Aston Martin Red Bull Racing started the season with two main changes: a new unit power, Honda – the performance has been a huge surprise so far, and a new driver whose adaptation to the RB15 is being tougher than expected, taking points in three out of five races so far. We had the opportunity to sit and talk with Pierre Gasly at the Spanish Grand Prix, where he confessed about his priority this year: feeling comfortable driving the only car on the grid capable of beating Ferrari, and maybe even Mercedes.
Hello Pierre, tell us what’s it like driving for a team like Red Bull after being in a smaller one, Toro Rosso.
I’m really proud to drive for this team. When I first joined the Junior Programme, I knew it was going to be a big step in my career, and for me it’s a dream come true being a driver for Red Bull, a top team in Formula 1, so I’m really happy. Of course, it’s a big change from Toro Rosso: the size of the factory, there are more departments, and you have to deal with way more people. It’s a different environment, a one in which I can focus on more details. It feels so great to have a fast car, indeed.
The RB15 is a fast car, for sure, but how well are you adapting to it?
Winter testing went well in terms of performance, and I was just trying to get the feeling to drive the way I would like, which I couldn’t feel it yet. Also in the first races I couldn’t do what I wanted inside the car, and coming to a new team, new people, new car…. Everything is different, and it takes time to find the right direction, but everything went great in Baku, where I could push the car the way I wanted it, and I hope things get better and better race by race.
Before Baku, there were a few difficult weekends for you. Did you feel frustrated?
No, I wouldn’t say frustrated, but it’s true that in some races things didn’t go our way in terms of performance. And as a driver you always want a clear weekend, with things going smoothly to perform at your best, and it’s always annoying when there’s something stopping you from doing that. But it’s part of motorsport; Baku was hard because of the penalty and then starting from the grid… But these situations only make me hungrier to score points and perform the way I want to.
These situations only make me hungrier to score points and perform the way I want to.
Let’s talk about your team mate, Max. How’s the relationship with him so far?
I would say the relationship is good. I’ve known him for more than ten years: we raced together in karting, and we always kept quite close, and we have spent training camps together in Monaco, we did a lot of activities, and to be fair, everything is going well. Besides, he’s more experienced with the team, so I have good things to take from his experience and it’s good to have him as a benchmark as he is one of the most talented guys on the grid.
Has he given you some advice?
Well… it’s more the way you work with the team, trying to develop it from his feedback, and see the way he behaves with the team. You can see how some things are being done automatically as he’s been working with the same people for more years than I have. But it’s not like I can go and ask him straightforward questions – he won’t give me any tips, but you always have positive things to learn from him.
What’s more important for you right now – beating him or adapting to the car?
My goal is being able to drive the way I want to, to extract the very maximum from the car, taking some direction with the team in terms of setup, what I need, and also to try to make the most of my new engineering team around me, because they are also new within the team.
What, would you say, you have to work on a bit more?
I’ve always been quite aggressive in my driving, and for the car we had at the beginning of the season that was too much, maybe the rear of the car was a bit tricky, and I just have to adapt the way I used to drive before to what the car needs at this moment. I think it’s better now, also for the upgrades, so I would say it’s about working more on what the car needs so the car can become more useful to me as well, and I believe that this would make things better, weekend after weekend.
Are you satisfied with Honda so far?
I’m happy for them. For them, just like for me, it was difficult to come to a new team, but so far they’ve been really impressive in terms of performance and reliability. You just have to see the way they push things to get that kind of performance. And indeed, we should have more performance coming through the season and therefore close the gap with the guys in front.
Then I assume reliability is not a concern for you at this moment, right?
Reliability issues? No, I’m not scared. As a driver, you always want more performance and speed in the straights, but I think it is going well so far, and we know more things are coming our way.