Pierre Gasly's story is one for the ages. He started in Formula Junior like many other drivers and made his way through the GP championships, the Japanese Super Formula Racing Tournament and finally Formula One in the year 2017. He showed exceptional skill and was a definite bet for any team to sign him up for Formula One. Gasly started with the Red Bull junior racing team, Toro Rosso, and by 2018, he was ready to take on the best in the midfield..
Looking at his incredible performance, he was promoted to the Red Bull senior team. At that time, he was racing alongside their champion driver Max Verstappen. Each Formula One team has two drivers; given Verstappen’s longer time with the team, Gasly had big shoes to fill. When on a Formula One team, your biggest competitor is your teammate because both of you have the same car and therefore on a level playing field. Everyone started comparing Gasly with Verstappen.
It was 2019 that proved to be Gasly's make or break year because he was now a part of the Red Bull team and had proven to everyone that he had in him what it took to stay in F-1. But the Red Bull car in F1, the RB-15, was not an easy car to drive. It was very complicated and Gasly’s teammate, Max Verstappen – having been part of the team for over three years – was much more used to the car and in sync with it. However, Gasly kept struggling with the grip of the complicated car and unfortunately, spun out after a few races without completing them. This was the time when Red Bull was competing with teams like Ferrari and Mercedes at the top and so could not afford a DNF (Did Not Finish). When a driver does not finish the race, there are no points awarded to the team.
A tough call had to be taken and the bosses at Red Bull decided to demote Gasly and sent him back to Toro Rosso. This happened mid-season, and the media never let him forget it. In the past, when drivers had been demoted from big teams to smaller teams, a comeback has been almost impossible. So everyone just assumed that this was the end of Gasly’s F1 career. Maybe he would race for a year or two and then just fade out. Almost at the same time, Gasly lost his best friend Anthoine Hubert during a Formula 2 race, on the very day he was participating in the qualifying round for the Belgium Grand Prix.
Nobody would have blamed him if he had decided not to race that particular day, but Gasly showed a lot of resilience and raced even after everything that happened that weekend. And as much as everybody wanted him to take a win, he finished ninth. But something changed in Gasly after that race, and he had an entire new outlook. He was much more determined and went on to take the podium in second place later that year. Later, in 2020, when Toro Rosso rebadged itself as Alpha Tauri, the team was significantly weaker than the top three (Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren).
Despite all that, Gasly shocked the entire world when he grabbed first place in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix in Monza; this was almost next to impossible as he was driving a significantly slower car.
This was one of the best comeback stories in the history of Formula One. He started doing exceptionally well in qualifiers and also did well during the race days. He became so good that Red Bull could no longer ignore him. Gasly is now back to being a contender for the 2023 Red Bull seat. In times of exceptional doubt, he showed amazing calm and maturity.
What changed in him?
Nothing much, he just believed in himself and everything started falling in place.
Swami Chinmayanada puts it beautifully, 'Lift yourself by yourself'.
Gasly just lifted himself during his toughest times and saw to it that he did not slip down again. He carefully maintained and kept improving. Gasly may or may not become the best F1 driver ever, but his comeback will always be remembered as one of the greatest ever.