Van Dijk set to lead resurgent Dutchman to World Cup


‘Excited’ Pierre Gasly says AlphaTauri’s switch to Alpine hasn’t hit him yet

ABU DHABI: After five years with the Red Bull family in Formula 1, Pierre Gasly will wear the AlphaTauri suit one last time on Sunday in Abu Dhabi before joining BWT Alpine next season.

Gasly, 26, who made his F1 debut as a reserve driver in Malaysia in 2017, took a historic first win for AlphaTauri of 2020, topping the podium at Monza ahead of Carlos Sainz.

He was promoted to Red Bull Racing for half a season in 2019 before returning to AlphaTauri and is now set for a new chapter in his career, forming an all-French line-up alongside Esteban Ocon at Alpine.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Gasly said at Yas Marina Circuit ahead of this race weekend.

“Because I’ve been dressing in the same clothes for five years, wearing the same colors and working with the same people. My life has not changed in any way so far. Probably, definitely Sunday, put on the racing suit for the last time, see guys.

“Next year is definitely going to be a change. I’m not going to work with these guys. And after so long you go beyond a working relationship. I know most of the guys’ kids, their wives, where they live in. We share a lot more of a personal connection.

“It’s definitely going to be special, and I think so far I’ve tried not to think about that aspect too much because I’m quite an emotional person and I want to be really focused until the end. But this will definitely be a special race.

No regrets

If he knows that saying goodbye will not be easy, Gasly is “excited” by this new challenge with Alpine, where he replaces the double world champion Fernando Alonso, who takes the place of Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin.

While a natural progression for Gasly could have taken place at Red Bull – a scenario that only lasted 12 races in 2019 – the Frenchman insists he has no regrets over the way things went.

“Not at all. It was my career and my story with Red Bull. I truly believe that whatever was meant to happen happened and it’s meant to be like that,” he said.

” I learned a lot. I think I’m definitely in a much stronger position. I’m a much stronger driver than I was. If I am the person I am today, it is thanks to the experience I had there. I grew up a lot, whether on track or off track.

“And if you ask me, I wouldn’t even change it for the world. I’m 26 now. Every year I get better. I just know that personally I keep improving and I know the best is yet to come. I’m really grateful for what happened. It could have been different, but it happened that way and there were a lot of lessons to be learned. This is the most important part.

Gasly’s last campaign with AlphaTauri didn’t go to plan as the team struggled to maintain the momentum it had since 2021. He says the car’s chassis has been ‘massively overweight’ and compared it to “running with a backpack”.

He sits 14th in the drivers standings entering the final race in Abu Dhabi and he has finished in the points just six times in 2022, with the main highlight being a fifth-place finish in Baku.

“It was a tricky year because there were obviously very high expectations coming from last season, there was a big momentum, there was a change in regulations with the objective of F1 to kind of put the film in place,” admitted Gasly.

“Let’s say my hopes of having the best year for AlphaTauri have never been higher than they were at the start of the season. I really thought okay, we have our chances, budget cuts are coming , we have no reason not to outperform all midfield teams.

“We didn’t start the year in the best shape, but at that point I didn’t really care because I knew it was going to be a year-long development run. Few it doesn’t matter where you start, you just need to put that development into the car, race after race, and unfortunately we failed to do that.

A “genuine” relationship

Gasly’s AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda imprinted “Grazie Pierre” on his car this weekend at Yas Marina Circuit, and the pair had a fun last chat on the team’s “Tauri Talk” podcast on Thursday.

“I will miss the relationship, just the vibe outside the race, in the paddock. It’s so relaxing, there’s nothing stressful about it,” Tsunoda said on the podcast.

“It’s good that we have a clear difference between work and outside of work.

“I learned a lot from him in the race,” said the young Japanese, before adding with a laugh: “The outfits, the shoes especially.”

“Your shoe game is definitely better,” Gasly interrupted, to which Tsunoda replied, “The Jordans, right?”

Gasly said the two had a genuine and easy relationship.

“I learned a lot, especially in terms of food, I was impressed – I don’t think I’ve met anyone with such knowledge of food anywhere we go. Whether it’s Japanese, whether it’s Italian. Even in Italy, the guy arrived two years ago, he knows more places, he knows more food than an Italian who was born and raised in Italy. It’s impressive and incredible,” said he said of Tsunoda.

A generational change

This time last year in Abu Dhabi, the paddock was buzzing with excitement following the championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, who entered the final race tied on points in the drivers standings.

Things are quite different this time around with Verstappen safely defending his title with four races to spare.

Gasly reflected on what the scene was like last season and said he was looking forward to seeing who would finish second this year with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez both in contention.

“I must say that as a motorsport fan, 12 months ago I was very excited to see how things were going until the last race. It was very exciting for all of us, even if we were part of the race, but we still wanted to see who would come out on top in this battle,” Gasly told Arab News.

“I think this year is probably more emotional. We have Seb (Vettel) leaving the paddock, I think he was a great player and a great icon and figure for all of us F1 drivers.

“Daniel (Ricciardo) goes too; we’re going to see a pretty big change next season with a lot of new faces coming in and a lot of strong personalities and strong characters leaving.

“There is no championship to play for, but I am always very excited to see between Charles and Checo, who is going to be runners-up.

“But in the end, the farewells are definitely going to be quite special… we had Kimi’s farewells last year, now it’s Seb’s farewells. So there seems to be a kind of generational change that is becoming more and more clear in the paddock.

“There could be surprises”

Gasly doesn’t expect much but hopes to adapt as quickly as possible to his new team next season, starting with the test he will have with Alpine in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Alpine currently sits fourth in the constructors’ championship and is set to challenge the top three – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes – in 2023.

“I hope that will change for good in my position. But at the same time, you never know,” said Gasly, considering the possibility of a reshuffle in the grid order next season.

“I’ve also talked about the guys here (at AlphaTauri), they tell me their car next year is the best they’ve ever had and they’re going to fight at the front.

“It’s normal, when we talk in the paddock, everyone takes giant steps. God knows what will happen.

“I hope we are fighting in front, maybe we are fighting for the podiums, for the race wins, for the top five, or it could be a more difficult season. Because usually the teams have different designers and that they change designers from one season to another.

“So there are still carryovers from year to year, but there could be surprises. We’ll find out early next year.

He added: “I’m just very open-minded. I have no expectations on my side about what I will find there (at Alpine).


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