Think of Australia and a few things immediately spring to mind – kangaroos, barbecues, maybe Kylie Minogue… and surfing.
Perhaps rivalled only by ‘the footy’ in the affections of true blue Aussies, surfing is akin to a national sport down under, so what better way to kick off the 2019 season – and Pierre Gasly’s first race weekend with the team – than to get totally tubular at world-famous Torquay Beach with a surfing lesson for our newest recruit in the company of one of the world’s great surfers, Mick Fanning.
With the boys setting off on a heli from Melbourne early this morning and straight into an Aston Martin once landed, Pierre took to the wheel and pulled up to the beach to be greeted by Mick.
Once there, as Max kicked back, Pierre met three-time ASP World Surfing champion and long-time Red Bull athlete Fanning, who talked him through wave-riding techniques and gave the French driver some tips on staying upright on the board.
At the end of the Austral summer and with a cool breeze blowing under grey skies, it wasn’t exactly board shorts and t-shirt weather, so once kitted out with wet suits, Pierre and Mick took to the waves.
And while he wasn’t quite Point Break standard, Pierre put on a good show, managing to keep his balance for the bulk of his induction, and afterwards praised Mick on his tuition.
“This was really awesome. I never imagined that I would surf with Mick Fanning next to me giving me tips. It was pretty incredible and a beautiful experience,” he said.
“I’ve been on a board before but I would never say I’ve surfed because it was so terrible! I surfed twice and I managed to stand up only five or six times. It’s pretty difficult. But today I managed to stand up most of the time. Mick gave me some extra balance. I’d give myself a three out of 10. I managed to stand up for most of it, so that’s good enough!”
And the Frenchman was so enamoured of the experience that he’s already planning his next surf trip.
“Definitely I’ll take the board back home and the suit as well! That would be cool. We have a couple of good spots in France and if I have time in the summer it would be great to do this again.”
Fresh out of the sea, Mick gave some feedback on the day's lesson.
"Some people are freaked out by the ocean and just the unknown. But Pierre loved it and he’s surfed a couple of times before. Once we got him up he was frothing and he didn’t want to come in.
"With athletes they pick up things pretty easy and once I gave him a couple of key pointers here and there, he just picked it up so quick and I just sent him on his way."
Both drivers now head into the intensity of the opening race weekend of the season, and for Pierre it’s been a long time coming.
“I’m super excited for the weekend. It’s going to be my first race with the Team, so it’s going to be a pretty special moment,” he said. “In the winter you’re just missing adrenaline and missing racing. You’re testing and driving the simulator but there’s nothing like racing, so I really missed it. I’m ready, feeling great and ready to start the season.”
Max too is itching to get behind the wheel of the RB15 at Albert Park.
“I’m feeling good. I always enjoy coming back to Australia. It’s a good vibe because nobody knows where they are yet in terms of the pace of the car, so I’m just looking forward to getting started.”
Mick also has his sights set on the weekend too, where he'll be popping down to the paddock.
"It’s amazing to come down and watch the F1 this weekend. For a sporting event it’s one of the better ones. It’s just crazy to see what goes into it from the car, to the pits, to the driver’s preparation. I love coming down just to check it all out."