2. Davethechicken
        30th April 2022, 10:36

        Perez doing a great job this year? Two second places and a fourth in what is quite possibly the quickest car is hardly a great job. He is once again miles off the pace of Max.
        He is in a car that has an excellent chance to win both WDC and WCC, but he is never ever fighting to win races on merit. His good finishes only come if there is misfortune to others.
        He isn’t even in the top 10 best drivers of the current F1 grid, yet he has possibly the very best car, but never pushing its potential. Waste of a top team racing seat. Be better back at AM (nee RP).

        1. Why do you fail to understand Sainz has been even worse than Perez this year? I think many people overrated Sainz after his last 3 seasons. This is the same guy who lost to Hulkenberg in 2018.

    11. All drivers have very large ego’s, if you ask any of the top 10,000 drivers, they can all better the best. The tricky part is when given an opportunity, like Gasly had handed to him on a silver platter, they get humbled and find excuses. Part of being a top driver is quickly adapting to the equipment / team / working conditions and outperforming your teammate just enough to make them have excuses. Gasly failed to do that, so all the talk in the world isn’t going to convince us he is good enough.

      He is supremely lucky it is so prohibitively expensive to enter F1, and the talent pool is quite shallow and the FIA points system keeps very few drivers in contention for a race drive, with his team being risk averse, otherwise he might have been bounced like so many had been in the past. All that said, he is head and shoulders above some other drivers, especially one name Schumacher, who is just embarassing himself week after week.

    12. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      29th April 2022, 14:14

      Are you sure you’re not up there with Albon? It sure seemed that way this weekend :-)

      1. Adding the hamilton name in here seems to be fitting if we’re looking at the positions that weekend.

    13. Gasly is a top quality Grand Prix driver and my respect for him went through the roof when I read his great article in the Player’s Tribune. He is still in F1 and has a decent car at his disposal. He is a Grand Prix winner. Even if his career ended tomorrow he would go down as a far better driver than the overwhelming majority of those who have started a world championship Grand Prix. But he does not “deserve” anything. He needs to continue to claw away and fight for everything he can get. If the cards fall his way, he has everything he needs to grab any opportunity with both hands.

    14. Pierre’s honesty, especially on matters that a lot of sportspeople would shy away from, is refreshing. I’m not bothered by his lofty statements of being up with the best in F1 – he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t think that way. Though it’s worrying to think that, if Perez keeps performing well, Gasly could find himself locked out of a top drive for the rest of his career.

    15. The thing with these ‘I raced against Driver X, Y, and Z in a lower category and was able to beat them so I should be able to beat them in F1 as well is that it doesn’t take into account the growth and development since then for Driver X, Y, and Z while typically overstating the growth and development of the driver making that argument. The thing about Gasly competing against Max, Charles, Lando, and George is they have all grown and developed more than Gasly has since those days. I could see any one of them winning a Drivers Championship if given the right equipment. Even with the right equipment, I don’t see Gasly winning a Drivers Championship at this point.

      He is plenty fast to be in F1, but the entire field isn’t made up of champions/future champions.

    16. Gasly is probably at the same level as Pérez at the moment on pure performance, however I get this feeling that he’s somehow very prone to fall into mental traps. If there’s something wrong happening outside of the car it quickly reflects on track.
      Maybe that’s the main advantage of having more mature/experience drivers, might not be the quickest on any given day but the engineers know exactly what they get, no over-inflated egos disobeying team orders and silly mistakes like crashes in qualy are quite rare.

      1. Even so, if he is indeed perez level he has no chance whatsoever!

    17. Redbull has battered some egos including Gaslys. At that level ….. no, but in the right team with the right car He could do very well. As a McLaren fan, its also see other drivers thinking Norris is within the the top few.

    18. I feel that RedBull made a mistake when they dropped Gasly. I mean, if you think about it, what did they have to lose during that season. They could have easily let him adapt for an entire season. Obviously, afterwards he proved he is fast and consistent. I do think if RedBull was a bit more long term oriented they would have won the constructors last year.

      Redbull will miss out on him if they let him go to McLaren competition. He is experienced now and ready to reap podiums and wins.

      P.s i dont understand why everyone jumps to conclusions this season when there have only been 4/22 races so far after biggest regulations change in some time.

    19. An interesting interview & read.
      I hope he gets a repromotion for next season, which is entirely possible until the relevant individuals say the contrary if they say.
      However, the more time passes without him this happening, the more unlikely he’s to get that anymore.
      I’m surprised he mentioned Russell & Norris even though he never competed against these two pre-F1 unless he solely meant F1 by ‘all my career’ as in his entire F1 racing career to date.

    20. Don’t rate his chances at RB too high. Perez has been performing as hoped this season (ie getting consistent high points finishes) so from a WCC championship there is no reason to switch drivers so why take the risk he won’t perform. And while they have Max, no reason from a WDC point of view either.

      1. You are correct I think. At the moment RBR have no reason to replace Perez. Especially if the team win the constructors this year.

        Towards the end of 2023 things may look quite different. I kind of doubt it though from this distance. There’s no guarantee Gasly is ever going to get that promotion.

    21. Top driver, like Perez, Seinz and now it seems Hamilton.

      In the end stop watch does not lie, you are also about as good as your last race.

      It takes a lot of stamina and mental toughness to be a good and competitive #2 alongside a dominant driver.

      Who can cope? Recently only Rosberg was able to take it to the better driver and win.

      We will see about Seinz and Perez.

    22. Nice interview and I’m glad he’s equipped now to cope with whatever F1 throws at him. The last two thirds of the article, though, I was haunted by visions of Gasly’s squished face, after

      Gasly kept his chin up and got his head down.

    23. This is typically something that is only true when other people say it about you. For me personally, I’ve seen little from him that would indicate he is on that level yet.

    24. The problem Pierre is that Horner has one hell of a weapon with Checo. If Horner ask PER to come in 2nd or defend he does it.

    25. I feel like I say this every year, but Gasly isn’t going back. They are using him as a benchmark for the junior drivers coming through. If Tsunoda can’t match or beat Gasly this year he will likely be dropped and replaced by the next hot shot, my guess Liam Lawson will get promoted if he has a good season.

    26. I really wish him to get a chance. Drivers who are not once-in-a-decade talents but show exceptional mental power, always add a different and very interesting flavour to the competition. That’s why I really loved how Massa or Rosberg worked their way up.

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