Pierre Gasly chats about how his first full season in Formula 1 has been a long time coming, being a key figure in the burgeoning Red Bull and Honda relationship and how solely focusing on himself has paid off.

Looking back at your start to the season, how have you found it so far? How is it matching up with Toro Rosso’s expectations?

Pierre Gasly: Yeah I think objectively, looking at everything, it’s been really positive. Of course we had big up and a couple of downs. I would say we haven’t been really consistent, which is something we will try to find for the second part of the season. Unfortunately I had a couple of races where I didn’t race at all, like in Barcelona for example with the crash and Paul Ricard, so I lost a couple of opportunities. We had some others, like Bahrain was just amazing and over all the expectations and the best expectations we could have had for this year, especially after two races. And my first Monaco GP, I knew how tough the track was before and I knew it would be difficult in F1, and it was just a mega race. I would say overall, a lot of experiences. It’s been great.

In terms of your own personal goals as well, what Pierre Gasly wanted coming into this season, have you hit everything that you wanted?

PG: Almost everything, but in a way I’m kind of never satisfied, because if it’s not perfect I’m not super-satisfied. For sure the consistency is something that I was hoping to have with the team, to come every weekend and have more or less like the more consistent performance and be always fighting for similar places. But at the moment, from one race to another, we seem to be able to fight in the top 10, and then another one where we’re out in Q1 straightaway with no chance.

On my side I would say it’s difficult. The most difficult thing as a rookie I think is when you come from lower categories and you fight for podiums, championships, victories, you come every weekend really angry and ready to fight for the wins, and in Formula 1 it’s not the case.

In a way you never really know what you’re going to be able to extract from the package you have. Silverstone qualifying was probably the best lap of my season, and I was only 14th on the grid. It’s sort of difficult to be happy. I was really happy with my lap, but when I saw the result I was really disappointed with the end result. It’s something that’s difficult in Formula 1 to balance.

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You’ve got to re-align - a P7 in Monaco becomes a race win as that’s your maximum.

PG: Exactly. So that’s something I try to do is always feel like OK, I’ve extracted the maximum potential out of the car, and whatever the result is, I know I’ve done my job which is what the team expects me to do. But then that performance sometimes is worth P15 or P9. So it’s really difficult to know where to go.

Is it therefore more difficult to show the outside world what you’re doing and how well you’re performing?

PG: Yeah, definitely. I think sometimes a lot of people outside… and I understand it, they don’t have all the information, and they just look at the classification and see ‘OK, this guy is P13, he’s shit’. It’s fair to say that if you don’t understand everything and if you don’t have all the information, it’s an easy way to look at it. Of course sometimes it’s a bit difficult. You probably don’t get the credit you deserve.

Sometimes you are lucky to be in the right place, and you probably get more than what you should. It’s part of Formula 1. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that I feel I’ve done the best I could with the package and the team knows it.

You talked about the pressures of Formula 1, I think the Red Bull programme especially is known for its high-pressure and brutal environment - are you always looking over your shoulder a bit, making sure you’re performing at your absolute maximum?

PG: I’ve kind of had a different approach. Since I came to Red Bull, I had this option in 2012, and then I came in the programme in 2014. At that time I was really young. I wanted to impress and I wanted to do it for Red Bull. I’ve changed completely my mentality.

At the end of the day, I know when I’ve done a good job or not, and I don’t need anyone to tell me ‘what you did was good’. I know if I’ve done a good lap or a perfect lap, because I’m the one who feels what’s happening inside the car. In the race, if I do a mistake, I know I’ve done a mistake and I won’t be happy about it. I don’t need anyone to tell me ‘oh you’ve done this, it’s bad’. You know in Red Bull, I just take it as it comes.

It’s a tough environment, but it’s also a great opportunity to become stronger. I think I became much stronger as an athlete and also as a person. But I just do things for myself and try to just give the best I can inside the car. I know as long as I perform well, they’re going to be happy, but at the end of the day I do it for myself because I’m a competitive guy and I want to achieve the best results possible for myself and for the team as well.

Your rise up the ladder was quite unconventional. You won GP2, then they sent you to Japan before you got a mid-season call up to F1. How difficult was it when you were winning titles, winning races and they were like ‘you still can’t do F1, you’ve got to go to Japan’?

PG: [Laughs] I think it was a big challenge. I think I had to face a lot of challenges to make it to Formula 1. I think in a way, all these experiences of testing myself in all ways possible, mentally, physically… I knew that if I was able to show them, I’m not giving up, I’m just going to push until the end, until you give me my chance and my opportunity, I knew that in a way the only thing I had to do was to keep pushing as hard as I could.

I’ve been always really strong with my ideas and desires, and when I have something in mind, I will do everything to make it happen. In my head since I was young, I decided I wanted to become a Formula 1 driver, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there, yeah, I faced a lot challenges, but I could see that I was competitive, whatever series I raced in, always finished in the top three in the championship. I had many challenges, but I managed to face all of them and make it to the end.

It’s just about not taking no for an answer and being relentless, keep coming back and keep coming back.

PG: Exactly. I managed to kind of transform all these difficult moments into like positive energy and motivation, and just trying to extract even more from myself to always push beyond my limits. Always give more.

At the end of the day, I’m someone that really believes a lot that good things are going to come at some point. If you are competitive in 2.0, 3.5, GP2, Super Formula, I knew that at some point it had to come. Then in the end, it was the case, it was just a matter of keep pushing until my opportunity comes.

You said about difficult moments - what would you say is the toughest moment in that period?

PG: Clearly when I won GP2 and still didn’t get the chance. I said it many times, but if you’re in the second league in football and you win the championship, and they tell you ‘you’re not going to make it to the first league’, it’s like what do you want me to do more to show you I deserve the opportunity? We know that it’s a sport where performance isn’t the only parameter. There are a lot of politics and a lot of things that as a young driver, when you’re 20 years old, you don’t really control.

The best thing I could do is to show great performances, and that’s what I tried to do every year and kept pushing, even in Japan, 10,000 km from my home with no-one there and no-one that I knew when I first came there. It was tough challenges, but in the end, they were really good experiences and made me stronger also as a driver.

And all worth it when you finally got that call saying ‘you’ll be racing in Malaysia’?

PG: Yeah!

How did it feel when you finally got that through?

PG: In a way I knew this had to come one day, and now it came, so just make sure you use that opportunity to make the best out of it. That’s what I wanted more than anything else, just to have the opportunity to show what I could do inside a Formula 1 car. After it was up to me to perform well. Then if I’m good enough and I deserve this chance, and if I don’t perform well, then at least I had a try. I believed in my skills and that I would be competitive. It was a really hard way to get in, but I just wanted to make the best out of that opportunity.

Talking about that self-belief and how you knew if you won all these titles and did everything the opportunity had to come - do you kind of look at a top seat at Red Bull in a similar way? That if you do everything right here at Toro Rosso, that’s where things are heading?

PG: It’s clearly a target as a Red Bull driver. But as you say, for me, the main thing, the only thing you can impact on is your performances. As long as you just push as hard as you can and show great performances, I do believe that opportunities always come. As long as you work hard enough and show good things, these kind of great opportunities will come with it. That’s the only thing I try to focus on. When you start to focus on all the things going on in the paddock, OK this guy is going there, you just waste energy for nothing. It doesn’t bring you any value for your performance. The only thing I try to focus on is myself and how I can try to be better as a driver. You can always improve yourself.

Your relationship with Honda has been very close, you raced with them in Japan, that expanded to Toro Rosso and now on to Red Bull. Has it been cool to be the first Red Bull-Honda driver and see things expand from there?

PG: I think it was pretty funny, when I went to Super Formula, people started to talk about it already, that Red Bull is making a first contact with Honda and probably for a longer-term deal or something like this. Year by year, everything happened, what people said at the time. I’ve been the first piece in this relationship with Honda.

It’s really cool, and I’m really happy about it because I started to build that relationship in Super Formula, so we have a really cool story behind us, and a really strong one as well. We fought for the championship until that last race, and just missed the title after that typhoon for half a point.

We’ve gone through really different emotions and a lot of experiences together, so it’s good to see them going with Red Bull. I’m sure they will have a lot of success with them. It’s a pretty cool story.

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