This year is an extraordinary year for Formula one. Of course as we haven’t even started racing yet, but that doesn’t mean that the circus grinds to a halt completely. One of the things that seems to have happened with the season delay is an extension of what is colloquially named as ‘’silly season’’. Essentially the period of the season towards the final third round of races where drivers who are out of contract for the following year need to decide upon their fates for the following season… or have it decided for them.
Right now, all the talk seems to be focussed on Sebastian Vettel as it appears the German is on the brink of a contract extension with Scuderia Ferrari, but today I will be focussing on a different driver who started his career with the Red Bull junior team: Pierre Gasly.
As some of you may know if you’ve watched my F12020:20 Videos or read any of my articles on TGSF1 I have a bit of a soft spot for Pierre Gasly. The driver going through a year of ups and downs in 2019 and now finding himself back at the Red Bull Junior Team AlphaTauri.
Pierre had a tumultuous year in 2019. From the highs of being promoted to the second Red Bull seat, to the demotion back to Torro Rosso, whilst simultaneously having to deal with the tragic loss of close friend Anthoine Hubert to finishing the season an F1 podium holder with his second place finish at Brazil. You can read more about last season here, but today’s focus will be on the future for the Frenchman.
The way I see it, there is no way he is making his way back to that Red Bull seat, despite that being the goal that Pierre has set himself. The Red Bull seat has essentially become: Who can drive the car we have designed for Max the best without getting in his way but still getting sufficient top 6 points? Pierre evidently couldn’t manage that last year, embarrassing even being lapped by the dutchman on occasion last year and it seems Helmut Marko is less than impressed by the Frenchmans displays last year and even the ever composed Christian Horner seeming quite down on the Frenchmans prospects.
There is no doubt that Gasly is quick. But is he quick enough for someone outside of the Red Bull Junior programme to consider offering him a seat?
I am sure the Alpha Tauri team would be more than happy for Gasly to be the main man for them when the new regulations come into play to give them some sense of consistency heading into a new era for Formula One. For me, he is better positioned to be the mainstay in that team ahead of Danil Kvyatt to take up that role. But will his hopes of an F1 future be reliant on the form of Juri Vips and Liam Lawson not progressing in their respective series? Red Bull have shown several times down the years, and Gasly has already experienced just how ruthless the Red Bull programme can be.
The other consideration for all this is of course Pierre’s own ambitions. Like with all drivers he dreams of becoming an F1 champion – does sitting around in a midfield junior team match the ambitions that he has set for himself? I fear not. But where could he plausibly fit into the F1 driver jigsaw?
The only outfit I can see maybe showcasing an interest would be Renault. The French outfit has talked in the past about its desire to reconnect the brand and the team with the French people, with Niko Hulkenberg even referencing as much with the decision to bring in Estaban Ocon to replace him. Something in my gut tells me that Renault will not be able to provide a car Ricciardo feels is competitive enough to stick around in and I am sure better teams would be keen to snap up the Australian.
This could present down the line an opportunity for Renault to be running two young but experienced French F1 drivers for their line up in an era of new regulations.
However, with their own racing Academy producing talent, they have an opportunity to be more selective and hire internally should they need to bring a replacement for Danny Ricciardo into their cars.
Unfortunately I think the only real chance for Pierre to stay in F1 in the long term would be for him to perform strongly enough in the newly branded Alpha Tauri that the extra points and potentially even podiums picked up over the next season or two serves as a strong enough marketing tool for the brand that they decide to keep someone there for consistency and success.
Alternatively it could be as a reserve driver at a number of teams or even a switch to the increasingly popular Formula E series which is becoming a more and more attractive option for those who didn’t quite cut it in F1.