Pierre Gasly determined to prove credentials ahead of F1 debut in Malaysia
In a pure Red Bull style, Pierre Gasly gets his maiden Formula 1 chance in the middle of the Formula 1 season, replacing one of its own academy driver, Daniil Kvyat.
The French driver comes in with an impressive CV, which has enabled him to remain part of the Red Bull family - arguably, one of the gruesome academies for young drivers.
The 21-year-old already has the Eurocup 2.0 (2013) and GP2 (2016) titles, while he is currently only 0.5 points aloof of the leader in the Super Formula series, with one round remaining.
On the back of Kvyat having to endure a tough patch in his career, Gasly was tipped to make a full-season debut this year. However, he was sent to Japan, while the Russian stayed on board the Toro Rosso.
With 14 races done, Kvyat's struggles has continued, opening up the gates for Gasly, who despite having the credentials had to wait for his opportunity and now is determined as ever to showcase his talents in the limited running he is to get.
"People probably might think that I am cracking a bit under that pressure. Quite the contrary. I have been working very hard in the past few years to make it to F1 - why should I crack now?
"This opportunity is simply fantastic – I have been dreaming about this moment since I was a kid. I have been working so hard, being so focused and probably forsaking many things that kids do, but wow, I am here now," he said.
"Since I started racing I have been competitive in [Formula Renault] two-litre, in 3.5, I have won the GP2 championship and hold P2 in the Japanese Super Formula, only 0.5 points behind leader Hiroaki Ishiura.
"So I can say that I have been competitive in all the series I have raced in – so why not also in F1! Yes, it is a different car, much more people, but it’s the same tracks and same driving. Quicker yes, but that is the icing on the cake for every driver."
The clear goal for Gasly this weekend is to catch his teammate Carlos Sainz, who is at the peak of his career and a clear benchmark for Gasly to secure a full race seat in 2018.
"Obviously, we are not talking about positions – that would be way too early. We don’t know the potential of the car for the weekend. I have been speaking with Carlos (Sainz) and he said that he expects this weekend to be pretty difficult for us.
"So my target is to learn as quickly as possible and be close to Carlos, who is really at the top of his game at the moment so is a very good benchmark. Having a clean weekend has priority for me - not doing anything stupid, not making any mistakes – that will probably not be so easy when you consider that the conditions are always tricky here and the race is very demanding.
"But I have been training a lot in the last couple of months, as physically you have to be absolutely on a high when you are reserve driver for Red Bull Racing. I am a big competitor and I am sailing on the fantastic outlook of my first F1 race on Sunday.
"So of course I want to do well. I am very seldom satisfied with what I do, because I always think that I can do better. I really want to take it session by session and then analyse it with my engineers. I am sure the pace will come. To be honest, I try to take it easy as cramming never gets you anywhere. It has to flow."
Coming off straight from his podium finish in Super Formula's Sugo weekend, Gasly revealed, it was on Monday when he understood of a possible drive - which was confirmed on Tuesday by Dr. Helmut Marko.
While the press release carried 'grand prixs', Gasly is not yet certain of how many races he will do in the remainder of the 2017. As known, his Super Formula's finale round clashes with the US Grand Prix - which might indicate that Kvyat should be back for the American race.
"Everything that lies beyond this weekend, we will see. Of course I hope that I will also race in Suzuka in one week’s time – no question about that," he said.
"There is the last race of the Super Formula Championship in Suzuka on October 22 – the same weekend as the Austin race – so let’s see how many F1 races I will do in the next couple of months. This will be a decision for Red Bull."
One man's gain is another's fall, which for the second time has happened with Kvyat in his young F1 career. After being dropped from the senior Red Bull Racing outfit last year after four races. The Russian found a helping hand with him getting a second chance with Toro Rosso.
However, having only scored eight points from the 27 races since the demotion, it has not only hit his confidence, but also his credentials - even though he still remains the part of the Red Bull family.
Naturally, both Gasly and Sainz were sorry about the situation Kvyat has found himself in, but they add, this is how F1 is. "I’ve switched teammates in Formula One a few times now," said Sainz.
"I remain focused on my own job, trying not to think what goes on the other side, also because with Red Bull it just works like that. You need to be ready for that. I haven’t had the chance to speak with Daniil yet because I’ve been focused on this weekend but I’m sure I will."
Gasly added: "I didn’t have the chance to talk with him yet but of course unfortunately that’s how it works in this sport and being in my position, before I came to F1, I was waiting for this chance and then I had to take the seat of someone else.
"Of course I feel sorry for him, I think he’s a really good driver, talented and unfortunately it’s happening and I’m going to take his seat but I’m pretty sure we will see him back on the grid at some point maybe. We will see what’s going to happen in the near future.
Kvyat could still retain his seat in 2018, as options for Toro Rosso looks bleak. It recently ended its association with GP3 racer Niko Kari, who was the next in line after Gasly. It now leaves them with the young crop of Daniel Ticktum, Neil Verhagen and Richard Verschoor - all of whom are currently racing in the Eurocup 2.0 championship.
There are rumours for Honda to field one of its young drivers in Toro Rosso, however, its leading F2 driver Nobuharu Matsushita doesn't have enough superlicense points, while GP3 racer Nirei Fukuzumi has the similar situation.
Another non-Red Bull name to go with the Honda-backed drivers is F2 racer Sean Gelael, who is doing several FP1 sessions with Toro Rosso this season - but speculations suggest, the Indonesian will stay put in F2, switching teams with Prema.
For once, Red Bull is in a situation, where they have no solid option in its grasp, whom they can field in its junior team in F1.