Gasly hails "amazing" maiden Super Formula win
Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly was delighted to overcome early-season troubles to muster his maiden Super Formula win in only his fifth start in the series at Motegi.
Despite a brake failure in free practice and rain showers that further limited dry running, Gasly was able to convert a fourth place grid slot into a victory.
The 21-year-old became the first rookie to win a race this year, beating 2015 European F3 champion Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Cassidy, among others, to the accolade.
It was also Honda’s first triumph as an engine manufacturer since Gasly’s predecessor Stoffel Vandoorne won last year’s finale at Suzuka.
Speaking after the race, the Frenchman hailed the efforts put in by Mugen and Honda to get on top of the issues that plagued his first half of the season.
“It feels amazing, I'm so happy about today,’’ he said. “Thank you to Team Mugen and Honda for the hard work. Honda brought an engine upgrade this weekend and it seems to work really well.
“I'm just happy about all the work they’ve done because since the beginning of the season we’ve struggled. And they worked really hard.
“And finally they’ve done it. It feels fantastic to win after only four races in Super Formula. I hope we will be able to keep this form in the next few races but just very happy about today.”
The foundations of Gasly’s win were laid before the start of the race when he opted for the medium tyre. This allowed him to stretch his first stint and overcut Kenta Yamashita and Tomoki Nojiri.
When race leader Kamui Kobayashi got held up in the pits with a botched stop, the path was cleared for the Frenchman to take his first race win in any major competition since last year’s GP2 feature race in Abu Dhabi.
“After qualifying that was the plan [to start the race on medium compound],” Gasly explained about his strategy.
“I felt a bit more comfortable with this one because we didn’t know the degradation with the softs. At least in the first stint the engineer could look at others and see the tendency of the soft tyre on the degradation.
“On the grid we saw a few cars around us who were on soft, few others on mediums. We were quite confident with this one. And it worked out pretty well."
Rosenqvist praises Gasly’s pace
Rosenqvist, who notched up his second successive podium in Motegi, felt that Gasly’s pace in the first stint was crucial for victory, as it allowed him to bypass the traffic in the pits.
“I had the same strategy as Pierre and he was very, very quick on the medium tyre,” he explained. “I couldn’t follow other cars as I was struggling with oversteer very early on.
“So I probably lost five-six seconds and that was the difference. After the pitstops I came out behind three other cars, Pierre came out in front of these cars. So that was big decider for the race.”
Additional reporting by Ken Tanaka
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