Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Interlagos, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #10: Pierre Gasly

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Finally freed from the Red Bull ecosystem to pursue a new lease of life in Formula 1, Pierre Gasly arrived at Alpine hungry to prove that he was an upgrade from Oscar Piastri, who was originally supposed to occupy his seat.

A change of team brought with it new opportunities as well as a new team mate – none other than Esteban Ocon a driver with whom he shared a tumultuous history with. But Gasly arrived at Alpine with a cloud hanging over him.

Sitting on 10 penalty points following a series of incidents over 2022, Gasly was sitting on the precipice of a race ban. Just one significant incident over the first eight rounds could have earned him the two points that would have left him on the sidelines for a weekend as the first driver in F1 history to miss a race under the superlicence penalty points system introduced in 2014.

Thankfully, for Gasly and his team, he successfully navigated his way through to June without copping a ban, avoiding an awkward opening to his career as an Alpine driver. In fact, it was a fairly promising first few months at Enstone for Gasly. Even in his first race for the team in Bahrain, while Ocon suffered an embarrassing evening with multiple penalties, Gasly drove from the very back of the grid up to ninth at the finish and would have even scored the bonus point for fastest lap had it not been for Zhou Guanyu sniping it from him in the final laps.

Pierre Gasly
Gasly was in great form in the Netherlands
He followed Ocon throughout the race in Saudi Arabia to claim a second successive ninth place finish. He should have scored the next round in Melbourne, sitting as high as fifth for the second red flag restart. But when he ran wide at turn one and rejoined the track, he failed to realise that Ocon was there in his blind spot and drifted into his team mate, sending both into the wall and out of the race, robbing his team of a potential haul of points.

While Melbourne may have ended in heartbreak, his weekend in Baku was one to forget. He lost crucial practice time over the sole hour of running when his car caught fire, then he crashed in qualifying trying to find enough time to reach Q2. From 19th on the grid, he could only make his way up to finish in 14th place.

He did a lot to help redeem himself for his handful of early season mishaps in Miami. He scored a top five start in qualifying with help from the session ending under red flag and finished ahead of Ocon in eighth for his third top ten result over his first five grands prix for his new team. The points continued to come in Monaco, where he was heavily overshadowed by his team mate’s stunning podium performance. He should have started in the top four in Spain but was hit with multiple grid penalties for impeding in qualifying. He still picked up a point in the race – although he owed that to former team mate Yuki Tsunoda earning a penalty.

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The middle phase of the year was his weakest. He took 15 seconds of track limits time penalties in Austria but still managed to cling onto a point, was taken out of the British Grand Prix by Lance Stroll while fighting just outside of the top ten, before he was the innocent victim of a chain reaction crash at the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix that also took out his team mate.

Pierre Gasly

GP start420
GP finish318

But while Alpine were beginning to fall into turmoil just before the summer break with the departure of their team principal, Gasly managed to give his team a much-needed morale boost by securing sixth on the grid for in sprint qualifying at Spa, then made the right call to switch to intermediate tyres in the sprint race take a medal for third place.

Easily the highlight of the season came after the break at Zandvoort. Ahead of Ocon across the weekend, he again made the correct call at the start when the rain fell to pit for intermediates and rise as high as fourth behind the Safety Car. He overcame a five second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, pulled off an excellent move on Carlos Sainz Jnr, made another smart call when the rain returned and stuck within five seconds of Sergio Perez in the closing laps to take advantage of the Red Bull driver’s penalty and take his first podium appearance as an Alpine driver.

Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Suzuka, 2023
Alpine’s tactics infuriated Gasly at times
In truth, Gasly’s entire second half of the season was solid. He outscored Ocon by 40 points to 23 between Zandvoort and the final round in Abu Dhabi and out-qualified him 8-2 in that same span. It was if he had found his feet in his new environment and, with it, came confidence.

He described his weekend at the Circuit of the Americas – where he finished seventh in the sprint race and eighth in the grand prix before promoted to sixth after the race – as his “most complete” weekend of the season. He overcame an underwhelming first two days in Brazil to go from 15th on the grid after an impeding penalty in Friday qualifying to finish a very decent seventh. Although he missed out on points in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, he was unlucky with Safety Car timing in the former and was particularly unimpressed by his team’s strategy that allowed Ocon to undercut him in the latter.

It may not have been the season that Alpine, or Gasly, would have wanted, but on the basis of his performance in his first year and particularly over the second half, Gasly could be satisfied with how he had settled in at Enstone.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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5 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #10: Pierre Gasly”

  1. Pretty sure Gasly will be the better of the two next year as well. Not that I rate Gasly much higher on driving skills, but he does seem to be a much better team player and focused on what is important instead of dwelling on negatives. I also wonder what the future will hold for the Alpine team. I almost can’t imagine Alpine has been able to create a great car amidst all the management chaos and political games and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up at the back of the grid with Haas and the Kicking Sauber.

    1. Problem for Gasly is, that it seems he is decidedly the Second driver in Alpine, at least for the last third of the year.

  2. Coventry Climax
    18th December 2023, 16:11

    Although this position is more or less OK, it’s the explanation I’m having some difficulty with.
    For the first rounds, he would have had to take care to not get another penalty. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place, but that’s looking back at a previous season, where this list is about this year’s achievements.
    Also, there’s many occurences that weren’t -apparently- specifically his fault.
    No, he’s no Piastri alright, but I think he did quite a decent job this year.

  3. … Thankfully, for Gasly and his team, he successfully navigated his way through to June without copping a ban, …

    … He should have scored the next round in Melbourne, sitting as high as fifth for the second red flag restart. But when he ran wide at turn one and rejoined the track, he failed to realise that Ocon was there in his blind spot and drifted into his team mate

    That seems to be remembering the Melbourne incident with rose coloured glasses! My memory says he should have been the first driver to be banned because he ran off track at the restart and, in his typical style, he kept his foot in it and came uncontrollably back onto the track somehow missing fellow competitors before taking out his team mate, I don’t remember any gentle drifting into his team mate. That was dangerous and should have earned him penalty points, if he had of taken out an opposing teams car I’m sure he would have been on a one race ban.

  4. Gasly has been close from Ocon in terms of performance, however taking both cars out is the ultimate offence and in my view he should be ranked below Ocon.

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