Pierre Gasly says he avoided returning to France for two months as a precaution following the cancellation of the planned Formula 1 season-opener in Australia.

The AlphaTauri driver travelled straight to Dubai after the Australian Grand Prix was abandoned when a McLaren team member tested positive for COVID-19.

France entered a strict lowdown on March 17 - two days after the Melbourne race was due to take place - in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus amid a surge in cases and deaths.

“We were in Australia for the first race of the year, and suddenly everything stopped on Friday like an hour before the first practice of the season,” Gasly said in an interview for new sponsor Hawkers.

“The whole weekend got cancelled and then, after that, all the other races, so the first 9 or 10 races got cancelled or postponed for later in the year, so the whole season was delayed, and therefore, my whole 2020 season is also delayed.

“After Australia I came back to Dubai, I was planning to stay there just before the Bahrain Grand Prix which got cancelled as well; so we decided to stay there just for two days to assess the situation in Europe.

"When I realised that the situation was bad, my coach and I decided to stay in Dubai, since it was safer and offered better conditions to train.

“I stayed in Dubai for about two months, which was a really tough period for everyone, having to stay inside in lock down with not very much to do.”

The Frenchman believes he is now in his “best shape ever” as a result of his intense training programme while in Dubai.

“In that sense, I was pretty lucky to be able to stay there and we managed to have a personal gym, so I could train every single day for two months and really focus on the physical preparation, which was great,” he explained.

“I improved a lot and for sure I am in my best shape ever. I’m really happy about it and we still have a couple more weeks of training before the season starts.”

Gasly has since returned home to France to spend some time with his family ahead of an gruelling run of races in the start to the revised 2020 season, which begins next month in Austria.

“I came back to France just a week ago to spend some time with my family,” he said. “After these two months, I felt more confident that I wasn’t sick and I wasn’t going to spread, just in case I would have been.

"I felt it safer now to come back and to see them and spend some more time with them. I don’t get to see them often during the season so now it’s a good opportunity to do so.”



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