Gasly stays- a win for him and the sport
AlphaTauri recently announced the extension to Pierre's contract for 2021- let's look into why this move is a double celebration.
A win for Pierre
Just over year on from his difficult spell with Red Bull last year, a move back to AlphaTauri has helped the Frenchman once again realise his full potential in a car that is suited to his driving style. If there were doubts last year about this man's ability to perform, this season he has completely slienced his critics. He is currently 9th in the 2020 Driver's championship on 63 points, with three top six finishes, not to mention taking the first win for a team outside of the 'big three' since 2013 in an incredibly eventful Italian GP. His has been arguably the driver of the season. His wheel-to-wheel racing has been second to none, think back to his pass around the outside of Vettel at Silverstone, for example. He has comprehensively outclassed his team-mate Kyvat, who has only managed to gain 14 points this season. An interesting stat is that he has accumulated the exact amount of points after 12 Grand Prix as he did last year with Red Bull. It is clearly is a winning formula when Pierre is supported by a team which endeavours to create a car which works for him. By removing the need to make a direct comparison to Max, Pierre has been given the opportunity to shine. Staying at AlphaTauri for next year means that Pierre can continue his role as team leader, especially if Yuki Tsunoda steps up from F2. It should also be noted that AlphaTauri is a team that now has different ambitions, as Christian Horner recently confirmed that they are no longer the 'junior' team. They are now referred to as the 'sister' team to Red Bull Racing. This means that they are no longer solely functioning to develop young drivers, and so they can focus on moving further up the order. Pierre will undoubtedly have a key influence on the direction of car development, which could serve him very well in the future. Gasly is all too aware that the team has already made noticeable improvements as the season has progressed this year, as they have regularly been a match for Renault, McLaren and Racing Point.
Should Pierre be disappointed that he was overlooked by Red Bull? Personally, I think that moving back to Red Bull would have been a bad move for Pierre. Max Verstappen is driving at such a high level that Pierre's head could drop if he finds himself falling short to the Dutchman. If Pierre was to fall short of expectations again, it would most certainly put his career in jeopardy and would definitely limit his options as there would be question marks over his ability to cope at a top flight team in what would be his second chance. Coupled with this, it has been well documented that the Red Bull car is very tricky to drive and this is what held back Pierre last year, and so it is unlikely that he would be able to fare any better this time around. I feel that there is no reason why Pierre should not stay at AlphaTauri for the foreseeable future if their competitiveness continues to improve. AlphaTauri is a much smaller operation than the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and the the senior team. This could well put them in a good position when the new financial limitations come into force along with the technical regulations overhaul. Time will tell on this point. Alternatively, Pierre could see out one more year with AlphaTauri and then look outside of the Red Bull stable, most likely at Renault/Alpine. The hope of ever returning to Red Bull now seems highly unlikely, but never say never in F1.
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
A win for F1
Driver choices in recent years has proven to be a balancing act between allowing opportunities for pure talent to flourish, and enabling teams to continue to be financially viable. The politics of the transfer window have been dictated by decisions that either weigh sponorship money or family ties over talent. Unfortunately in some cases, these decisions have caused the sport to lose great young talent who may not have the attractive funding behind them that other established or well connected drivers do. For instance, back in 2018 Esteban Ocon was dropped by Racing Point to make way for Lance Stroll, the son of the new owner of the team. Luckily for Ocon, he was backed for the 2020 season by Renault and was afforded the opportunity again for a place on the grid, which he so deserves. It was also recently suggested by both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen that one of the main reasons why both of them, rather than one was dropped by Haas is that they no longer can afford a driver that does not bring substantial backing with them. Nikita Mazepin, whose father is billionaire and is set to support the team going forward, is likely to fill one of the seats.
Gasly's security on the grid in AT for 2021 is most definitely a win for the sport. His is being retained driver on the basis of his skills, rather than on the financial weight that he can bring to the team. Although the financial capability to improve a team's car is massively important in enabling it to perform in the highly competitive world of F1, it also needs to be piloted by a driver with the capability and ardent desire to push the car to the limit of its capabilities.
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool