Gasly: F1 will stand for an equal and more just society

Written By: Digvijay Singh Deo WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Jul 01, 2020, 07.37 PM(IST)

Gasly: F1 will stand for an equal and more just society Photograph:( Others )

Story highlights

Alpha Touri driver Piere Gasly in an exclusive interview with WION's Sports Editor Digvijay Singh Deo, opened up about the Austria Grand Prix, risks surrounding COVID-19, Lewis Hamilton and F1's stance against racism, expectations from the season and much more.

The world has been stuck in the pit garage over the last few months to borrow a racing term but now the covers are coming off. Sport has resumed in some parts of the world and the truly global sport of Formula One is gearing up for a much delayed season opener. 

Alpha Touri driver Piere Gasly in an exclusive interview with WION's Sports Editor Digvijay Singh Deo, opened up about the Austria Grand Prix, risks surrounding COVID-19, Lewis Hamilton and F1's stance against racism, expectations from the season and much more.

ALSO READ: Five talking points ahead of F1 start in Austria

Digvijay Singh Deo: Pierre, we are in July and must be strange preparing for a season opener so late.

Pierre Gasly: Yes, I must say it does feel very strange. The past few months have been very unusual, not just for us Formula One drivers, but for everyone in the world. Initially, we were ready to start the season in Australia in March, but since then there have been a string of postponements because of the coronavirus pandemic. However now, much to the pleasure of everyone involved, we are starting the campaign in Austria. I think the formula one management has done a fantastic job in organising the season and I cannot wait to get back on the track.

DSD: Is the competitor in you relieved that you are having an F1 season, rewind a few months and even a truncated season looked rather difficult.

Pierre Gasly: I always believed that we would start the season at some point, although I didn't know when. I was unsure whether that time would come in June, July or even later. I'm glad that the season is finally getting underway. There are strict regulations in place with no spectators for the first few races and a 'bio-bubble' has been created to ensure that the risk of the infection spreading is minimal. We are very fortunate because many other sports are struggling to restart their competitions. Hopefully, we will be able to hold a complete formula one season with 15 to 18 races.

DSD: It's not been easy has it since those farcical scenes in Melbourne where confusion prevailed till the early hours before the race was called off. No one has been immune be it drivers mechanics, stewards. Everyone has been equally at risk. But the risk exists even today, doesn’t it? We are seeing it in golf on the PGA Tour.

Pierre Gasly: I believe that there is no point in the near future when the risk level will be at 'zero'. We just need to do everything we can to create the safest possible environment for all of us. I think every individual associated with formula one has to act in a disciplined manner and ensure that the bio-bubble is maintained. I just had a COVID test two days ago which returned negative, I will have another one before I can enter the paddock and then once more before the race on Sunday. So our health is being monitored on a regular basis. Even within my team, I will not come in contact with all of the members, I will only be in close contact with two or three of them.

Pierre-Gasly

DSD: This is also a lot about self-discipline and trust between team members. As a driver, you will have to be in extremely close contact with a lot of people in the Alpha Tauri team. And everyone has to ensure that they don’t step out of the bubble.

Pierre Gasly: We have to trust each other. The formula one management has been very clear in their instructions, so we know exactly what we are allowed to do and what we can't do. The only way we can start the season now in this situation is if all of us collectively follow the safety regulations. I hope everything functions in a smooth manner, but all we can really do at an individual level is be responsible and cautious and hope that everyone else does the same.

DSD: If I could probe just a bit more then the paddock will look very different, also no podium celebrations at the end of the race.

Pierre Gasly: it's certainly going to feel different. On average, around 250,000 to 300,000 thousand people come to watch an F1 race, it creates such a brilliant atmosphere that cannot be replicated. The whole energy around the track changes because of the fans, it really gives you goosebumps. I'm definitely going to miss the fans, but at the moment I don't think anyone knows when we will be able to hold races with spectators. We just have to make the best out of the current situation we find ourselves in.

DSD: I was scrolling through your twitter feed and came across a video of you getting the car out of the garage for a test last month. Just explain the thrill of revving those engines up again.

Pierre Gasly: That's the best I have felt in a while. The last time I was in the car was during testing in Barcelona at the end of February. So I was sitting in the car after four months. I did practice on the simulator during the lockdown period, but it is nothing like the real thing. It felt really amazing to be out on the track and we also got to complete a couple of laps at the Imola track, which was really special. I just can't wait for the weekend and the upcoming season.

DSD: You also have used this shutdown to good effect on a personal level haven't you. You actually locked yourself down in Dubai for a couple of months and really worked on your fitness levels.

Pierre Gasly: I really wanted to make good use of the time during the lockdown and I decided on to work on my physical fitness. The lockdown period was the perfect opportunity to do so and even though I was in good shape ahead of the Australian Grand Prix in March, now I feel I am in the best shape of my life. I feel I am ready for what will be a very intense season because we've never had so many races in such a short span of time. So I'm glad that I am well equipped to deal with that challenge.

Pierre-Gasly

DSD: A lot of time has elapsed but in pure racing terms just the second race since your career-best performance at the Brazilian GP in November last year. Your first podium and now the quest is to make it a habit.

Pierre Gasly: The ultimate goal for me is to fight for the formula one world championship. I'm at Alpha Tauri, which is a 'mid-field' team, we are fighting for points regularly but the performance at the Brazilian Grand Prix was exceptional. Unfortunately, we cannot do that every weekend because of the difference in the quality of the cars. We obviously want to do our best and the key is to keep the momentum going from last year. Hopefully the car this year is also going to be as competitive and we will fight for points again. It's still a bit early to have any expectations from the season because we have only had one test in Barcelona, but I hope that we can reproduce some of the form we showed last season.

DSD: First we had the pandemic and now we are seeing the world swept by the black lives matter protests. Formula one too has announced a slew of measures. How do you react to that?

Pierre Gasly: I think that the sport has taken a stand and this is a step in the right direction. It is good that the sport has taken these actions to increase diversity and it will lead to a more diverse formula one in the future.

DSD: Lewis Hamilton, in fact, has been spearheading the move for diversity in motorsport. How important is it for leaders in various sports to raise their voices to make an impact?

Pierre Gasly: I think that Lewis Hamilton is a real leader and he speaks for a lot of people. I don't want to speak on his behalf, but I think he faced some discrimination while growing up and it is great to see him standing up for the values he believes in. We need elite sportspersons like him to come forward because their voice is powerful and carries weight.

Lewis-Hamilton

DSD: McLaren driver Lando Norris has said that the drivers have discussed taking a knee as well together. This would be massive as F1 is a multicultural sport in terms of its reach.

Pierre Gasly: at the moment we are discussing a gesture that all drivers could make to express our support to the movement. It is important that we as a sport stand for a more equal and just society.

DSD: Talking about Mercedes they remain the team to beat but then this is home turf for the Red Bull as well. With the season now shortened can teams expect to end their dominance?

Pierre Gasly: I don't really like to comment on the state of things before the season begins. But there is no doubt that Mercedes have been the dominant force in formula one in recent years. The coronavirus break might make the season a little bit unpredictable, but I still feel Mercedes will be the team to beat. I believe lewis hamilton has a very good chance of winning his 7th world championship. I think it's going to be a very intriguing season and it is only after a couple of races that we will have a better understanding of how things will pan out.

DSD: Also with so much still unknown as the season begins, will this unpredictability be a huge factor and add drama to the spectacle in your opinion...

Pierre Gasly: People need some entertainment at the moment in their lives. As a big fan of football and basketball, I myself have missed watching these sports live on television and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. There will certainly be a lot of attention on this formula one season and hopefully, we will be able to put up a good show for all the fans. There is still some uncertainty regarding the second half of the season, so we have to monitor things closely and then assess the situation.

Pierre-Gasly

DSD: the other thing that has happened in this shutdown period is a merry-go-round kicked off by Sebastian Vettel's decision to leave Ferrari and a lot more could still happen. There is talk of Fernando Alonso returning as well so many drivers are also racing for their futures.

Pierre Gasly: It's definitely going to be exciting to see what happens ahead of the next season in 2021. There a couple of empty seats and there has been a lot of speculation on who will take those places. Fernando Alonso is an absolute legend of the sport. With Sebastian Vettel, no one is really sure where he'll end up, so it's definitely going to be interesting to see what happens.

DSD: Hamilton and Vettel have been the senior statesmen in the sport but do you get a feeling that a change of guard is round the corner. Young drivers like yourself are now knocking on the doorsteps of a generational shift.

Pierre Gasly: Yes, there has been an increase in the number of young drivers coming up and taking the big seats, so there might be a change of guard soon. But Lewis is a 6-time world champion, Sebastian is a 4-time world champion, so they should be able to continue for as long as they want. I have raced with most of the young F1 drivers in lower level kart racing as well, so it is nice to see that we have developed together.

DSD: You have driven alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull and he is someone who has spent a few seasons in the sport and has been tipped as a future world champion. What does he bring to a team?

Pierre Gasly: I believe Formula One is a sport where experience makes a really big difference. Now with a bit of experience under his belt, he will have a good chance to fight for the world championship. He definitely has the ability as a driver and he's also backed by a fast car and a top team, so he should go all out for that title.

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