Under Pressure: Pierre Gasly
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
A third of the way into the 2019 season many drivers will be pleased with their hard work, race craft and results achieved so far. However, silly season has already started and a few drivers will be under pressure to deliver thanks to a string of poor performances and under achieving in fast machinery. One of the those drivers this season is the Frenchman Pierre Gasly.
Promoted to the Red Bull after impressing in the sister Toro Rosso team, it has been an extremely difficult and tumultuous season so far with Gasly struggling to unlock pace in the Red Bull and being dominated by the superb Max Verstappen. Verstappen has seem untouchable within the team and is arguably dragging as much performance out the car as possible with Red Bull easily quicker than the rest of the field, but slower than the front 2 of Ferrari and Mercedes.
With Gasly promoted it was always the case he would start slowly and find his feet in the bigger team and so it proved. A costly error by the team to not let him go for a second run in Q1 in Australia meant he started 17th and was already on the back foot and was forced to work his way up the field. However, with an apology from Helmut Marko it was a good opportunity for Gasly to demonstrate his overtaking abilities and slice his way through the midfield but could only muster up an 11th place, finishing behind Daniil Kyvat in the sister Toro Rosso.
In Bahrain he fared no better, a disappointing qualifying of 13th led to a race finish of 8th and only 4 points. In China things improved and despite finish nearly 0.9 seconds away from his team mate in Qualifying, he matched a 6th in qualifying with a 6th place in the race and his first fastest lap of the season. It was one of the few performance where he has placed the car where the car is expected to be.
A truly miserable weekend followed in Azerbaijan. After being disqualified from quali for for exceeding the 100kg/h fuel flow limit during qualifying he was forced to start from the pit lane. Running through the field on lap 38 his draft shaft failed and Gasly ended up with 0 points while Verstappen took home another solid 4th place. The Spanish GP can be seen as Gasly's strongest outing for the team so far, arguably down to the familiarity of running the car here from testing. Finishing only 0.4 behind Verstappen in quali, again Gasly managed to take home a solid 6th place.
Moving to the Monaco GP Gasly was beginning to show more confidence and assertiveness behind the wheel. Dancing through the streets of Monaco in quality, Gasly impressed with a 5th place start and a 5th place finish with another fastest lap to put the cherry on top of a solid weekend. However, yet again Verstappen dominated his team mate as Max fought with the Ferraris and Mercedes all race and was close to taken the 1st win for the Red Bull team since Mexico 2018.
At the previous weekends Canadian GP Gasly finally had the opportunity to be the bread winner for the team as Verstappen was forced to start 9th following the crash of Kevin Magnussen. It served as the perfect opportunity for Gasly to get deep into the points and finish ahead of his team however his race pace was non existent and fell down the field to finish a lowly 8th. What would have been more worrying for the team was that both Renaults beat Gasly aswell as Lance Stroll pulling away from the Frenchman while the Racing Point driver was conserving tyres. It was a disappointing weekend following some progressive results and once again the spotlight was on the lacklustre form of the Frenchman
Gasly has only led 3% of laps over his team mate and in similar cars that is unacceptable. The result is made even worse when considering this stat is based on the misfortune of Verstappen rather than any pace advantage that Gasly has held. With difference in pace so huge it also cripples Red Bull tactically, with the team unable to utilise Gasly as a rear gunner for Verstappen and ending up with two separate strategies to accommodate this pace difference.
It's clear the Red Bull team expects the very finest and any sign of weakness is pounced upon. Helmut Marko may not have many friends in the paddock and has arguably been uncompromising in his sackings of Jean-Eric Vergne, Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, however he demands the best because the team are winners, with the 4 drivers and constructors titles in a row from 2010-2013 highlighting this. Marko has been quieter than most regarding the fortunes of Gasly and may have taken a step back to alleviate a little of the pressure that is accumulating in the team. His voice hasn't been as loud compared to the mis fortunes of other Red Bull drivers and it may be the case that Red Bull do not currently see a viable replacement that could beat the achievements of Gasly thus far.
But why is Gasly struggling so much? Many have pointed towards the Red Bull car not quite suiting the Frenchman, with Red Bull evolving last years car to suit the needs of Verstappen who drives with the fluttering of the throttle rather than the style of Gasly who needs a stable back end to be aggressive out of the corners. The Frenchman has been vocal of this during the Bahrain GP stating "I can't put the throttle down, I don't know why. It snaps everywhere," which demonstrates the lack of confidence in the car and the need for the rear to be planted before pressing the throttle. However, to be struggling this much and being mixed up with the rest of the field rather than fighting with the front 5 means the alarm bells should be ringing. Red Bull will only tolerate so much.
If Gasly is to remain a Red Bull driver he has to deliver now. With Kvyat impressing in the sister team and demonstrating his maturity since his first F1 stint the pressure is on. With his home race this weekend, the French GP serves as the perfect platform for the Red Bull driver to finally remind all his doubters why he was chosen to drive for Red Bull.