The Fall and Rise of Pierre Gasly
How, in one year, Pierre Gasly went from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs
Around this time one year ago, poor Pierre Gasly was in a pretty bad place. Coming into the 2019 round of the Belgian Grand Prix at the notorious Spa-Francorchamps circuit, Pierre was facing his first Grand Prix after being demoted from the senior Red Bull team to the second Toro Rosso team, a team Red Bull uses to nurture young talent in F1 in the hopes of carrying them on to the championship team.
On top of that, the F1 and wider community was struck with the tragic loss of Anthoine Hubert that weekend after his devastating Formula 2 accident. Anthoine was one of Pierre's closest friends, and one couldn't blame Pierre if these number of events was enough for the young Frenchman to call time on his Formula 1 career.
It was never fully explained as to why Pierre struggled so badly partnering Max Verstappen at the senior team, but it was obvious that his time was coming to an end if he didn't pull his socks up. Was he under too much pressure, could he not get comfortable with the RB15? Personally, I believe it was a number of those things, plus the fact that maybe he was promoted a little bit too early. We've seen it in the past with his current teammate Daniil Kvyat, earning promotion after only one full season in F1 before being dropped in favour of another driver (although I still don't agree that Kvyat was bad enough to require such a harsh demotion at the benefit of Verstappen.)
Coming into that particular weekend in Belgium, it was clear from the offset that the media were only going to be gunning for two drivers, Gasly and his Red Bull replacement Alexander Albon. The never-ending flow of the same constant questions demanding from Gasly an explanation as to why he was demoted must have been depressing, to say the least, but as a professional, you suck it up and you answer politely, such as Pierre did that weekend.
Of course, the death of Hubert was also a devastating blow to Gasly. These two had known each other for years, raced together, lived together, it was plain to see that these two young boys were living the dream and they were doing it together as friends. It was a very sad moment to lose Anthoine last year, and those particular photos drifting around social media at the moment of Gasly laying flowers at the scene of the crash was bringing a tear to my own eye to say the least.
Such a turn of events would have crushed a lesser person, but how did Pierre cope with the situation? He shone, brightly. Often people speak of Albon's fantastic performance that weekend, going from seventeenth to fifth in the Red Bull overlook Gasly's incredible performance in the Toro Rosso into the points from fifteenth, finishing in ninth in his first race at the team since the end of 2018.
Gasly soon rose from the ashes in the following races, scoring points and looking at home in the Toro Rosso, soon returning to the driver that caught the eye of Marko and Horner at the senior squad as a replacement to Daniel Ricciardo at the end of 2018. Gasly properly showed his worth when he took full advantage of contact between the two Ferrari drivers as well as Lewis Hamilton's clash with Albon in the closing laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix to take his first Formula 1 podium. Gasly was ecstatic at the result, screaming down the team radio in sheer excitement and joy.
Something was quite iconic seeing Gasly hold off the recovering Hamilton to the line, and also the fact that he took the podium with the team he originally entered Formula 1 with, joining former teammate Verstappen in a 1-3 podium for Red Bull in Sao Paulo.
Fast forward to 2020, and Gasly is flying. Still in Toro Rosso, but now as the rebranded AlphaTauri team, and he looks right at home. Constant points finishes and top ten qualifying spots go to show just how a driver can come back from such hard times and remind people just how good they are.
I think Pierre has a bright future ahead of him. Still only 24 years of age, I do not think he will ever make it back to that Red Bull but his performances as of late definitely will remind other teams of his quality and talent if he is to ever venture out of the Red Bull stable.
It's hard for a driver to jump into such a demanding team such as Red Bull, and to be right on the bubble with a teammate with the calibre of Max Verstappen. I don't believe it was that he was not good enough to challenge Max but more he was not comfortable with the car. We see it a bit more lately with just how much Alex Albon is struggling and even Max himself has been saying it's been a difficult car to drive.
So, to jump in there into a team and a car you had little developmental input on last year, it was always going to be tough for Pierre. I am happy now however as he seems he has finally found his feet in AlphaTauri and is leading the charge in a team he is comfortable in. He's a good guy and I hope more good results come his way very soon.