Pierre Gasly's GPU column: A busy period

Pierre Gasly's GPU column: A busy period

23 July 2017 – It has been an eventful phase for GPUpdate.net columnist Pierre Gasly, splitting duties as Red Bull's F1 reserve driver with racing in Super Formula, along with his debut in Formula E, as he explains below.

Hi guys! I'm writing to you from France on a weekend to recharge the batteries.

We've had Super Formula races at Suzuka, Okayama and Fuji. It's been good. Of course, we've had some difficult moments, but now it's getting better, we're making improvements. It's been good in terms of driving because the car is competitive, and we're at good tracks – like Suzuka – and most recently in Fuji. It's good to drive and to be in the car and race.

It feels a little bit like a different world when you arrive in Japan.

Everything is so different: the people, the culture, the cities, how they are and how they live there, the food, the buildings, everything is different. It feels like that: a different world. I really like it so far, in normal life Japanese people are really respectful, they have great values, so it's been amazing from a human point of view to be there, because when you come back to Europe there's things you see a bit differently and you think, 'OK, we should behave more like they do', in terms of respect.

In terms of working in Japan, there are positives and negatives. I've found it's been a bit tough communicating with the team.

They have a bit of a hierarchy, so when you need to take a decision, it's not like in Europe where you can take a decision in 30 seconds and just do things that are the right way to go. Everything takes much longer, the boss needs to agree, and then if he doesn't and everyone in the team agrees, then you cannot in a way because the boss disagrees with that direction. Everything in terms of processes takes longer.

Also in the team the difficult thing is that only my Race Engineer speaks English, so basically I give my feedback in English and after he needs to translate in Japanese. Of course, I don't know if he translates exactly with the right words to the other engineers in Japanese, and then for me, I cannot understand Japanese, so after the other engineers talk in Japanese to my engineer, he then translates into English! It takes hours, much longer than in Europe to do briefings, debriefings. It's more difficult to understand each other, to tell them what I need in the car, then the other way around it's the same for me, to answer the questions they're asking.

So communication was a bit difficult to know exactly what we needed on that side, but we've made a big improvement. But that's the main thing, nobody speaks English, and when you're fast in the beginning, like in testing, we didn't have any problems, but when you need to improve the car, work on it, and give precise feedback, then it gets more complicated!

Also, with Honda, it's a bit difficult to fight against Toyota, though we're trying to focus on ourselves, and it's getting better. In the last two races I was the first Honda driver, finishing seventh and then top five in Fuji. Of course, it's not as high as I'd like, but it takes time to get back to the top. In pre-season testing we were really good in cold conditions and we seem to struggle in warmer conditions, but we're working, finding little tunings each weekend.

That's the negatives – the positives are it's a great series.

You have experienced drivers, even though we don't really talk about it in Europe, there are drivers who have spent 10 years in Super Formula, and they know exactly how to race with the car, all the tracks in Japan, the feeling etcetera, so for me it's good there as you really need to push hard and be at the front, and the level is good.

It's also a really good series in terms of tyres; the tyres have a really small window, if you want to extract everything from the tyres, so you have to do the out-lap properly, the warm-up lap properly, to get everything ready for qualifying. It's quite tough with this car, but it's pretty good as it teaches you to be accurate with all the procedures inside the car.

In the races you can push flat out all the time and you have really low degradation. Of course, as a driver I prefer to do that rather than some tyre management, but it's quite intense, as for one hour and 20 minutes you have to take 100 per cent out of the car at each corner, so I think it's good preparation as well, and it's great to be able to drive quick cars! Overall it's good preparation for the future.

Last weekend I also raced in Formula E in New York, in place of Sébastien Buemi. It's been a really good experience as I didn't know what to expect. I heard all of the comments about the series and the car, but I wanted to have my own opinion about it, and I went there to discover, to get my own feedback.

I must say I really enjoyed it, even though it was probably the worst preparation I had for a race as I only flew out to New York on the Friday, after simulator work with Red Bull!

I got there, and the weekend went pretty well, in terms of performance. It's a completely different car, so you can't compare it to Formula 1, Formula 2, or Super Formula and I didn't want to compare it.

It was actually pretty good fun to drive, especially at New York and at a street track, it always makes it more exciting to drive as there's no space for mistakes. Also in terms of management. You need to be smart in the way you push, the way you fight, not only about driving but a lot of management, you have to be always thinking about how you use your energy to make sure you've got to the end with a quick pace. I found it interesting and the race pace was good, I finished in the points in both races, P4 in front of Lucas di Grassi on Sunday, which was good for the team, in front of my team-mate, Nicolas Prost, in both races, and it was good to be back with DAMS, who I was with in GP2 in 2015 and a team I really like, even though it was only two days: a short weekend together!

With Red Bull, since the beginning of the year I have some days in the simulator, sometimes between races to do development work for the team, testing tyres, new upgrades, or aero parts on the car, just developing it how I can.

Usually Buemi is supposed to be there during the race weekends, but when there is a clash, WEC or FE, I need to replace him there, in this case we do some development and testing on the Thursday, then on the Friday we drive after each free practice to test set-ups in the car, so for me it's about giving feedback on the car, ensuring the team takes the right direction, going one way or the other!

As Buemi is going to Montréal for Formula E, next week I'll be in the simulator at Red Bull for Budapest and then I'll be heading out there on Saturday to join the race team for the remainder of the weekend!

Until then!

Pierre

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