Pierre Gasly delivered one of the strongest comebacks in Formula 1 – after the hardest year of his life.
Photo credit: PanoramiC / imago images
From the deepest low at full speed towards the steepest comeback in current Formula 1. 2019 was most likely the hardest year Pierre ever had to endure. First, he lost his dream driver’s seat at Red Bull after only half a season and had to return to their junior team. Then, one of his best friends died in a fatal accident at a Formula 2 race.
One year later, after all the beating Pierre went through, he stands on the top step of the podium at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix in Monza this September. Pierre is 24 years old, born in France. The Tricolour is right behind him as the young driver climbs the steps to the highest platform of the podium. He is still wearing his white suit from his team AlphaTauri, which were formerly known as Toro Rosso. The young Frenchman of course wears his mask which hides most of his face. His eyes are partly covered by his long, tousled hair, but you can still see the relief and all the emotions in them.
The trophy in his hand signifies two achievements: the young driver won his first Formula 1 race, and he breached a 2,730-day streak. Over the last 149 consecutive races, the trinity of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull claimed the winner’s trophy. Pierre was the one to break this trend.
“I didn’t want to leave, because these kind of moments… You never know how many times you are going to be able to enjoy these kinds of times”— Formula 1 (@F1) September 6, 2020
– Pierre Gasly
🎥 https://t.co/LWACnlH7i2 pic.twitter.com/3H94wSi4pI
A tribute to his childhood friend
In 2019, a horrific accident shocked the world. At only 22 years old, French Formula 2 driver Anthoine Hubert died in a crash during the Formula 2 race at Spa. While the tragedy shook the entire motorsport scene, Pierre Gasly was especially affected by Anthoine’s death.
The two Frenchmen had been close friends since childhood and were even roommates for six years when they attended the French Motorsport Federation’s school. As the two drivers shared a large part of their life together and followed the same goals and dreams, Anthoine’s death is still difficult to accept for Pierre.
However, he could also find motivation in the fatal catastrophe as he pays tribute to his friend in his races. At the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, one year after the accident, Pierre designed his helmet in a special way: Anthoine’s racing color pink as base, his number 19 and covered in pictures of memories of the young driver.
A potential regret for Red Bull
Shortly before the tragic event, Pierre received more heart-breaking news that he was being demoted. He started his career at Formula 1 at Toro Rosso and after two years, Christian Horner recognized his talent and promoted him to Red Bull’s main team to race alongside Max Verstappen.
But as the young driver struggled with his raging bull in the first few Grand Prix and after 12 races, his rodeo stopped. Red Bull kicked him out of the prestigious driver’s seat again and sent him back to Toro Rosso.
The relegation back to the secondary team caused headlines in the sports scene – and also controversial opinions and judgements. Six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who also is Pierre’s gaming partner in Call of Duty, told ESPN that he considered Red Bull’s decision as unfair treatment:
“When he was at Red Bull he was dropped, I think unfairly, he wasn’t given the time to develop. He’s now gone to the B-team and now he’s beat the A-team from the B-team. That puts a big smile on my face because I think he truly deserves it. He deserves a place back in the top team”.
The fallen Pierre quickly found redemption: despite driving a slower car, he collected valuable points throughout the rest of the 2019 season and even raced towards his first podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix. But the second place was not enough for the Frenchman. In 2020, he demonstrated that he has the potential to be a future world champion. A spectacular first place was the reward for his astonishing comeback after a horrendous year.
P1!! My first victory in F1!!🏆— PIERRE GASLY 🇫🇷 (@PierreGASLY) September 6, 2020
I’m lost for words, still struggling to realise, its just amazing!!
Everything was perfect, just missed the tifosis down under the podium. @alphatauri we have done it!! Thanks everyone for all the messages & support!! Today is a day I’ll remember. pic.twitter.com/3eILYSMsIu
Grand Prix winner and avid gamer
Despite his success on the real-world tracks, Pierre has always had a passion for its virtual versions as well. As he recalls, he and Anthoine enjoyed competing against each other in video games as well:
“If we were to play the PlayStation, we would spend hours just to beat the times of each other on Gran Turismo or the Formula 1 game.”
Pierre also has his own impressive sim rig at home, from which he also occasionally streamed on Twitch. Not only does he support the esports racing scene, he also participates in tournaments himself. This year, the gaming enthusiast was part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual endurance race, racing under the banner of Veloce Esports – and he was surprised how hooked he got on the event, as the driver revealed on the F1 Nation Podcast:
“I was shocked how much excitement it gave me, just from a game. […] But everything was so real, and I really got into it, because they are really competitive.”
Pierre further recalls that he was so excited about the race, he only slept for three and a half hours, woke up and went straight back to the internet to check how his team was doing.
Even before esports racing caught the attention of the motorsports mainstream, Pierre was invested in the competitive gaming scene. He attended the F1 Esports Pro Draft in both 2018 and 2019 – also driven by personal interest, as he explained to motorsport.com:
“It [esports] is something that will grow massively. I’m quite a gamer myself, F1 games, but also others, Call of Duty, FIFA etc. I follow esports a lot. […] There are so many people into it, that’s why I think the [F1 Esports] level is better than last year, the level next year will be even higher. It’s quite exciting and interesting to watch at the moment, I would like to get even more involved in this world.”
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