Following the news that Pierre Gasly would be joining Max as an Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver in 2019, the Frenchman shares his thoughts on how he found out the news and his aims for the rest of the season.
After five years as part of the Red Bull Junior Programme, the current Scuderia Toro Rosso driver will be making his ultimate step up to the Team from next season.
Following his phone call with Dr Helmut Marko during the summer break, to break the news, we caught up with Pierre to find out exactly what it means to him and how he found out...
First of all Pierre, congratulations, how does it feel to be joining the Team next season?
Pierre: I’m really happy! To find out during the summer break was the best possible time to get the news. I’m just super excited, but I still need to be focused on the last part of the season with Toro Rosso, but I am really excited for next year already.
How did you find out the news?
PG: Dr Marko called me first of all to tell me that Daniel was leaving for Renault and that they would be making their decision on the 2019 driver at a later date. So he told me to just enjoy the summer break and that they weren’t in a rush.
So I just continued to enjoy my holidays, that time I was in Greece. After that holiday I came back to the South of France with my friends last week and he called me back. He said “just to let you know we’ve made our decision and we’d like you to race alongside Max in 2019”.
What was your reaction?
PG: When Helmut started the call with me I was in my underwear... When the call ended I ran around the house shouting to my mates and they all jumped in the pool straight away!
There was so much excitement and I was so happy about it because it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. Of course when I came in to the Red Bull Junior programme that was the target, to drive in Formula 1 for this Team, so I was just so so happy and had so much excitement.
There were a lot of emotions as well and I was just so shocked. I didn’t really know what I was saying to my mates, so I jumped in the pool and celebrated with my mates and family. It was even more special to be there with them as we only really get to spend one week a year together. We try to see each other every year, but of course with the Formula 1 calendar it’s difficult to see them.
So to get the news during that week when I was with them was even better. They’ve supported me every weekend from my karting days and as I was moving up through the series. Celebrating with them, they were just super happy for me as well, so it was a great moment.
How are you feeling now after it's sunk in?
PG: I'm really excited, in a way it means a lot more than a dream to me. It’s a bit more pressure, but I like challenges.
What does it mean to you, to be joining the Team?
PG: If you look at Red Bull since they joined Formula 1 they’ve always fought for championships or victories every season and that’s what I wanted, to join a top team.
I’m a really competitive guy and when I do something it’s always to fight for the best and top positions, so that’s one of the main points to be in a position where I’ll be able to fight for the top step.
You've been a part of the Red Bull Junior programme, how has that helped you progress?
PG: It’s been five years since I joined the Red Bull Junior Team. I joined in 2013 and I’ve been in the factory in Milton Keynes for many years. I’ve worked in the simulator with the engineers and started to build some strong links with everyone.
When I compare to when I first joined the programme, mentally I have improved a lot because you need to have really strong mental strength as there is a lot of pressure. I’ve always had pressure since I was young and I always fought hard every season to make sure I am able to continue the following year. So for sure the programme has given me a lot as a driver to be able to develop myself.
Have you been able to learn from previous drivers during that period?
PG: When I joined the Team as a reserve driver I worked with Daniel, I saw Seb working with the Team, I saw Max, I saw all these drivers and for me at that time I was a young driver, so I tried to take all the positives from everyone and tried to really look at them and the way they were processing and working.
I just tried to take the positives from everyone. So it’s all really helped me grow up as a driver and get more experience, and be as ready as I could be for when the opportunity came.
Do you think working with Honda will help you for next season?
PG: Working with Honda for the past two years certainly helps. When I came to Super Formula we started to build up the relationship with them at that time. Then when I switched to Toro Rosso it was pretty good that Honda started the relationship with the team at the same time as me.
Now next year Honda start with Red Bull, making the switch with me, it’s like I follow them with their next steps so it’s pretty cool.
Knowing how Honda work must benefit you?
PG: Of course I already know the people, so for sure it’s a good experience. I know the way they communicate, the way they work, I know the geography of Japan which is a different culture to what we experience in Europe.
So for sure it’s beneficial and the experience of driving with them this year with their engine, I know their strengths, I know where they can improve, so for sure bringing that experience next year is always useful.
Next season your teammate will be Max, what will it be like driving alongside him?
PG: Being teammates and mates with Max next season is really cool, because we get on really well and we’ve known each other for a really long time.
How long have you known one another?
PG: We used to race against each other in karting in 2010 as a junior, so we’ve already raced together, but not for the same team. We’ve actually had a couple of close battles, sometimes good for me, sometimes not so good, but we really enjoyed that time.
We really respect each other a lot as drivers, but also as friends, so I’m really excited to join him in the team with him. As we have a strong friendship it will be only a positive for the team.
What's your aim for the rest of the 2018 season?
PG: I have got this opportunity thanks to Toro Rosso because they’ve really helped me and given me all my chances since I joined them last year. I just want to give everything I can for them. It’s difficult to predict the potential we will have at the upcoming races, but I think we’ll get a chance to score more points again.
I want to try and make the best out of the potential we have every weekend and hopefully end the season with a triumph and give the team something to celebrate all together and end on a good feeling and emotions at the end of the year.