Pierre Gasly will remain with AlphaTauri in Formula 1 next season but the championship’s sporting boss Ross Brawn reckons he is “too good” for Red Bull to keep snubbing him.
Gasly was dropped by Red Bull Racing after only half a season in 2019, when he struggled to match Max Verstappen.
Red Bull demoted Gasly to its second team, then still known as Toro Rosso – a decision which triggered a renaissance for the Frenchman, who has gone from strength to strength ever since.
He scored his first F1 podium in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, took a stunning shock victory in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix and has already finished on the podium again this season in Azerbaijan.
Despite that Red Bull had no interest in considering him to replace his own replacement Alex Albon, who was also unimpressive alongside Verstappen in 2020, and Sergio Perez was picked to become Verstappen’s third team-mate in three years.
As Gasly has continued to excel in his team leader role in the rebranded AlphaTauri squad, Perez has struggled but been retained for a second season in 2022.
Gasly qualified and finished fourth in the Dutch Grand Prix last weekend and has now been confirmed by AlphaTauri for next year but F1 managing director of motorsport Brawn says Red Bull will lose Gasly if it keeps him parked in its second team.
“Pierre is acquiring a growing fan club in F1 and I would count myself as a member,” said Brawn.
“For him to come back from such a difficult blow after being dropped by Red Bull from their works team and return to win and perform as consistently and strongly as he does with a car which won’t be as good as the works team is fantastic.
“It is a real credit to him that he’s stayed committed.
“Something will happen for him in the future. He won’t be able to stay in the family if an opportunity to return to the Red Bull works team isn’t coming. He’s too good for that.
“An opportunity will come at some stage. He’s doing a brilliant job.”
Gasly’s place as AlphaTauri’s team leader was quickly established alongside Daniil Kvyat on his return to the team, and was effectively enshrined when the team picked rookie Yuki Tsunoda to partner Gasly for 2021.
He has shone as the focal point for the team whereas at Red Bull he struggled in Verstappen’s shadow.
Red Bull has admitted that while its car has not been designed specifically to Verstappen’s needs it has been able to pursue a development direction that induced traits only Verstappen has been able to handle effectively.
Gasly, Albon and now Perez have struggled with the rear instability of the modern Red Bulls and have consistently fallen short of Verstappen as a result.
“We’re seeing that nobody can sit with Max at the same team,” said Brawn.
“It’s a compounding effect. I saw it with Michael Schumacher and his team-mates. The difference between two drivers in the same team can be small, but somehow it gets multiplied because of the frustration of never being able to close that gap to these truly exceptional drivers.
“You end up trying too hard or overcompensating and that pushes you back. We saw it with Pierre and Alex Albon and we’re seeing it with Sergio.
“Max is just exceptional and coming to terms with that with a driver in the same team is challenging.”
But away from Verstappen, Gasly is blossoming as a driver. AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost is not surprised.
“I was always convinced about him,” he says. “I think he surprised some other people and for me Pierre belongs currently to the best drivers in Formula 1.”
Gasly at AlphaTauri certainly looks like one of F1’s best performers. It’s possible that he’s a driver who needs a complete set of circumstances to achieve that: a car with certain handling traits, a team that he feels totally supported by and (just maybe) a small chip on his shoulder that gives him a point to prove.
Whatever the reason, the upshot is AlphaTauri has one of F1’s most consistently strong performers over the last 24 months. Zandvoort was just the latest example.
“He had a fantastic race,” says Tost. “He had everything 100% under control because it was not so easy.
“He had to do a lot of tyre management and it was one of the most measured races from Pierre he showed so far. I can really only say well done, congratulations because this was a fantastic performance.
“He managed everything in a very professional and measured way to bring the fourth place home.”
Tost was particularly impressed by Gasly’s quick work in passing Fernando Alonso after rejoining from a pitstop behind the two-time world champion.
Gasly needed to get past the Alpine to avoid his race being compromised and he pulled off a very neat move, closing in rapidly at the end of the start-finish straight, feigning right and then driving his car deep into the corner as Alonso moved to cover the inside.
That allowed Gasly to draw alongside mid-corner and then complete the pass on the exit using his superior grip.
“I hope you saw the overtake on Fernando,” Gasly said after the race.
“I knew I could not wait and waste my time because Charles [Leclerc] was out a bit longer. I didn’t want him to overcut. At the same time I knew Fernando, fighting us in the championship, would make my life quite hard.
“But the previous lap I was so strong into Turn 1, I saw I gained so much time and almost tried something without really wanting to do it. The next lap I was really far [back], I just sort of surprised him. I don’t think he expected me to go around the outside there.
“I just thought OK, I’ll give it a shot, try to surprise [him]. It was a nice one. I really enjoyed it.
“He’s a tough one to fight and I could not come with just a normal overtake and just go on the inside because he would have defended. That was a nice move and it allowed me to get some free air after that and open the gap on Charles.”
It was a classy move that was crucial to the result. Pulling it on a driver like Alonso was fitting, too, as it’s a mark of the quality of driver Gasly has become in F1’s midfield – one Red Bull cannot expect to hold on to forever if it cannot offer him a future.