As the midseason break in F1 approaches and the rumour mill starts to churn about which drivers will be getting seats in 2018, perhaps no name is more talked about as a 2018 debutant than Pierre Gasly.
Currently competing in Formula E and Super Formula, the reigning GP2 champion has been part of the Red Bull Junior Team since 2014, and is currently serving as their F1 reserve driver, with many expecting him to the make the jump to Toro Rosso next season.
RealSport spoke exclusively with Gasly ahead of this weekend's Montreal ePrix.
RealSport: Who or what was the main influence behind your desire to drive?
Pierre Gasly: My family has been involved in motorsport as my grandfather used to drive go-karts before I was even born. My father and two of four brothers did karting as well. So pretty much since I was two, I was on the tracks with my parents to support my brothers and so I grew up in this environment. Very quickly then I wanted to try and I pushed my parents a lot to let me have a go. The first time I jumped in a go-kart I was six and I loved it straight away.
RS: When did you start seeing motorsport as a possible career for yourself?
PG: When I was a kid I was watching a lot of Formula 1 and Michael Schumacher was winning everything, I said to my parents that I wanted to be like him, a world champion in Formula 1. I asked them what I needed to do to become a F1 world champion and they answered that I had to first work on my school and then they would look at what they could do. It took two and a half years for my parents to buy my first go-kart and I had to push them really hard for it, and I was in karting from a young age because I wanted to be a driver in the future.
RS: In any category in your career so far, who has your toughest rival been?
PG: If I have to pick one, I will say Oliver Rowland in Formula Renault 2.0 when I won the championship. It was a really big battle until the last race of the year. After that I also had some fights with him in Formula Renault 2.5., and then of course last year in GP2, so I’ll say he's the one I have fought the most.
Eyes to the future
RS: Last year you got caught in a media swirl after some comments on Toro Rosso’s driver situation. Even though you didn't mean what the press claimed you had said, did you come away any wiser about the way the F1 media handles rumours?
PG: Yeah, of course I learned from that situation, because for me there was nothing wrong in what I said. But it is true that some other people, you know, they kind of try to change the words you say and they want to make you look bad. I think sometimes Raikkonen’s way of answering questions with a simple yes or no avoids these kinds of problems and it is sometimes better. But of course I have learned from these kinds of things, and I think on specific topics it’s sometimes better not to say too much. But people can also make big stories out of nothing and sometimes it can be dangerous. It wasn’t a really nice experience.
RS: When the talks of the break-up between Carlos Sainz Jr. and RB/Toro Rosso began, how did you take the news? Were you excited about maybe getting a promotion?
PG: You know, since last year we’ve tried to find a Formula 1 seat for me with Red Bull. The focus has been on finding a seat for me in F1. Hopefully it will come sooner rather than later. I know at the moment there are some talks, but I mean after last year when they confirmed Daniil for certain reasons they told me "ok, you’ll have to wait until 2018". But if my opportunity can come earlier, that would be amazing. I know I’m ready for it and I’m pushing to make it up and Red Bull aims to find the best solution for everyone.
RS: If Red Bull doesn’t offer you a seat at Toro Rosso for 2018, would you and could you even consider joining other Formula 1 teams with seats open?
PG: At least at the moment we haven’t spoken about this situation. Of course I’m contracted with Red Bull so they decide what I’m going to do, but they know the target is to be in Formula 1. Hopefully there will be some answers soon, but now the primary target is to be in F1 with Red Bull because they got me into this position. So at the moment we haven’t considered anything but of course in the end, the target is to get to Formula 1. I think we need to wait a few weeks to see how things go and after we’ll see.
RS: What have you learned so far from racing in Super Formula?
PG: Actually I’ve learned a lot. It has been a good experience so far because it is a really different world to Europe. Firstly, working with Japanese people is different, a whole new experience, and the culture is different. Also only a few people can speak English, so you have to learn to communicate with them. The cars are very competitive and they compare well to this year’s Formula 1 cars, because they have a huge downforce package on the car so the corner speeds are really high. So it goes in a similar way to how an F1 car does. So for me, this is good preparation to drive a really quick car. Also the tracks are new to me, I didn’t know the tracks until this year so I always come to a new track and have to learn to be quick on it. Overall, a lot of new things and a short time to adapt is always good and it’ll be some more experience for my future. So for sure it’s going to be useful.
RS: From the current F1 calendar, name three of your favourite tracks or tracks you would love to race on.
PG: First is easy, I will say Spa. Then Hungary, Budapest. And last, even though I’ve never been there, only in the simulator, but I think Singapore is a good track. I think I’ll really like it because it’s really technical, just the kind of track I like.
RS: Which F1 driver (retired or active) do you feel resembles you the most in your opinion? As a driver or off-track persona.
PG: This one is a really difficult one to answer. Honestly, I don’t know. I think for people from outside it’s easy to say because I myself always try to be myself. I always try to do my best so I think it is difficult to answer to this about yourself.
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