The dilemma facing Pierre Gasly at F1 career crossroads

With around half of the grid out of contract for 2023, Pierre Gasly is at a career crossroads as he looks for that second chance at a top team. A return to Red Bull? Or finding his path elsewhere? We explore his options…
The dilemma facing Pierre Gasly at F1 career crossroads

Since being dropped from Red Bull midway through 2019, Pierre Gasly has been one of Formula 1’s star performers with his consistently strong performances for AlphaTauri. 

Gasly enjoyed his finest year to date in 2021 as he finished inside the top 10 of the drivers’ championship and scored over 100 points for the first time in his career. His qualifying performances were particularly outstanding, making Q3 on 18 occasions as he demolished rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda.

Despite his fine form, Gasly was once again overlooked by Red Bull as it retained Sergio Perez for 2022 alongside newly-crowned champion Max Verstappen. Reflecting on 2021, Gasly was satisfied by his own performances but was irked by a lack of recognition from the Red Bull hierarchy. 

“I compare myself to those who got the opportunity for a Red Bull seat, it’s disappointing,” Gasly is quoted as saying by German publication Auto Motor und Sport. “Based on the numbers and results, I have delivered a better performance than anyone else in this team.

“But at the end of the day, I don’t get the recognition and reward for that. That’s hard to swallow. It disappoints me, of course.”

The dilemma facing Pierre Gasly at F1 career crossroads

With Gasly still remaining in the Red Bull stable with AlphaTauri for this season, a return to the senior team is the most logical option for 2023, but how likely is it?

Looking back at his first spell with Red Bull, statistically speaking, Gasly performed worse than his successors Alex Albon and then Sergio Perez with him failing to finish on the podium during his stint with the team. Granted, Red Bull had the third-quickest car for the first half of 2019 but as he was lapped by Verstappen at the Austrian and Hungarian Grands Prix, his demotion was fully justified. 

No doubt that Gasly’s performances since returning to the junior team have been impressive with a couple of podium finishes and a maiden victory at the Italian Grand Prix in 2020 but it’s still hard to know whether he’d fare any better alongside Verstappen if he was given a second opportunity. Gasly is comfortable in the environment of a smaller team at AlphaTauri - he’s the main man and naturally in the midfield, there’s less pressure to perform. 

Over the years we’ve seen some drivers perform exceptionally for midfield teams - such as Giancarlo Fisichella or even Perez - but go on to struggle in a top team, particularly with a teammate like Fernando Alonso or Verstappen. Perez starred for Force India/Racing Point over the years but was nowhere near the performance level of Verstappen, ultimately costing Red Bull the constructors’ championship.

The dilemma facing Pierre Gasly at F1 career crossroads

Gasly would have learnt a lot from his Red Bull experience and is a better driver for it but whether the senior team will give him another chance, remains to be seen. Even though Perez’s performances played a role in Red Bull missing out on the constructors’ title to Mercedes, he was instrumental in helping Verstappen to beat Lewis Hamilton to the driver’s crown with several defensive masterclasses throughout the season.

The combination of Perez’s experience, superior racecraft and willingness to play the team game makes him a useful commodity to Red Bull. Will Gasly be as willing or as effective in aiding Red Bull’s main star?  

Despite lacking outright performance, Perez ticks a lot of boxes - similar to Valtteri Bottas alongside Hamilton. Red Bull will be keen to preserve its well-balanced driver line-up, especially if Verstappen continues to perform like he is.

Carlos Sainz has proven there is life outside of the Red Bull family with the Spaniard establishing himself well at Ferrari after successful spells at Renault and McLaren. Gasly’s form will be appealing to other teams on the grid but whether or not an opportunity opens for 2023 is another story.

How about a French connection at Alpine alongside Esteban Ocon? Gasly found himself linked with a switch to Alpine prior to Ocon’s contract extension until 2024. The length of Ocon’s contract was a surprise but given at the time his form was superior to that of two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, it was deserved.

The door isn’t completely closed for Gasly at Enstone given Alonso’s age and his future being entirely dependent on Alpine’s form as F1 embarks on its technical regulation overhaul for 2022. If ‘El Plan’ fails to deliver, we could be saying goodbye to the Spaniard once again.

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A521 and Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri AT02 bsp.
Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A521 and Pierre Gasly (FRA) AlphaTauri…

Alonso remains close to the peak of his powers so Alpine deciding to drop the 40-year-old in place of Gasly is basically impossible, however, should the French team fall below expectations, an opportunity may arise. Gasly would be a great replacement for Alonso, giving Alpine an exciting, youthful, and all-French pairing for several years to come.

Should Alonso remain in F1 for 2023, Aston Martin could be another possibility for Gasly. Sebastian Vettel finds himself in a similar situation to his fellow multiple world champion with the German keen to return to the front of the grid, a prospect that rests on Aston Martin nailing the new regulations.

Given the investment and infrastructure being put in place at Aston Martin by Lawrence Stroll, success is bound to be around the corner, but how long is Vettel willing to wait? Vettel has already expressed his frustrations about racing in the midfield, stating it’s ‘not really what I’m here for’. 

There were tentative rumours during that season that Stroll approached Alonso about replacing Vettel. Whether they were true or not, Stroll means business and a cut-throat decision to axe Vettel wouldn’t be entirely surprising, particularly if his lacklustre form returns in 2022.

Mercedes could result in an opening with the future of Hamilton still unclear. While the seven-time champion is expected to make a return for the 2022 campaign alongside George Russell, there will always be a question mark about his future.

Should Russell prove to be the real deal and turn out to be the man to lead Mercedes in the post-Hamilton era, Gasly could be a good option to have alongside the Briton. A move to Williams or Haas would currently represent a step back from AlphaTauri, though it could give him freedom and a fresh start.

Gasly’s would be deserving of a move up the grid but his future isn’t entirely in his hands beyond 2022.

The dilemma facing Pierre Gasly at F1 career crossroads

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