Pierre Gasly’s ‘pure joy’ at ‘amazing’ Red Bull promotion

02:40 - Source: CNN
Pierre Gasly: 'Pure joy' at Red Bull promotion
CNN  — 

Ten months ago, Pierre Gasly was just grateful for a place on the Formula One starting grid.

Having replaced Daniil Kvyat in one of the Toro Rosso cars, the French youngster finished 15th on his debut at the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Now installed as Red Bull’s lead driver for 2019, his rise has been meteoric – in his own words, everything has happened “so fast.”

After accruing 28 points so far this season, including a fourth-place finish in Bahrain, the 22-year-old received a call last month that caught even him by surprise.

Gasly answered the phone in his underpants. At the other end was Red Bull’s Helmut Marko, offering him the opportunity to join the team as a driver next season.

“So much emotion,” Gasly told CNN Sport of that conversation. “Just to realize that all the hard work over the last few years and sacrifices that I’ve made to make this happen in Formula One is rewarded.

“It’s been just pure joy to realize part of my dream to become a Formula One driver and then 10 months later to get the news that I will race for Red Bull Racing in 2019.

“It’s been an amazing last few months and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

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02:52 - Source: CNN
Pierre Gasly simulator training for F1 debut.

Growing expectations

Earning a promotion to Red Bull’s senior team, naturally, comes with an increase in expectations.

Gasly admits that, under “normal conditions”, the best position he could hope for going into every Grand Prix with Toro Rosso was seventh.

Now that he’s part of the so-called big three – alongside Mercedes and Ferrari – Gasly will have his sights set on podium finishes.

“You are fighting right up there … more race responsibilities, more pressure, a harder challenge,” he says. “But I’m a really competitive guy and that’s what I love so I’m really excited about it.

“Red Bull is a top team and the hard work is going to start, it’s going to be even tougher, but I’m just super excited about the challenge and that’s where I always wanted to be and to get that opportunity is amazing.”

Gasly insists news of his departure won’t distract him from the remaining eight races this season, though he admits it would be “easy to switch” to Red Bull this weekend if he needed too.

But he is eager to repay Toro Rosso for giving him an opportunity in Formula One and is determined to rack up as many points as possible for the team before the end of the season.

‘Strong friendship’

Despite not turning 23 until February, Gasly will go into the 2019 season as Red Bull’s top dog.

His new teammate will be Max Verstappen, who turns 21 at the end of September. The Dutch prodigy became the youngest driver in F1 history when he made his debut as a 17-year-old at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

It’s a risk for Red Bull but a calculated one, knowing they have two of the most exciting youngsters in the sport tied down.

The pair are close friends and have known each other since their days racing together in karting.

Some of the tightest relationships in F1 have become tense and strained with the pressure of becoming teammates – most recently with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes – but Gasly doesn’t envisage that for Red Bull next season.

“I think as long as you know how to separate what happens on track and off track, that’s possible,” Gasly says. “(Max is) one of the most talented guys on the grid at the moment, and one of the fastest.

“It’s always great to have a fast teammate and he’s got a bit more experience than me at Red Bull so I’ll try to take all the positives he has at the beginning of the season and try to learn as fast as possible.

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“But I’ll give him a hard time and I think we’re going to have a good fight, we have a lot of respect for each other, a strong friendship, which is important for the team, but I’m really excited to drive alongside him.”