AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly says he deserves another shot at driving for Red Bull, and is disappointed they opted to extend Sergio Perez’s deal instead of bringing him back into the main fold.
An impressive 2018 season at the then-named Toro Rosso earned the Frenchman an opportunity at the Red Bull team in 2019 alongside Max Verstappen, as Daniel Ricciardo headed off to Renault.
It was a dream move for Gasly, who had shown much promise since arriving into Formula 1 in 2017 to replace Daniil Kvyat in the latter part of the year.
However, the dream was short-lived, as he was quickly given a harsh reality check at the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
He was frequently a significant distance behind his Dutch team-mate, who scored five podiums and two wins during their 12 races together.
Meanwhile, Gasly’s best finish was a P4 at the British Grand Prix.
He was subsequently demoted to Toro Rosso mid-way through the year and replaced by the promoted Alex Albon.
The Frenchman scored an emotional second-placed finish with the team at the Brazilian Grand Prix later in the season, before they adopted their current name ahead of the 2020 campaign.
The 25-year-old then took a stunning victory at the Italian Grand Prix that year, and out-paced Daniil Kvyat 13-4 in their qualifying battle.
Following a torrid season with Red Bull, Albon was ejected and Gasly hoped he would be able to make his return to the team.
However, they instead opted for Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who took his first-ever Formula 1 victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix late in the 2020 season.
Gasly out-qualified rookie team-mate Yuki Tsunoda 21-1 last year, but was kept at the AlphaTauri team for 2022 – Perez had done enough in his first season with Red Bull to earn another year alongside Verstappen.
The Mexican took victory in Baku – his first for Red Bull – but ended the season fourth in the Drivers’ Championship as Red Bull missed out on the Constructors’ Championship to Mercedes, who won their eighth.
Asked if he felt at all deterred by Red Bull’s decision not to recall him to the main team, Gasly maintains that his drive has not wavered.
“No. My desire, my will to fight for world championships is very strong. I’m in Formula 1 to fight at the top. That motivates me to keep improving,” affirmed the Frenchman.
Despite his own struggles at Red Bull, Gasly does not believe he fared any worse than either Albon or Perez.
“I won’t lie, it’s hard to deliver a season like that. And then when I compare myself to those who got the opportunity for a Red Bull seat, it’s disappointing.
“Based on the numbers and results, I have delivered a better performance than anyone else in this team,” he said, suggesting he performed better than Perez in 2021.
“But at the end of the day, I don’t get the recognition and reward for that. That’s hard to swallow. It disappoints me, of course.”
The AlphaTauri driver still has faith that his next opportunity at the front of the F1 grid is not far away.
“I know what I want to achieve in this sport. I want to fight at the top. That hasn’t changed.
“Next year it won’t be that far yet, but that doesn’t mean if it’s not there in 2022 it won’t happen in 2023. I continue to give full throttle and believe in myself.”
2022 will see a major shake-up in the regulations, with a new chassis specification aiming to reduce the affect of dirty air on following cars to provide a better racing spectacle.
Gasly said he is hoping the Italian team will be strong in 2022.
“I hope the AlphaTauri will be as good as it was this season, despite the change in regulations,” he added.
Franz Tost, team principal of AlphaTauri, has hailed Gasly’s strong form and consistency, and believes he could be a star in the future.
“He has fantastic potential,” Tost said of Gasly’s 2021 performance.
“What’s important is I still have the feeling he can improve because that’s decisive then if you are on this level. If we provide him next year with a competitive car, he will be there 100 percent,” he added.
Tost reckons that the lessons Gasly has learned from being back at AlphaTauri are invaluable, and believes that this has put him in a far better place now to join Red Bull than he was in 2019.
“From the driving, he has now the experience of how to set up the car, how to manage the tyres, he can read the race, which is very important, he is on the radio, the questions he is asking, and he made this year another big step forward, a real big step forward.”
Speaking on the new cars in 2022, the Austrian has no doubt the 25-year-old can challenge for more podiums and wins this year.
“Once more, if our car works [in 2022], he will be there,” said Tost.
Gasly will once again partner Tsunoda in 2022 in what will be the Frenchman’s fifth full season in F1.