Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, , Monza, 2020

“Tell me it’s a joke”: Why Gasly thought race-winning pit stop had ruined his Italian GP

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Pierre Gasly’s pit stop before the Safety Car period helped him win the Italian Grand Prix. But when the Safety Car came out he thought it had ruined his race.

The AlphaTauri driver held his 10th place at the start of the race ahead of team mate Daniil Kvyat. Gasly was the only one of the two who reached Q3 and therefore had to start on his used set of soft tyres. Kvyat, on a new set of hard tyres, stayed close to his team mate, and said on the radio at times Gasly was holding him up.

However the pair were in a train behind Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo. Several laps before the Safety Car was deployed the team mentioned to Gasly other drivers were beginning to pit, and he would likely be in soon.

On lap 18 Kevin Magnussen’s Haas stopped at the exit of the Parabolica. Had the team suspected an imminent Safety Car they probably wouldn’t have brought Gasly in. Pit stops under green flag conditions cost much more time than those under Safety Car conditions, especially at Monza, due to the track’s high-speed layout.

Had the team chosen to pit Gasly at this point because they expected the Safety Car would come out but the pit lane would remain closed, it would have been an incredibly astute tactical ploy. But team principal Franz Tost admitted after the race this wasn’t the case. “The team did a fantastic job in deciding to bring him in one lap before the Safety Car was deployed,” he said. “Of course, we didn’t know this at that time, but at the end this was exactly the right call.”

Team mate Kvyat pressured Gasly early on
Soon after Gasly rejoined the track the Safety Car was deployed. He was dismayed at the news, expecting it meant his rivals would be able to pit, lose less time and gain an advantage on him.

“Oh this can’t be true!” he exclaimed when told the Safety Car had been deployed. “This can’t be true. Tell me it’s a joke.”

However his engineer quickly reassured him: “Pit lane entry is closed. We’ll keep you posted.”

The fact the pit lane entrance was closed meant his rivals ahead could not pit straight away. That didn’t stop Alfa Romeo bringing Antonio Giovinazzi in.

When he came out behind the AlphaTauri Gasly asked: “Why did Giovinazzi exit?” “He will have a penalty,” came the reply. “The took the risk. Just keep your head down at the moment, we are good.”

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Gasly was able to rejoin the Safety Car queue before the pit lane exit reopened. “This is good for us,” said his engineer. Once the cars ahead pitted Gasly was up to third place.

Ahead of him were race leader Lewis Hamilton, who came in when the pit lane was closed and would be penalised, and Lance Stroll, who did not pit under the Safety Car.

The race restarted briefly, then the Safety Car came out again when Charles Leclerc crashed at Parabolica. Showing how on top of the strategy game AlphaTauri were, they advised Gasly before the red flag came out that Hamilton would get a 10-second stop-and-go penalty.

Gasly used the opportunity of the red flag to fit a fresh set of medium tyres, having taken the hard compound at his pit stop. He was therefore on the best compound to run to the end of the race.

Gasly outran Sainz to score an unexpected win
Stroll was also able to make his mandatory tyre change at this point. But when the race restarted Gasly immediately made a better start and took second place off the Racing Point. Once Hamilton served his penalty, Gasly was into the lead, and on his way to an astonishing victory.

As he admitted later, he expected a much worse day when the Safety Car appeared. “Once we pitted and I just exited the pit lane I saw the Safety Car, I came on the radio and I was like: ‘Is that a joke? We just pitted like exactly at the worst time possible.’ They just told me ‘OK, the pit entry is closed’ so that’s what happened.

“In the end it turned out to be a very lucky move. There was no way we could have planned this. I think today we’ve had a little star with us, a little angel, let’s say, taking care of us.

“We got pretty lucky on that one and after obviously there was still 30 laps to do which were very difficult but that was clearly a turning point.”

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Keith Collantine
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29 comments on ““Tell me it’s a joke”: Why Gasly thought race-winning pit stop had ruined his Italian GP”

  1. Yeah, what at first seemed to have been a bad move due to the SC turned into a brillian strategy, helped by Gasly then quickly getting past Stroll to run in clean air with the Alfas holding up the guys behind for added fun too.

    1. I don’t think it was a brilliant strategy, just a fortunate one. but the way Gasly finished it off, aced the start to get rid of Stroll and then error-free while he was getting closed down by Sainz, just made it richly deserved. Everyone loves a shock result and I think the general closeness of the field (except hamilton…) helped contribute to it.

      It’s also moments like this that highlight the drivers that don’t take their chances – I’m thinking Bottas and Stroll especially. Both should be feeling pretty hollow today.

      1. Off course, it only turned brilliant in hindsight @frood19. I agree that neither Stroll nor Bottas will be feeling snug today. But I’d add Max Verstappen to that too. He was slow, never got forward, then hit Perez at the restart and retired due to the damage to the car.

        1. Retired due to an engine overheating issue, as far as I know.

      2. When MAG pulled up you could clearly see that the car wouldn’t fit behind the barrier and that it would have to be moved to pit lane. I think perhaps the move to pit Gasly wasn’t as fortuitous as some would believe.

  2. I know it is nice of Franz Tost to support his people, but it seems obvious that “The team did a fantastic job in deciding to bring him in one lap before the Safety Car was deployed. Of course, we didn’t know this at that time, but at the end this was exactly the right call.” is corporate speech for “The team completely dropped the ball on that one, fortunately we somehow lucked out.”

    At least Gasly is being more genuine !

    1. @palindnilap They definitely got lucky, no one is denying that, but they in no way dropped the ball. Pitting Gasly was perfectly reasonable when they did it – you can’t anticipate a safety car in normal running conditions.

      1. you can if you are renault

      2. In my notes I had Gasly pitting just after the Magnussen incident, do I have it backwards ?

  3. While I feel that Red Bull demoted Gasly for all the right reasons (at that time) it’s very nice and rewarding to see him win this one. Be it with a bit of luck (which driver didn’t win once with a bit of luck) and on hometurf too (Alpha Tauri). Gasly took up the challenge when he was demoted and is succeeding with it. He fully deserves his spot on the grid. Will he get a second chance at Red Bull? The pressure is fully on Albon to deliver.

    1. I think his performance shows that they did make the right call to “demote” him to the second team. Lets say they didn’t do that, he would’ve never found his form in the Red Bull team and everyone would’ve treated him like a joke that wasn’t worthy of Formula 1. Instead, they found that he wasn’t yet mature enough to deal with the pressures of being in a top team, and to Gasly’s credit, he took it in stride and regained his form.

      Now I don’t know if he’s gonna get another shot at Red Bull, but I certainly think it will be seriously considered and deserved if he does get that seat next year. And if not at Red Bull, I’m sure the other midfield teams would be happy to consider him for a seat. Ocon especially is probably sweating a bit now that there’s a French race winner in F1 and his performances have been poor to middling at best.

    2. The fact that Gasly was ‘lucky’ today, doesn’t suddenly make him a better driver.

      1. @mcbosch @aiii Fair comments and I just want to point out Gasly didn’t build himself back up by himself. If he has found confidence and form it is not just down to his own great work but also that of the team, the same team that is under the RBR wing. So to me it is unfair for some to slag RBR for their treatment of Gasly, when they kept him in the family and nurtured him and he is now a race winner.

      2. It is true that gasly had a lot of luck. Not only did he gain because of the pitstops and red flag but he did also have huge luck in that there was no merc or verstappen directly behind him. But he also did well in that situation and won the race. Luck put him into that situation but he still won it in inferior car compared to what kind of cars he had behind him (ignoring the alfaromeos). Stroll was similarly lucky but threw it away in a faster car. So gasly was lucky but he also drove well to use that luck.

      3. Better than at least Bottas who arguably had the fastest car even with the engine heating issues and couldn’t pass the bunched up field.

      4. His performances all year show he’s a ‘better’ driver – back to the standard/curve he was on before being bumped up to Redbull. What he did demonstrate clearly was that he knows how maximise his position – in this case take the win when it’s possible.

  4. Nice to hear Gasly acknowledge he’s got lucky. But giving those Scuderia crew a home win was still a great feat. Also great for Honda on their 50th races with the team, also for Canal+ commentator who celebrate new French F1 driver winner, also for me who for no reason ended up watching Monza 2008 highlight right before the race.

  5. Right place, right time & he made the most of the opportunity. Top marks to Gasly for holding his cool to the chequered flag with Sainz in a (slightly) faster car on his tail.

  6. Christian Horner is normally vocal and quick to stir things. So far, Christian or Marko hadn’t been able to do so. The push for party mode ban backfired and the driver they unceremoniously dropped won a race. Sweet time for Gasly having an opportunity to regain his self-esteem. Savour the moment, Gasly. No matter how much luck played in this, he still has to maintain his cool and finished the job.

  7. More drivers need this kind of humility and humbleness. He also made the most of out in a way that other drivers with faster cars couldn’t (stroll), a fully win deserved when we look at his performance across this season up to this point.

  8. PG was lucky indeed, but he withstood the pressure from a faster CArlos Sainz well, so in the end he earned his maiden WDC. Unlucky for Carlos, though, on pure merit he should have won this one.

    1. WDC

      ahem, win

    2. Unlucky for Carlos, though, on pure merit he should have won this one

      Actually no, if there was no safety car, Lewis would have never had a penalty and he would have won. Safety car caused both the things: Gasly got lucky, Lewis made the mistake.

      For Sainz, it was definite bad luck, but not in terms of points, but in terms of the relative results of other drivers. He would have been happier finishing 2nd to Hamilton rather than finishing 2nd to Gasly.

      1. Respectfully disagree. Lewis (or his team, or both: I read somewhere he was told to box), so he/they did something wrong and it deservedly cost them the win. Carlos did nothing wrong.

        1. @melanos Nothing wrong per se, but couldn’t pass Gasly on track even with a faster car. So, I’m not sure why you say Sainz should’ve won on “pure merit”.

          1. Sainz only reached Gasly in the last lap, after having had to overtake several other drivers, with older tyres, did not have much chance to pass him. But Gasly (and the other drivers except Hamilton) never got ahead of him in pace, it was blind luck that Gasly pitted just before the SC, and that the pit lane was closed during the SC (with the open pit lane as usual, it would have been unlucky to pit just before the SC). Both the team and the driver acknowledge it was luck, you cannot plan anything like that (a closed pit during the SC is certainly a rare event)
            So, on pure pace it would have no doubt been Hamilton’s race to win (but he/the team made a fatal mistake). On pure merit it should have been Sainz’s (he had clearly the best pace after Lewis, and did nothing wrong). But Gasly won it on luck. Not that I hold a grudge or anything, I am happy for him and reckon he somehow earned it by enduring the pressure.

  9. If Gasly wasn’t the one to get lucky someone would have gotten lucky.

  10. I can remember quite early in the race, Kvyat was all over Gasly’s rear end on harder tyres and the commentators suggested it would be prudent to let him through as he was on the best strategy ‘at this stage of the race’ (or similar words)…

    Funny how things can change so much in just a few short laps.

  11. Yes the team got lucky but the decisions they are making are the best decision at the time the decision is made. Kudos to team and driver for execution of their plan and their success.

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