If Pierre Gasly intends on delivering an early Christmas present for AlphaTauri — fifth place in the Formula One constructors’ standings — then what's better than another fine finish at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix?
Gasly was a driver with something to prove when the race was last held at the Interlagos track in 2019. Red Bull Racing demoted the Frenchman back to their B team (then known as Toro Rosso) midway through the season and Brazil was where Gasly had his breakout performance. Gasly avoided an incident between Lewis Hamilton and his Red Bull Racing successor, Alex Albon, to slide into P2 then held off the Mercedes driver to the finish line by just 0.062 seconds to earn his first career podium finish.
The 25-year-old Gasly is currently ninth in the drivers’ championship with 86 points and on pace for a career-best total. Gasly has been a one-man wrecking crew for AlphaTauri, which hasn't finished higher than sixth through all its various incarnations, keeping pace with Alpine as both teams are tied for fifth in the constructors' with 106 points.
Given Gasly’s past performance at Interlagos and the heated battle with Alpine, he’s our Driver of Interest this week.
Date of Birth: Feb. 7, 1996 (25 years old)
Hometown: Rouen, France
Years in Formula One: 5
Car Number: 10
Career Wins: 1
2021 Standings: 9th, 86 points
AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, of France, drives his car during the qualifying run of the Formula One Mexico Grand Prix auto race at the Hermanos Rodriguez racetrack in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Fernando Llano/AP)
If AlphaTauri is going to top Alpine in the standings, Gasly is going to have to go it alone.
Teammate Yuki Tsunoda has struggled in his rookie season with just 20 points and only ahead of the backmarkers in the drivers' standings.
Gasly accounts for 81.1 per cent of the team’s points, compared to rival Alpine where it’s more evenly split between Fernando Alonso (56.6 per cent) and friend-turned-foe Esteban Ocon (43.4 per cent).
That margin would be greater in Gasly's favour if not for the three DNFs he's sustained this season. Although not entirely his fault, Gasly left potential points on the table as he had qualified within the top 10 in all three races (Styrian, Italian and U.S. Grand Prix).
Speaking of qualifying, Gasly's success can be traced there where he's shown incredible speed in his Honda-powered machine grabbing a top-six spot on the starting grid 13 times through 18 races.
His P4 finish last weekend in Mexico City once again proved he can bring it on race day against the top teams as he fended off both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz of Ferrari. Gasly also earned the fastest lap point during the Hungarian Grand Prix in August en route to finishing fifth.
Expecting a podium result from someone who only has a trio of top-three finishes in his career might seem lofty — especially since he already hit his annual quota earlier this year in Baku — but Gasly's career has been seemingly defined by potential.
Third place AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly of France celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix at the Baku Formula One city circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, Sunday, June 6, 2021. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool via AP)
Red Bull clipped his wings
You can't talk about Gasly without mentioning the great demotion of 2019. Gasly lasted just 12 races with Red Bull Racing before they made the switch with Albon.
Did Red Bull give up on Gasly too soon or was he called up to the big club too early in the first place? When you have a teammate like Max Verstappen and you’re going to be constantly compared to someone who's looking like a generational talent, Gasly was almost doomed to fail.
Gasly needed to rebuild confidence and mature into the driver he is today.
His best chance at success in the sport though lies right where he is waiting for another opening with the big club considering how others who left Red Bull have fared (see: Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo).
That will not happen next year, however, as Red Bull has already extended Verstappen and Sergio Perez for 2022 with Gasly and Tsunoda signed for another run with AlphaTauri. Of course, there could always be a mid-season replacement, but how often does something like that happen? Oh, wait.
Five fast facts
• His, hers and theirs: Gasly is the baby of the family and has two half brothers, Nicolas Caron and Cyril Caron, from his mother's previous marriage and another two half brothers, Phillipe Gasly and Paul Gasly, from his father's previous marriage.
• Although from Rouen, France, Gasly left home at age 13 to join a school program in Le Mans where he became good friends with the late Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in a Formula 2 crash on Aug. 31, 2019. Gasly now lives in Milan, Italy.
• Pun intended, Gasly is a good "fit" for AlphaTauri, named after Red Bull's fashion brand. He told GQ U.K.: "I love fashion. Obviously, I’m an ambassador for AlphaTauri and it’s been great working on that project and increasing my knowledge about the whole process, the design, the materials, even into the production side of it. I get a lot of satisfaction in seeing all the creativity of each brand and designer.
"It’s a world I enjoy. And obviously in Milan fashion is so big that you always have events there that you can go and see. I like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Balenciaga ... every week is different for me and I like to match what I wear with my mood. The time I’m at the track is obviously different from when I’m at home, but fashion is very important to me in my personal life."
• Gasly became the first F1 driver to drop his own line of NFTs last month highlighting his 2020 Italian GP victory and podium finishes at Baku and Brazil.
• Gasly enjoys watching Netflix, so how does he feel about his portrayal in Drive to Survive? “I watch a lot of Netflix, so seeing yourself in a Netflix series is kind of unusual,” Gasly told NBC Sports. “But as a whole, I really liked the fact that Netflix focused on the personalities of the drivers, which is something that doesn’t obviously come out when you watch the races on Sunday. ... I like the fact they focused on the personality and who we are as persons and humans, rather than just the driver itself. I think it was great."