Fuel for Thought is Sports Illustrated’s exclusive Q&A with Formula One’s biggest names.
Pierre Gasly mirrors the definition of resilient, the word “sacrifice” etched throughout his roller-coaster journey to and through Formula One.
He came home from school one day to find people in his house, taking paintings off the walls and writing down notes of his family’s belongings. The strangers told him his parents hadn’t “paid taxes in a while,” and when the then-11-year-old called his mother, she said they were “‘in a bit of a difficult situation right now, but things will get better … We promise.’”
Despite his family and team “kind of trying to put pieces together for me to race” financially, Gasly still flourished on the track. By 13, he decided to leave Rouen to pursue racing, eventually catching the eye of Red Bull talent scouts. He soon signed with their Junior Programme, joining the pipeline after he completed his studies.
Gasly eventually got the call (or well, text) to join Toro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri), and his natural speed and work ethic made the rising driver stand out. He eventually was called up to Red Bull and competed alongside Max Verstappen, but after just 12 races, the Frenchman was demoted back to the sister team in 2019.
Less than three weeks later, Gasly’s longtime friend, Anthoine Hubert, died in a multi-car accident during the Formula Two race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The next day, Gasly finished ninth on the same track in his first race back with Toro Rosso.
Now, three years later, Gasly is staring down his 100th Grand Prix, which will be at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. He tallied his first F1 podium, first F1 win and more than 200 points since the demotion.
The 2022 campaign may not appear successful based on the statistics, but there’s been an upward trajectory for the Frenchman and AlphaTauri, as seen by the tight midfield battle. He sits in 13th place, just three points behind Daniel Ricciardo and tied at 16 points with Sebastian Vettel. With new regulations and new cars, it’s been a learning process for all parties involved.
As F1 prepares for the first Grand Prix of its tripleheader, Sports Illustrated spoke with the Frenchman about his summer break travels, the significance of Spa and his coffee habits.
The following questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Sports Illustrated: How was your summer break?
Pierre Gasly: It was great. Absolutely loved it. Some good time off with my friends, managed to catch up with them. Went to Greece for a week. And then after, for quite a while, I had a holiday with all my family, all my brothers—some uncle duties with all my nieces and nephews. Actually the family is growing quite fast because now I got six of them and two new are on their way for next year. It was quite busy, but at the same time, like very relaxing and really good quality time with them. So I really loved it.
SI: Basically, a different kind of recharge even though you’re still traveling around the globe.
PG: Yeah. Traveling, for me, is part of my life so I will say [you] just get used to it now. But no, it was great just to have some downtime and just not much to think about. I obviously was still training but just have a much easier pace and not really worry about too many things and just enjoying the time with my family. Quite active during the holidays, doing all sorts of activities—golf, wakeboard always in the sea. I must say kids can kind of keep you busy as well, and it does feel like a workout sometimes.
SI: Looking ahead to this weekend, how are you feeling? I know it’s a difficult weekend, knowing the significance of Spa, but it’s also your 100th Grand Prix.
PG: 100th Grand Prix definitely sounds nice even though for me, I’m planning to stay in this sport for the next 10 years. That’s how I see my life and my career over the next 10 years. [It], maybe, doesn’t make me feel anything as strong as people could imagine because I’m just looking at the future and still have in mind all the stuff I want to achieve in this sport. Just that it happens in Spa, which is obviously a very particular place for me because it’s one of my favorite tracks on the calendar. I love the racetrack and got my first race win here and always had very successful races here. And at the same time, I also had the worst experience, the worst feeling and emotions, I’ve had in my life. So every time I come here, it’s kind of mixed between all these experiences and feelings I received here, and it will always remain like this because it’s not something you can really forget. Even if I’m healing, it’s kind of a long process, and it’s always something in the back of your mind and in your heart. It’s always going to feel very particular.
SI: Looking at racing itself, there’s been some upgrades and changes to this track. What should we be watching for? What part of the track do you think is the most challenging part and why?
PG: I will say all the runoff areas have kind of changed—not all of them but quite a few—and it’s just making the track slightly more challenging in a way that if you do a mistake, now you got gravels all around the track, which means that you will pay a bigger price. But in the first place, you should not go off track. This doesn’t change compared to usual, and the race, the layout itself on the racetrack, remains the same. So it’s just almost we’re using the curbs … So I don’t expect it to be so different in terms of driving but we may see more safety cars due to these gravel beds where cars can basically get stuck in them.
SI: You’ve told me before that you’re a coffee drinker. What is your go-to coffee order?
PG: Well today, I had one cappuccino already, one macchiato and one espresso. It just depends on how much time I’ve got. If I’ve got more than five minutes available, I go for a cappuccino. If we are more like on a three minutes coffee, I go for macchiato, and if I just basically have a couple of seconds, I just ask for an espresso and I’ll down it in one. I will say my go-to is more like cappuccino in the morning.
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