Thursday, January 6 2022

French Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly had an impressive 2021 season with AlphaTauri. Gasly has worked hard to completely reinvent his racing career and now seems to have passed the Red Bull junior team. He edged out the factory-backed Alpine-Renault team and is five points behind beating Daniel Ricciardo in the championship standings.

Is Gasly’s reinvention enough to convince a top team that he’s a championship contender?

This is why the Frenchman is Formula 1’s most underrated driver and how his future could include a chance at the Formula 1 World Championship.

Gasly entered Formula 1 at the end of the 2017 racing season as the reigning GP2 champion and member of the Red Bull Junior program. 2018 saw his first full season of competition with Torro Rosso, now called AlphaTauri, and he quickly impressed. Bahrain’s fourth place allowed Gasly to finish the season in 15th position in the championship standings.

Red Bull Racing took note and promoted the French ace to the senior squad in 2019 to team up with Max Verstappen after Daniel Ricciardo left for the Renault F1 Team. Gasly struggled to keep pace with Verstappen and was passed several times. During the summer break, Red Bull made the decision to demote Gasly, send him back to Torro Rosso, and bring in Red Bull junior driver Alex Albon to replace him.

Pierre Gasly of Scuderia AlphaTauri and France during testing before the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina circuit on December 10, 2021 | Peter Fox / Getty Images

Being demoted by a top F1 team can destroy a driver’s confidence and career. It’s a strong message from the team that they believe the driver can’t do the job. It would have been easy for Gasly to pass out in F1 purgatory, but the Frenchman decided to completely reinvent himself and his racing career.

2020 was a pivotal year for Gasly, as he claimed his first victory at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This increased his confidence and his championship standings, lifting him to 10th place at the end of the year.

2021 saw the arrival of the much-publicized Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri team. Gasly has had the measure of his teammate all season and, in comparison, he appeared to be in a whole different league. A podium in Azerbaijan along with strong results all season saw Gasly win 110 points and finish ninth in the championship. His best season to date, and made all the more impressive compared to his dismal 2019 season.

Pierre Gasly impresses against his teammate and a tough midfielder

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The very first thing a driver is compared to is their teammate. In 2021, that teammate is rookie Yuki Tsunoda, who entered Formula 1 as a challenger to Gasly. Gasly, unfazed by the young rookie, quickly marked his authority on the team this season. Gasly has qualified Tsunoda in 21 of 22 races this season and edged the Japanese driver by 78 points.

Gasly also finished the season ahead of two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the standings.

Gasly’s strength this season is his pace of qualification. He has consistently placed the AlphaTauri in a solid starting position which gives him the best chance to score points and fight for the podium. He also took on the role of team leader and helped the AlphaTauri team achieve better results.

Gasly’s qualifying pace, his ability to get the most out of the car even when team strategy lets him down, and his ability to take on the role of team leader and number one driver make him a compelling choice for any team.

Where could Pierre Gasly go, and what could his future be?

Frenchman Pierre Gasly and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepare to drive on the grid during the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on December 12, 2021 | Peter Fox / Getty Images

Based on the success and progress he’s shown in 2020 and 2021, it’s a bit of a surprise that one of the great teams hasn’t snatched him up for a racing seat. One explanation could be the contractual situations of existing drivers. Another explanation could be that Gasly would need Red Bull’s blessing to move on to greener pastures. If Red Bull thinks Gasly is an active future, they wouldn’t be keen to release him from his contract or sell that contract to another team.

Gasly has done more than enough over the past two racing seasons to warrant driving with a top team. His best chance is to return to Red Bull as a Verstappen team-mate. With Sergio Perez on contract for another year, that would mean a move wouldn’t take place until 2023.

“The eight guys in front of me are the drivers racing for the top four constructors. This is why it is important for me to show that if there is a free place, I should be the obvious choice. This is what I am trying to do.

-Pierre Gasly quoted by GPFans

There are three other possibilities, but they depend on the actions of existing drivers. First possibility: a visit to Aston-Martin F1 Team. This would only happen if Sebastian Vettel retires or the team sack him due to his poor performance lately. Second possibility: a transfer to McLaren as a teammate of Lando Norris. If Daniel Ricciardo continues to struggle and underperform, this could be the opening Gasly needs to take the seat. Third possibility: replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes when he retires. Hamilton has two more years on his contract, but he could quit the sport sooner if he wins his eighth title. It might also make strategic sense for Mercedes to hire Gasly, as his knowledge of the competing Honda engine could help Mercedes develop theirs.

Whatever the potential future of Pierre Gasly, he won a chance to drive with a high level team. His determination to reinvent his career is remarkable and his current level of performance means he always has a chance to win. 2022 will be a critical year for the Frenchman, and if he can keep his momentum going, he could become Formula 1’s next hot property.

Related: Formula One’s Pierre Gasly Recalls Watching His Best Friend Crash And Die On The Track: ‘I Was Completely Broken’

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