Pierre Gasly’s opportunity to shine is here

abu dhabi f1 grand prix practice

Pierre Gasly’s opportunity to shine is hereNurPhoto – Getty Images

Pierre Gasly’s road to Alpine begins with Red Bull Racing’s choice to sign Sergio Perez after the 2020 season. Gasly won the 2020 Italian Grand Prix for AlphaTauri, but the team instead opted to pair the then driver from Racing Point Sergio Perez with their championship contender Max Verstappen in the Red Bull Racing senior team. With no avenue for promotion to the senior team, Gasly’s final two seasons at the former Red Bull junior team looked futile. That made him a natural choice for another team, an opportunity Alpine happily seized after losing Oscar Piastri last offseason.

This is the thirteenth installment of our driver-by-driver preview of the 2023 Formula 1 season. This weekend we’re covering Alpine. You can find the rest of our previews here.

f1 end of season test in abu dhabi, second day

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HOW IT GOT HERE

Red Bull helped guide Gasly through the junior series, where he found moderate success first in Formula Renault 2.0, then Formula Renault 3.5 and finally GP2. He raced the last third of the GP2 schedule in his first year before finishing eighth in his first full-time season and ultimately winning a championship in his second.

Gasly was first raced in Super Formula in 2017, a Japanese series Red Bull has used in the past when it felt its drivers were too old for GP2 but not yet ready to replace a current driver in Formula 1. He finished second in that short-lived championship, but was called up mid-season to replace future AlphaTauri team-mate Daniil Kvyat (who has since been dropped from Red Bull Racing a second time, finishing his fourth distinct stint with a team of F1 owned by Red Bull). Gasly then raced full-time with Toro Rosso the following season, earning a promotion to Red Bull when Daniel Ricciardo left the program for Renault.

Gasly scored all twelve races in that car before being dropped for Toro Rosso’s then-fastest driver, Alex Albon. Since then he has been with the Red Bull junior team, since renamed AlphaTauri.

Just as Albon regularly competed with Gasly while Gasly was wrestling at Red Bull, Gasly has sometimes surpassed Albon in their time in reversed roles. Gasly even won his first career race with AlphaTauri, while Albon was dropped from Formula 1 altogether after a season and a half. Albon, Gasly, Kvyat and Ricciardo all represent four different unique failures of the Red Bull Racing farm system which has since hired outsider Sergio Perez for its second car, and only Gasly has gone on to drive a Formula 1 car for the company. 2021 and 2022 marked his final seasons with the program before moving to Alpine.

f1 abu dhabi qualifying grand prix

Eurasia Sports Pictures – Getty Images

HOW 2022 WENT

With AlphaTauri down sharply in 2022, Gasly’s season has been predictably disappointing. He only finished in the top five once all season and only scored five more times, which was enough for 14th place in the season standings. He still easily surpassed teammate Yuki Tsunoda, but 2022 was his worst season in the championship chase since his first full-time season in 2018 and he has the fewest points scored in a full season ever.

f1 abu dhabi grand prix

Rudy Carezzevoli – Getty Images

GOALS FOR 2023

Now that Gasly is at Alpine, his first order of business is to re-establish the role he held in his last few seasons at AlphaTauri: a clear team leader who can be entrusted with the success or failure of the team. That means beating teammate Esteban Ocon early, often and consistently. If he wants to model the Alpine team in his image, he has to hit the more established player quickly.

Ocon is coming off a strong season, though, and that will be no small task. Instead, Gasly and Ocon could achieve a balance more similar to what we saw at Ferrari in 2021, without a clear leader and more chances to score big points on a weekly basis. If Gasly is to fight for the titles if an ambitious Alpino’s new investments are ever to pay off, establishing himself as a squad leader will be crucial; in the short term, a close season with Ocon is a respectable accomplishment.

Formula 1 testing in Abu Dhabi on day one

Dan Istitene – Formula 1 – Getty Images

A SUCCESSFUL SEASON LOOKS LIKEā€¦

Alpine placed two riders in the back half of the top ten in the riders’ standings last season. While these results aren’t particularly outstanding, they were enough for the team to secure fourth place in the constructors’ championship and remain kings of midfield. Overtaking any or all of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes is the ultimate goal, but maintaining that foothold is the most important realistic goal for the entire programme. Gasly’s part in this would look a lot like what he had done at AlphaTauri in past seasons: consistent points, consistent Q3 appearances and maybe even a podium finish.

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