Pierre Gasly's Opportunity to Shine Is Here

f1 abu dhabi grand prix practice
Pierre Gasly's Opportunity to Shine Is HereNurPhoto - Getty Images

Pierre Gasly's road to Alpine starts with Red Bull Racing's choice to hire Sergio Perez after the 2020 season. Gasly won the 2020 Italian Grand Prix for AlphaTauri, but the team instead chose to pair then-Racing Point driver Sergio Perez with their championship contender Max Verstappen at the senior Red Bull Racing team. With no path to promotion back to the senior team, Gasly's last two seasons at the former Red Bull junior team seemed pointless. That made him a natural choice for another team to poach, an opportunity Alpine happily seized after missing out on Oscar Piastri this last offseason.

This is the thirteenth installment of our driver-by-driver preview of the 2023 Formula 1 season. This weekend, we will be covering Alpine. You can find the rest of our previews here.

f1 end of season testing in abu dhabi day two
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Red Bull helped guide Gasly through the junior series, where he found reasonable success first in Formula Renault 2.0, then Formula Renault 3.5, and, finally, GP2. He ran the last third of the GP2 schedule in his first year before finishing eighth in his first full time season and, finally, winning a championship in his second.

Gasly was first given a Super Formula drive in 2017, a Japanese series that Red Bull has used in the past when it felt its drivers were too senior for GP2 but not yet ready to replace a current driver in Formula 1. He finished second in that short championship, but was called up mid-season to replace future AlphaTauri teammate Daniil Kvyat (who has since been dropped by Red Bull Racing a second time, ending his fourth distinct stint with a Red Bull-owned F1 team). Gasly then ran full-time with Toro Rosso the next season, earning a promotion to Red Bull when Daniel Ricciardo left the program for Renault.

Gasly got all of twelve races in that car before being dropped for the then-fastest driver at Toro Rosso, Alex Albon. He has been with the Red Bull junior team, since re-named AlphaTauri, ever since.

Just as Albon regularly competed with Gasly while Gasly was struggling at Red Bull, Gasly has sometimes outshined Albon in their time in reversed roles. Gasly even won his first career race in the AlphaTauri, while Albon was dropped out of Formula 1 entirely after a season and a half. Albon, Gasly, Kvyat, and Ricciardo all represent four different unique failures of the Red Bull Racing farm system that has since hired outsider Sergio Perez for its second car, and only Gasly continued to drive a Formula 1 car for the company. 2021 and 2022 marked his final seasons with the program before moving on to Alpine.

f1 grand prix of abu dhabi qualifying
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With AlphaTauri down significantly in 2022, Gasly's season was predictably disappointing. He finished in the top five just once all season and scored points just five other times, enough for 14th in the season standings. He still handily outscored teammate Yuki Tsunoda, but 2022 was his worst season in the championship hunt since his first full-time season in 2018 and marked his fewest points scored over a full season ever.

f1 grand prix of abu dhabi
Rudy Carezzevoli - Getty Images


Now that Gasly is at Alpine, his first order of business is to re-establish the role he held in his final few seasons at AlphaTauri: a clear team leader trusted with the success or failure of the team. That means beating out teammate Esteban Ocon early, often, and consistently. If he wants to shape the Alpine team in his image, he needs to strike quickly over the more established player.

Ocon is coming off a strong season of his own, though, and that will be no small task. Gasly and Ocon may instead settle into a balance more like what we saw at Ferrari back in 2021, with no clear leader and more shots at scoring big points on a weekly basis. If Gasly wants to fight for titles if an ambitious Alpine's new investments ever pay off, establishing himself as the team leader will be crucial; in the short term, a close season with Ocon is a respectable result.

formula 1 testing in abu dhabi day one
Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images


Alpine placed two drivers in the back half of the top ten of the driver's standings last season. While those results are not particularly stellar, they were enough for the team to secure fourth in the constructor's standings and remain the kings of the mid-field. Passing any or all of Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes is the ultimate goal, but keeping that foothold is the most important realistic goal for the entire program. Gasly's part in that would look a lot like what he had done at AlphaTauri in past seasons: consistent points, consistent Q3 appearances, and maybe even a podium.

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