Pierre Gasly's GPU column: Introduction

Pierre Gasly's GPU column: Introduction

20 April 2017 – GPUpdate.net is delighted to welcome Red Bull Formula 1 reserve driver, and reigning GP2 champion, Pierre Gasly, as its driver columnist for 2017. In his first piece, Pierre reflects on his title-winning GP2 campaign and looks ahead to his season in Japan-based Super Formula, which gets underway this weekend.

Hi guys! I'm Pierre, 21 years old, living in Normandy, France. I'm the reserve driver for Red Bull in Formula 1 and I'm also racing in Super Formula with Team Mugen-Honda.

I raced in GP2 – now Formula 2 – with Prema last year, which was a crucial season for me.

It was a big challenge at the beginning because it was Prema's first season. There was a lot of work to do during the winter to make sure we would be ready for the season.

We had to get to know each other, the people inside the team. It was my second year in GP2 so was important to win and be competitive, and to be in a good position to step up to Formula 1. Of course, I was competitive in lower series, winning the FR 2.0 Eurocup and taking second in Formula Renault 3.5, and in my first GP2 season I was fast in qualifying, but I struggled quite a lot with tyre management.

It was important to show in my second season that I'd learnt my mistakes from the first season.

We were competitive all the time during the season, starting with Barcelona, the pole position which was great, and finished two races on the podium.

After Barcelona we had quite a slow start in terms of points, but from Silverstone everything started to come together and started to be stronger, for the team and also for myself. I started to feel more and more comfortable with the car and the team.

Everything started to be a bit easier, even though we had some tough moments, such as at the Red Bull Ring where I went out when I was leading.

There was also a difficult weekend at Silverstone, because of my road car crash. My mother got badly injured and also myself I had a broken vertebra, so all the second part of the season I had to drive with a broken vertebra. Even though I won at Silverstone it was a bit mixed feelings with my mother in hospital and this injury. It looked to be better after Silverstone, with some more wins and good poles, a few tough moments, but in the end we managed to be competitive, score good points, and get the title at the end of the year, after not an easy year.

It was an amazing achievement to win the title and it was probably the best season of my career – I also equalled Stoffel Vandoorne's record of eight GP2 poles!

This year, I'm racing in Super Formula. Testing went really well, I didn't know what to expect as it was my first time in Japan with Super Formula.

I didn't know any of the tracks. I knew that it would be really different after talking with Stoffel last year; everything was brand new and I had to learn a lot of things at the first test at Suzuka.

I was really surprised in a good way with the performance of the car, a lot of high aero, really good tyres, there's not much degradation, which is something which suits me a little bit better.

My schedule, though, can be really tiring; we're talking about seven hours of jet lag, so every time I get there it takes quite a bit of time to get used to it. It's also a completely different culture, it's not like going from France to England, it's much more different: the food, how the people behave, the culture, everything is quite different, it's like going into a new world!

But it's something that I really like as the Japanese are really respectful, polite, nice, taking care of other people, so I had a really nice welcome. On this side I'm really impressed with the way they behave.

I know a few things like konichiwa, arigatō, simple words, but it's not like Italian, like it was at Prema when I could by the end of the year understand all the things the mechanics were saying in Italian. It's a completely different kind of sound, also all the letters, so many different characters, so it's impossible to read! But I'm making some effort to show the team I'm trying to learn their culture and it's always good fun when you can speak a different language!

In terms of targets, I'm a competitor; last year I had a great season fighting for pole and victories all year, so that's what I want, I want to be able to fight for these positions. I will try my best, but it's a bit different from GP2 as in Super Formula you have this battle between Toyota and Honda, and Toyota at the moment looks to be slightly better than we are with Honda, which makes it even more difficult.
 

But I think we have a good potential. At the moment it's quite early to say if there are any targets, to say if I'm going to be fighting for podiums, wins, top five… as in testing we only had four hours of testing each day, so in the end I had about 15 hours in the car, so the next time I will be on track is for the first race weekend. I think at the moment we're happy with the work we've done with the team but we need to wait and see what we can do.

All of the drivers racing have huge experience; it was funny as at Suzuka I talked with André Lotterer and he told me that he came to Super Formula in 2003, so I wasn't even in karting at that time! It's quite funny, we laughed about it, but he has a lot more experience because 15 years of Super Formula compared to 15 hours is quite a bit different!

For sure I'll do my best and of course I'll have to learn… but I'll try to do it as quickly as possible.

Until next time,

Pierre

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