Where next for Pierre Gasly?
Gasly has experienced a rollercoaster Formula One career as a Red Bull backed driver. He has the potential for a bright future in the sport, but can this still be realised with the Red Bull family?
Pierre Gasly’s career is now firmly back on track after a number of stellar performances in the first 10 races of 2020. He has built on the momentum that he established in the second-half of last season. This season he has demonstrated why Red Bull had enough faith in Gasly to keep him in their programme despite his poor showing in the first-half of 2019. Gasly will now be searching for a team that can provide him with the opportunity to regularly challenge for podiums and race wins. With very few seats still available for 2021, He will be paying close attention on the driver market for 2022. Let’s see what his potential options could be.
Pierre could well remain at AlphaTauri for the foreseeable future. He is clearly very comfortable at the team which is bringing out the best in him. He is their obvious team leader, regardless of whether Daniil Kyvat remains or the Honda-backed F2 star Yuki Tsunoda joins the team.
It is almost certain that he will remain there for at least for 2021, as Christian Horner recently downplayed Gasly’s chances of returning to Red Bull. Horner declared in the FIA press conference at the Tuscan Grand Prix that “I think that it wouldn’t make sense to switch the drivers back.” Even though, Gasly has expressed a desire to return to the top team, he was comprehensively beaten by Verstappen. He struggled to adapt to the characteristics of the Red Bull car, and RB16’s handling seems to be no easier than its predecessor. Gasly’s career is back on an upward trajectory. He risks putting his career in jeopardy if he did return and struggled once more.
With the chances of ever returning to Red Bull Racing looking slim, then what may persuade Gasly towards a long-term relationship with AlphaTauri is their recent change in status. Horner stated that “AlphaTauri is now a sister team rather than a junior team”. He explained that this is because AlphaTauri will now have a closer connection with the senior team within the limits of the regulations. From next season, they will share Red Bull’s wind tunnel. This is undoubtedly going to increase AlphaTauri’s competitiveness in the future. But will this be enough to satisfy Gasly? Throughout his junior career, Gasly was a proven winner. He was champion in GP2 and Formula Renault 2.0 and took runner-up spots in Formula Renault 3.5 and Super Formula.
He is consistently delivering for AlphaTauri this season, with his confidence at an all-time high. He is out-performing the car and his team-mate. His win at the Italian Grand Prix cannot be celebrated enough. He withstood intense pressure from Carlos Sainz who was in arguably the faster car, remaining calm throughout. He was handed a golden opportunity and he took it. Not every driver is able to do this. One only has to think back to the chances Nico Hulkenberg had to finish in the top 3.
Should he leave the Red Bull stable?
2022, the year of the technical regulations overhaul could be the perfect opportunity for Gasly to jump ship and potentially join a team that has the resources to hit the ground running. Perhaps he should take a risk on a team like Lewis Hamilton did with Mercedes.
Carlos Sainz is an example Pierre could follow. He was denied the opportunity at Red Bull Racing, and so decided to go his own way and is now heading to Maranello next season.
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
If Pierre was to move, then one of the most likely destinations would be Alpine for 2022 if Esteban Ocon struggles next season. This would mean being partnered with two-time champion, Fernando Alonso. At this point, Gasly would have just over 4 seasons of F1 experience and should be ready to take on the challenge of Alonso. Gasly being a Frenchman would mean that dropping Ocon would not have any marketing impact. Although, Gasly will be well aware of Alonso’s influence in how he moulds a team around him, which could take the shine away from Pierre. It could result in a similar situation to what he experienced to Verstappen. However, Alonso is almost 40 now and so he is not going to stick around forever. This could mean that in a few short years, Gasly could be their man.
Renault is a team that is on the up. If they were to finish 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship this season it will instil them with more confidence that they can return to the success the enjoyed in the early 21st century.
Racing Point/Aston Martin
Another option could be the re-branded Aston Martin team. A move to the Silverstone-based outfit would depend on the performance of Sebastian Vettel, as Lance Stroll’s future seems very secure due to father Lawrence Stroll’s influence on the team. If Vettel does not regain his form, then he may have a short stay as one the team’s drivers. Sebastian now has other interests outside of racing, including purchasing shares in Aston Martin. He may decide to take a step back and move into a managerial role, which he did not rule out in his recent interview with Tom Clarkson on the F1 podcast ‘Beyond the Grid’. Partnering Lance Stroll could be a good fit, but do the team now require an established star in one of their cars?
A third option could be McLaren, but this seems to be the most unlikely option of the three. The team line-up next season comprising of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris is likely heading for a long-term partnership The duo already have a good relationship with each other, and Ricciardo in particular is unlikely to want to move teams again any time soon considering that he will have race for 3 different teams within 4 seasons from next year. With Mercedes engines next season, they could become real challengers, so it is unlikely that either will be looking for an exit strategy.
Pierre Gasly’s best chances of challenging for a world title in the near future is seemingly outside of the Red Bull programme, given that they are reluctant to give him another opportunity at the senior team. Alpine could potentially be the perfect fit, or another team could emerge. Formula is a fast-changing business. Driver contracts are never as water-tight as they may seem. If Pierre continues to perform for AlphaTauri, there will be opportunities for him in the future.