INSIGHTS

  • The Power of Pierre Gasly

Report

22 June 2018

There are 21 races on this year’s Formula 1 calendar, and 20 of them are familiar sights. Since last year, there are two additions, and one of those is Hockenheim which hosts a race on alternate years.

The other addition is the French Grand Prix, returning to the calendar for the first time in a decade. But while the 2008 edition was held at Magny-Cours, this year we are headed back to the south of France to Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseille.

So it’s a pretty good time for Pierre Gasly to be tackling his first full season in Formula 1, seeing as his home race is now back on the schedule for the first time since he was 12 years old…

“I mean just to be there and to feel the atmosphere will be great,” Gasly says. “First of all it’s an amazing time to do my first full season in F1 just when the French GP comes back in the calendar, so firstly I’m massively excited about it.

“And also like just talking with people like Alan Prost they will tell you that when you are at home and you do your home race, just like to see all the flags, all the people speaking French, with support messages when you come to the track in French, it’s an amazing atmosphere and it’s something different to other race weekends. So just to feel that, to really understand what they are talking about will be amazing.”

01

A first home race is an exciting prospect, but also a daunting one with so much added attention on the local drivers. So aside from a special helmet design for the Frenchman, Pierre is taking the approach of trying to make the rest of the weekend seem as normal as possible.

“For this year I haven’t really planned anything, but I will of course have more support than when on other tracks. I have a lounge above the pit lane with my family coming and some sponsors coming as well, and then people I know that have been supporting me since I started in karting. So seeing all of them will be quite a special moment.

“It will also be special for them all to see me on the grid in Formula 1. I was just seven when I was in karting and I was telling them that I wanted to race in F1, so it will be pretty cool.

“Then on Wednesday we will probably have an event at the track but I don’t know if it’s confirmed yet. The plan is to do some go-karting on the Wednesday, and then after not too much extra for now.

“I mean, I have really been living day by day because it’s so busy since I arrived in F1. but I’m just trying to not think too far ahead, otherwise it’s pretty scary! But yeah just excited. I think it’s gonna be really busy of course with the media, a lot of commitments during the weekend but I haven’t really planned anything myself.”

02

Having grown up in Rouen, Pierre will be racing the best part of 1000km away on Sunday, almost as far as Monaco. After having a big support network around him for his debut in Monte Carlo - one that yielded an excellent seventh-placed finish - Paul Ricard offers the opportunity to have some childhood friends join him at a race.

“In Monaco it was actually the first time in all my career that I had my mum, my dad, my four brothers and my girlfriend with me. So I really had all the family there, also with my brothers’ wives, it was a big group. I really like having everyone together so that was pretty cool.

“In France they won’t all come with me but I will have my cousins, my aunt, my uncle, some people that usually never come. It’s a pretty big family and that makes it difficult to get everyone together but there will be quite a lot of them for the French race. I have a couple of friends as well, because a lot of them are students and Monaco is a bit too expensive!

“It’s always nice to see them. At the end of the day, since I’ve started in F1, you have such little time off to go home, that you don’t really see the family that often. I left home when I was thirteen as well, by going to private school, so I didn’t really see them so much since I was young, so yeah it’s always nice to have them around.”

The race might be a long way from Rouen, but Pierre has come a long way himself since making his F1 debut towards the end of last year. From the first seven races he boasts 18 points, including a stunning fourth place in Bahrain that highlighted both his own potential and that of the Toro Rosso-Honda partnership.

03

When racing in Super Formula last year, Pierre was fairly dependent on his Honda team to show him the ropes as he spent more time in Japan. Now the boot is on the other foot, and despite the distance from home he still has some personal knowledge of the area around Paul Ricard to suggest a few places for his Honda engineers to check out.

"They should go to Bandol, it’s a smaller town on the coast which is pretty cool. Then I don’t know how far it is from Cannes, I think it’s quite far but I mean if they don’t mind the roughly two-hour drive they could go there. But Bandol is 30 minutes from the track.

“Or even if you head away from the coast, on the other side you have really cool small villages. I am not so familiar with the area because I have been living in the north part of France but I just know that Bandol is quite a chilled place and has nice little restaurants as well.”

There have been three top-ten results for Toro Rosso-Honda to celebrate so far this year, and the 22-year-old has scored two of them. Armed with the updated power unit that Pierre says offered a clear step forward in Canada, perhaps the whole team will need to take his advice if there are more points to mark on Sunday night?

04

“That would be really, really cool. I mean already to score points in Monaco was something really special for my first grand prix there, but for the French GP and the comeback that will be amazing.”

More