Pierre Gasly reflects on hard 2019 F1 season, Anthoine Hubert’s loss and Lewis Hamilton’s words as Franz Tost is optimistic about retaining him at AlphaTauri.

After Daniel Ricciardo pulled out of staying with Red Bull Racing in 2019, the team were left with Carlos Sainz and Gasly as their options to partner Max Verstappen. However, the former opted to get out of the programme as well and join McLaren instead.

This left Red Bull with only Gasly for 2019. The talent was never a question for the Frenchman but already in the pre-season testing, the confidence was shaken-up for the youngster with multiple offs and it continued to show during the season.

Red Bull is a mighty difficult car to drive as opposed to AlphaTauri, while Verstappen excelled with his experience, Gasly struggled which led to a switch between him and Alexander Albon. The Thai handled the car well for the rest of the season.

In amidst the changes, Gasly was also hit hard by the death of his close friend Hubert. However, the tables has turned this year with the Frenchman showing much more confidence, something he had it in 2018 as well driving with Toro Rosso.

A podium in Brazilian GP and now a win in Italian GP has boosted his confidence to sky high as he reflected upon the happenings in the past year. “It was a purely a tough moment last year,” said Gasly. “I grew up with four brothers and I think, like personally, as a child, I had to work through quite difficult moments, which built me a pretty strong character and I always had to fight for everything I wanted.

“I always, in some way, managed to turn that negative energy into something positive and I knew last year what happened, deep inside me, obviously I felt hurt and I didn’t feel it was fair to myself and I really wanted to make a clear point in that moment but look, I know I’m fast, I know what I can do, I know I can believe, I’ve been fighting for victories, for pole, championships in my early years, in my career and that’s what I want in F1.

“I really worked very hard with the team and I knew that with them I had everything in my hands to show my potential. After, I just tried to focus on my own performance, not really looking at the others, taking race after race, looking at what I can improved on my side, what I can improve with the team, with my engineers, just to extract more from myself and more from that package and combination and yeah, honestly I can’t be happier with the team I have at the moment. They are doing an amazing job.

“They are giving me everything I need to be competitive every single weekend. Sometimes we are fast enough for the top eight, sometimes for top ten, sometimes top twelve but at the end of the day, they really put all the energy for my own performance which I really appreciate and I’m really thankful for because thanks to that, today gave us my first race win in F1,” summed up Gasly.

Addition to drawing strength from the above, Gasly talked about advises from Hamilton as well, with whom he grew even closer in the lockdown when they regularly played Call of Duty. “For me Lewis is a very special guy, someone I really looked at when I was a kid and in my eyes is probably the best driver we ever had in F1, or at least part of the two or three top guys if not the best guy,” he said to ESPN.

“So when I heard the words he said it’s obviously very touching and unbelievable, because for me it feels strange because these guys I looked at since I’m 10 years old and was always a great example to follow and now I’m racing with him and he’s talking this way about me. I got to know him a bit more in the last two years.

“We actually texted the day before on Saturday, before the race, and all over the weekend, as I wanted to ask him some advice on other things. He’s been always very nice to me, open, always trying to help. When you get such strong words from a six-time champion, who will become a seven-time champion in a couple of months, it’s pretty special.

“Growing up, I was thinking about Lewis, about Seb [Vettel], they are the most successful guys in our sport at the moment. There is a reason why they are the best. For me I always think there are some things to learn from these guys and their experience. I really like to question and try to understand how did they manage to get their success over the years and really to keep the momentum… what’s impressive with Lewis is he’s been on top since year one in F1 and has gone from strength to strength every year.

“He is at the top level since his first season in F1 and for me that’s unbelievable. Obviously, everything I can learn from him, I try to take everything with me. It’s hard to say! It’s pretty funny to play together and team up together as it’s very different to normal, we’ve got to help each other if we want to get the win.

“Obviously in corona time, during the lockdown, we did spend some more time on the PlayStation. It was actually nice because we started to discuss F1 and got to know each other a bit more. I got a lot from that time and I feel like when I need a couple of advice I am free to reach him and he’s always really open and willing to help me back. He’s a very nice guy,” summed up Gasly.

The high confidence from Gasly has now renewed the push for a return to the Red Bull seat, something which Christian Horner and Dr. Helmut Marko have resisted so far by putting faith on Albon, even hinting that a switch is not in their thoughts. Elsewhere, Tost is optimistic that the Frenchman will continue driving for AlphaTauri.

“He is very motivated,” said Tost. “He was already last year when he came back from Red Bull. He came in my office and we greeted each other and he said ‘hey, I feel like I was here yesterday, it’s my family’. He liked the car, we had already last year quite a competitive car and then from Spa onwards he improved his performance and then in Sao Paolo he finished in second place.

“It was also a good fight against Hamilton and at Monza he drove a really brilliant race because he was in the lead and he controlled it. If we lose him [to Red Bull], that means the team did a good job because otherwise they wouldn’t take him. Currently I’m quite optimistic that he will stay with us.”

When asked Gasly, the Frenchman is certainly itching to get back with Red Bull but insists it is not in his hands and that wherever he drives, he will be happy to compete. “I think I’m ready but as I said, it’s not up to me to make that call,” he said. “The only thing I’ve done since they moved me back to Toro Rosso has been just to focus on myself and just show what I can do.

“When I get the right tools in my hand I’m really happy that the performance we’ve shown – and I’m not only talking about Brazil but I think generally, we’ve been pretty strong most of the time. We’ve had some really strong qualifyings, really strong races since. We’ll see what happens but I think there have been many, many strong drivers in Toro Rosso.

“I’m really happy to be one of the two that have managed to get a win for this team. Obviously I guess the strong results should be rewarded with something but we will see what happens. At the moment it’s not something I really want to think about,” summed up Gasly.

Here’s Franz Tost on a trick that helped Pierre Gasly

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Here’s Ross Brawn on reverse grid