The Italian Grand Prix produced the biggest shock of the 2020 F1 season, as Pierre Gasly took advantage of a rare mistake by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes to score a breakthrough win.Monza, the AlphaTauri driver admitted he was still coming to terms with the reality of his breakthrough triumph.
“It’s been such a crazy time since the moment I crossed the line,” said Gasly. “Honestly, I didn’t have one second to really sit down – or more than 30 minutes to sit down and just realise and understand, ‘OK, well, what’s been happening to my life?'”
“It’s just been a crazy ride from TV, radios, interviews, receiving messages. As soon as I was doing one action, there was five [more] coming to me.”
As well as being only the second victory for his team – which won the same race in 2008 as Toro Rosso – Gasly’s win is the first for a French F1 driver since Olivier Panis triumphed at Monaco 24 years earlier. To his astonishment, Gasly found French president Emmanuel Macron among his voicemail messages.
“This was probably the most unexpected phone call and the one that made me the proudest,” he said. “I got out from the engineering room and I heard that I’d received some messages, people telling me, ‘okay, listen to your voicemail, because there’s probably one message you don’t want to miss.’
“And so I just listened. I heard his voice, Emmanuel Macron, the French president saying ‘I want to congratulate you for the amazing achievement, an amazing victory.’ He said he was really proud of me and the whole country was really proud of me after such a long wait for all of France.
“[It was] very touching words and it sort of made me realise something big happened today in my life for the president to call me. It was a very special moment.”
Many of Gasly’s rivals were seen congratulating him in person after the chequered flag fell. Despite the rift between him and former karting rival Esteban Ocon, the Renault driver also sent his congratulations “by message”, Gasly confirms.
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Gasly’s win, with a midfield team which has historically served as stepping stone for future Red Bull drivers, follows an incredibly difficult 12 months in the driver’s personal and professional lives.
Following his successful 2018 debut at the team (then Toro Rosso), Gasly was promoted to the senior Red Bull squad alonside Max Verstappen. But after just 12 races, including more than one occasion where he was lapped by his team mate, Gasly was demoted back to the junior outfit.
His current team mate Daniil Kvyat went through much the same crushing experience of being sent back from Red Bull in 2016. Gasly responded impressively, all the more so given the appalling events of last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.
At the first race weekend following Gasly’s ousting from Red Bull, his childhood friend and former housemate Anthoine Hubert was killed during a Formula 2 race.
Nonetheless Gasly rediscovered his form. Having scored 54 points over 12 races at Red Bull he collected 41 over the final nine rounds in his theoretically inferior Toro Rosso. That included a then career-best second-place finish in Brazil, which brought his first appearance on the Formula 1 podium.
Gasly credited the ability to handle the situation and come back with his best ever results – and now first Formula 1 win – to the fighting spirit he has had since childhood.
“I have had it in me since I was very little,” he says. “I had to fight for everything I wanted in my career. In karting, from season to season and generally everything in my life, nothing was really granted.
“I think it’s a mentality that I got from my brothers, from my family and education. It really helped me through my career. And even more last year with everything that happened.
“Obviously the biggest challenge I had was probably going from Red Bull to Toro Rosso. And then afterwards, when Anthoine died at the same time, putting all that together was mentally difficult.
“But I never lost faith and I always knew what I wanted, in my mind, what was my personal targets. And I always kept working for it. There was not one single day where I adopted an outlook that ‘things are not going my way.’
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“I thought, ‘OK, just focus on yourself,’ focus on making the best out of the team, of myself, of my relationship with them. And race by race, we got better and better.”
Monza is the home race for the Faenza-based AlphaTauri squad. It is also Gasly’s literal home, having moved to Milan recently, making that breakthrough win even more special.
“I thought there was probably no better place for me to win my first race because I just moved, two months ago, to Milan – I was in Bologna before.
“You really feel that moment. That was the first time in my career that I slept in my own bed for a race, since I was 16. To wake up every morning in my room, in my bedroom, to go and do my own coffee at home and leaving with my car to go to the race track and then going back at night was a bit different than usual and a different feeling.
“I must say my sofa never felt as good as right now! And my bed as well. I’m really feeling like this is the place I want to spend more time in and for the future, because I really relate it to this great victory I’ve had and it clearly reminds me of a great feeling. So I am really happy to have moved there.”
His success has inevitably prompted questions whether he might be able to do what Kvyat has not yet managed – win promotion back to Red Bull. But could AlphaTauri become a team where he could win races regularly and compete for the championship?
“I think it’s obviously difficult to say. Now, my goal as a driver is to motivate all the people around me and really try to extract 100% from everybody. Obviously, you need to be perfect on your side, show your dedication in everything you do, meet your commitments and motivate.
“Because everybody has their day and whether people are in a good mood or in a bad mood in the end they all have their impact on the performance. That is something I really pay attention to because I know the final result doesn’t come by surprise.
“I’m really aware now if we say one day we’re going to repeat this kind of performance on a more regular basis, is is impossible to say for me now. Obviously, in the last 15 years this team has had two wins, one with Seb and one with me now and that will be a target.
“But we also need to be quite objective and realistic about the whole F1 situation with the top teams having more budget, more resources. It’s not a one or two-year project. It will take a lot more time. But my goal is to bring as much success to this team as possible and that’s for sure.”
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Following the setback of his departure from Red Bull, Gasly is clearly thriving at AlphaTauri. “The team is supporting me 100% in every area in giving me the tools I need to be competitive,” he says.
“They gave me my first opportunity in Formula 1, which obviously makes our relationship quite special. They gave me everything, all the tools necessary for me to get my first podium in Brazil and now my first win. So now it’s it’s really special.
“I feel as though every single person in this team is committed to my own performance, in my personal performance, in doing that extra job to do it for myself and really, for ourselves to get the best, the best like Red Bull can. And at the end of the day, it’s a team sport. And, you know, that’s that’s what you need to be successful in Formula 1.”
One of Gasly’s helmets is now displayed in the AlphaTauri office, next to that of 2008 Monza victor Vettel, who went on to win four world titles with Red Bull. Gasly gets to keep his winner’s trophy, after many of his previous trophies were stolen during a break-in earlier this year.
“I was thinking luckily the robbers didn’t come two weeks later because I think I would have been really upset,” he admits.
The sight of the trophy was drove home the reality of his Monza victory when he awoke the morning after. Revealingly, he jokes that following the previous night’s celebrations his first thought was: “You need to drink a bit of water.”
Then he caught sight of the trophy: “I just went in my living room and saw the trophy and realised, OK, everything that just happened is real. We’ve done it. We won the race.”
2020 F1 season
- Pictures: Wrecked chassis from Grosjean’s Bahrain fireball crash to go on display
- Bottas vs Rosberg: Hamilton’s Mercedes team mates compared after 78 races each
- F1 revenues fell by $877 million in Covid-struck 2020 season
- Hamilton and Mercedes finally announce new deal for 2021 season
- F1 audience figures “strong” in 2020 despite dip in television viewers
22 comments on ““I had to fight for everything in my career” – Gasly on becoming an F1 race-winner”
17th September 2020, 13:56
I was aware before that he resides in Milan but thought he’d relocated there already at some point last year because of the indication this video uploaded before the most recent French GP gave: https://youtu.be/T40Q1BovxeI?t=38
Before viewing the above video for the first time, I thought he’d live in France. I was positive his country of residence wouldn’t be Monaco or Switzerland (favored countries by racing drivers in general due to their respective locations and low-taxes) but didn’t think it might be Italy either. I also didn’t assume his move from Bologna to Milan would take a little over twelve months (from the upload date).
Hazel Southwell (@hazelsouthwell)
18th September 2020, 8:14
Not that it really matters cus moving house is just long and complicated but he spent several months trapped in Dubai on the way back from Australia because he couldn’t re-enter Italy for a long time so I’d assume he’s been heavily delayed by COVID things in moving.
17th September 2020, 14:59
I was a bit against Pierre, but hell, he has a very nice season, and earned respect even without the GP win :) (Even if this year’s Alpha Tauri seems to be a very good make in terms of midfield or secondary teams, and even if his comparison to Kvyat is a bit compromised due to Kvyat’s quite bad luck. I hope they can have a design like this for next year too.)
17th September 2020, 15:35
Terrific piece, Hazel and Deiter, very well done. I’ve seen a dozen articles about the aftermath of Gasly’s first win, but this one dug into his relocation to Milan + the win being the start of something new for Pierre.
It seems like promotion to Red Bull is a logical next step, but I think that’s a swimming pool full of alligators. I’d rather he stay at Alpha Tauri who have welcomed him back and helped him build a real home and a new life, while bringing to track a solid car. Why not see if AT can contend at the front of the midfield? If Kyvat is replaced at year’s end that gives AT an opportunity to bring a sharp competitor into the 2nd seat (Hulkenberg? Perez?) that could help Gasly lift the team over the class of McLaren and Racing Point.
Hazel Southwell (@hazelsouthwell)
18th September 2020, 8:11
Thank you! I really enjoyed putting this one together; I remember working on Pierre’s interviews on his first weekend in F1 (Malaysia 2017) and he’s exactly the same combination of grateful, thoughtful and steel that he was back then, now, even though he’s been through an extremely tough few years.
In my opinion he won’t go back to RB, as Pierre’s hinted at a few times there’s more than just results going on there. Honda are very keen to bring Tsunoda in at AT if he gets the F2 results required this year.
17th September 2020, 17:05
Sorry his success came at the expense of another who should have one. Hate seeing anyone take any credit for something that wasn’t earned but rather just dumb luck or maybe good luck for being in the right spot at the right time. He got lucky and capitalize on the gift presented. He gets credit for that.
17th September 2020, 21:11
Should’a could’a but didn’t!
Sorry, but I don’t subscribe to this narrative. Gasly still had to take advantage of the situation either way to “earn” the win. Sure, he got lucky but sometimes races fall that way. Stroll has been a benefactor of a podium finish twice in these weird situations (I should note that he has only podium-ed twice). Stroll was in the best position for the win at the restart but Gasly out did everyone (almost passed Lewis). And the proceeded to defend Sainz for the win, he did a good job and made no mistakes.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game! The rule allowing the teams to use red flag periods as a mandatory pitstop is wrong. If this wasn’t allowed, this result would not be in Gasly’s grasp. Don’t blame Gasly with what he earned, blame the rules that allowed it.
18th September 2020, 15:37
You are right.. just like Lewis is gifted a Mercedes and then every victory is just simple. Be there on the right time and the victory is yours….
17th September 2020, 18:10
Fight for everything like any other really. In some respects probably more than his peers though ever since he showed some promise in single seaters he was pushed forward. Being French, being sponsored by rb and not dumped made his career. in the end his ultimately long gp2 career and his steady but consistent stint in super formula did not warrant an f1 seat. Does good form against a struggling driver which got him to rb and now good form against a struggler in kvyat suddenly make Pierre more than just another well backed French and f1 driver? Nope.
Hazel Southwell (@hazelsouthwell)
18th September 2020, 8:06
Is two (full, his previous short stint was championship-ineligible) seasons, the second of which he became champion in, really a ‘long’ GP2 career? I definitely wouldn’t say so. His results in SF were on an up trajectory and he was set to take the title, potentially, in his rookie season and hopping from longhaul to RB simulator to back in a longhaul etc. (unlike most SF drivers they didn’t let him live in Japan so he could be on hand for Milton Keynes)
I feel that Pierre gets quite unfairly maligned with the idea he had a long junior career just because he was the immense age of 21 on making it to F1.
17th September 2020, 18:18
Haha! The President called him. That’s fantastic!! I’m overjoyed for the guy. :O)
17th September 2020, 18:27
Luck. That’s how you got the win.
17th September 2020, 21:17
I said it before, I’ll say it again: “it was a lucky win!” – please enjoy the after party while it lasts.
18th September 2020, 8:00
But to finish first you have to finsh first! But the car is quit fast in low and midlevel downforce circuits so if they are there to pickup the pieces is it then only luck?
Jose Lopes da Silva
18th September 2020, 10:38
That’s not how motorsport works.
17th September 2020, 21:41
Good guy. And would be such a great SPORT if F1 could set itself up for drivers talent instead of Manufacturers money.
18th September 2020, 6:37
I hope he will leave a better legacy than Maldonaldo.
18th September 2020, 8:58
That ain’t hard.
18th September 2020, 8:58
While the chance of the first McLaren victory since 2012 was first gifted then stolen by racing incidents, at least this alternate story is satisfying, taking some of the sting out of coming so close…
18th September 2020, 9:34
Like Maldonado at Spain 2012, Pierre took his opportunity and made the best of it.
Of course he needed luck, as does any driver in a car which is not the fastest. That’s the formula.
What matters is whether you extract the maximum from your car on the day. Both of those drivers did on their respective days. And both of them absorbed the pressure, which is key.
Jose Lopes da Silva
18th September 2020, 10:23
The Maldonado win terminated the mystic elan of winning a Grand Prix.
Because everything you said is absolutely correct. People make their opportunities and sometimes a better opportunity appears and the driver must make the best out of it. Both Maldonado and Gasly did, as every other grand prix winner. Like other drivers who won a single race, or like multiple winners that inherit and keep a victory. Or like drivers that fight the hell out of it to win a race, like Raikkonen in Suzuka/05.
19th September 2020, 19:47
Who cares, you got demoted by Redbull. Means you are not good.
There’s no place for such people in a f1 grid.
Comments are closed.