Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Pierre Gasly had a much more competitive race in Azerbaijan, but was forced to retire in the closing stages due to a technical problem.
The French driver hasn’t had a particularly good start to his Red Bull Racing career, but the race on Sunday in Azerbaijan suggested that Gasly is finally starting to feel comfortable behind the wheel of the RB15.
Gasly failed to stop for a mandatory FIA weighbridge check during FP2 on Friday, triggering a penalty for him that meant he would be forced to start from the pitlane. Then disqualified from Saturday’s qualifying session due to exceeding the fuel flow limits, he was given another ‘start from the pitlane penalty’ before a further change to his car ahead of the race triggered yet another!
As the grid formed up for Sunday’s race, Gasly thus went out into the pitlane and began his race on the Medium tyre, a similar strategy to the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc starting from P8. As the race unfolded, Gasly avoided trouble and also handed over position to teammate Max Verstappen when required as their strategies converged. Gasly’s pace was such that, in the closing stages, he was running P6 and would have been a viable challenger to Leclerc’s eventual P5 finish.
It all came to naught though, as he was forced to retire on Lap 34. Slowing to a crawl, he pulled his RB15 into an escape area and climbed out. He had suffered a driveshaft failure.
“This weekend has been a lot better than the first three races.” reflected Gasly when he got back to the pits.
“I felt better with the car and I’ve been able to drive more the way I want to. In qualifying I managed to show some good performance with a good lap in Q1. In the race, starting from the pit lane, we knew it would be tricky to fight at the front but we had a car fast enough to come back and score good points. Things in the race went pretty well and we got to P6 but unfortunately we didn’t make it to the end as I had a driveshaft failure. Overall, I’m adapting myself and we’re going in the right direction. I think the car’s a bit more predictable and I’ve changed my approach in the car too. I still need to work on some things but each weekend it’s improving and together with the Team, we’re going in the right direction.”
His team boss Christian Horner acknowledged Gasly’s upturn in performance, and praised him for his strong showing: “Whilst it’s been frustrating for him results wise, this has actually been his strongest race weekend of the year to date. He drove a very strong race today and when you compare his pace to Charles Leclerc, who started the race on the same tyre, for fifty percent of his first stint he was faster than Charles. Unfortunately, a driveshaft issue caused his retirement fifteen laps before what would have been an easy sixth place.”
“Pierre can take an awful lot of positives out of the weekend for a very strong performance and it’s positive that we’ve taken a step closer to Mercedes and Ferrari.”