How leader Gasly blossomed in "best season so far" in F1 2021

Two seasons on from his Red Bull struggles in Max Verstappen's shadow, Pierre Gasly is now relishing the role of being a team leader himself, showing his true potential in a strong 2021 Formula 1 season at AlphaTauri.

 How leader Gasly blossomed in "best season so far" in F1 2021
Listen to this article

Gasly was one of the standout performers in F1 2021, taking a podium in Baku alongside several top six finishes. It propelled Gasly up to ninth in the drivers' championship with 110 points, just five points behind McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo and well ahead of rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda (32).

The Frenchman has steadily blossomed with the Faenza outfit after being demoted by Red Bull halfway through 2019, culminating in his strongest campaign to date last year.

While 2021 didn't scale the heights of his maiden Monza win in 2020, the 25-year-old was a more regular fixture at the front of the midfield both in qualifying and in the races.

Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com, Gasly believes he's been performing at his best level so far in F1, which allowed him to show his real potential.

"This year has obviously been extremely good, and I think I've been in a position to really show my potential, and on more than one occasion as well," Gasly said. "If you are at the back of the midfield but let's say you have two amazing results and you get a P9 and P8 like twice in a year; even this is unbelievable, and no one will notice you.

"And this year I was in a position where the car was on occasion able to beat the Ferraris and the McLarens. We know that Ferrari have two or three times the budget than we have, we know they have a more competitive package and similar to McLaren but nevertheless I was still able to beat them on some occasions."

"For me that was the main thing, to be in a position to show my skills, my speed. Obviously, a lot of areas always to work on but it's great to say I've achieved the best I have so far in my F1 career."

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Gasly says his personal ambition for 2021 was to improve his consistency across race weekends, admitting that he often used to overdrive the car in the past to make up for its deficits.

"I wanted to work on my consistency because when the car is great it's fine to perform but sometimes the car is not as good and you still want to maximise the car that you've got," he explained. "And I think on some occasions in the past I was overtrying or overdoing.

"I think I have made a good step on that side and really become more consistent which the main target personally."

Gasly never really got going during his half season in the pressure cooker of Red Bull's A team, which was ever more built around Max Verstappen. Having now been a de facto team leader himself at AlphaTauri alongside the inexperienced Tsunoda, Gasly has first-hand experience of being the focal point in a team.

While Gasly never hid his desire to return to Red Bull Racing one day - and he was passed over for a return in favour of bringing in Sergio Perez to partner Verstappen - he is well aware of how valuable it is to be a team's lead driver and has singled out AlphaTauri's focus on him as a major factor in his 2021 performance.

"With Max's situation at Red Bull the entire team is around him and that's why they are in a position to win the championship," he pointed out. "Lewis [Hamilton] has got the entire Mercedes team behind him and that's why he's in a position to win the championship. If they were not in that position, then they would not achieve this solo performance.

"I was in a similar position at AlphaTauri with Yuki as a rookie. I had the full team focusing on myself and trying to bring the most points to the team. That's why we managed to sometimes overachieve compared to the package that we had, because the guys just put so much effort and attention on my side that we were able to over deliver on some occasions."

"Whatever team you're in, that's the status you need to have if you want to perform at your best level."

But even with F1's budget cap and its dramatic new rules package for 2022 smoothing out the playing field, Gasly admits he "needs to be realistic" about his dream of becoming a world champion.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri

Photo by: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

"I think at the moment it's too early to say," he replied when asked whether he can realise his career ambitions at the Italian outfit, which finished sixth in last year's constructors' championship. "It's possible to achieve great things but I think also you need to be realistic.

Read Also:

"I want to be world champion in Formula 1. It's extremely hard when you're fighting against teams like Mercedes with the resources, the knowledge they built over the last few years.

"The experience of fighting at the front, you can see sometimes that fighting at the front is more pressure, you cannot afford to make certain mistakes, you need to be on top of everything. These teams have the experience and the knowledge of managing this situation.

"Obviously, it's too early to say but clearly my goal is to fight for a world championship in my career."

shares
comments

Related video

Armstrong exits Ferrari Driver Academy, Ilott on “gap year" in IndyCar
Previous article

Armstrong exits Ferrari Driver Academy, Ilott on “gap year" in IndyCar

Next article

Ricciardo explains impact of homesickness on early F1 2021 struggles

Ricciardo explains impact of homesickness on early F1 2021 struggles
Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022? Prime

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who was the fastest driver in 2022? Everyone has an opinion, but what does the stopwatch say? Obviously, differing car performance has an effect on ultimate laptime – but it’s the relative speed of each car/driver package that’s fascinating and enlightening says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return Prime

Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

He has more starts without a podium than anyone else in Formula 1 world championship history, but Nico Hulkenberg is back for one more shot with Haas. After spending three years on the sidelines, the revitalised German is aiming to prove to his new team what the F1 grid has been missing.

Formula 1
Jan 29, 2023
Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss Prime

Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss

OPINION: Fred Vasseur has spent only a few weeks as team principal for the Ferrari Formula 1 team, but is already intent on taking the Scuderia back to the very top. And despite it being arguably the most demanding job in motorsport, the Frenchman is relishing the challenge

Formula 1
Jan 27, 2023
The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023 Prime

The crucial tech changes F1 teams must adapt to in 2023

Changes to the regulations for season two of Formula 1's ground-effects era aim to smooth out last year’s troubles and shut down loopholes. But what areas have been targeted, and what impact will this have?

Formula 1
Jan 26, 2023
Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history? Prime

Are these the 50 quickest drivers in F1 history?

Who are the quickest drivers in Formula 1 history? Luke Smith asked a jury of experienced and international panel of experts and F1 insiders. Some of them have worked closely with F1’s fastest-ever drivers – so who better to vote on our all-time top 50? We’re talking all-out speed here rather than size of trophy cabinet, so the results may surprise you…

Formula 1
Jan 25, 2023
One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1 Prime

One easy way the FIA could instantly improve F1

OPINION: During what is traditionally a very quiet time of year in the Formula 1 news cycle, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been generating headlines. He’s been commenting on massive topics in a championship that loves them, but also addressing necessary smaller changes too. Here we suggest a further refinement that would be a big boon to fans

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
How can McLaren keep hold of Norris? Prime

How can McLaren keep hold of Norris?

Lando Norris is no longer the young cheeky-chappy at McLaren; he’s now the established ace. And F1's big guns will come calling if the team can’t give him a competitive car. Here's what the team needs to do to retain its prize asset

Formula 1
Jan 24, 2023
What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make? Prime

What difference did F1's fastest pitstops of 2022 make?

While a quick pitstop can make all the difference to the outcome of a Formula 1 race, most team managers say consistency is more important than pure speed. MATT KEW analyses the fastest pitstops from last season to see which ones – if any – made a genuine impact

Formula 1
Jan 23, 2023