F1: Why Perez’s new deal marks a dead-end for Gasly
There won’t be many people who are unhappy that Sergio Perez will be staying on at Red Bull until at least the end of 2024. The popular Mexican has upped his game this year and currently lies only a handful of points behind Championship Leader and team-mate Max Verstappen.
However, there’s one driver on the grid that will have a sour taste in his mouth, and that’s Pierre Gasly.
The Frenchman has been clinging onto the chance of getting a second opportunity to drive for Red Bull in the hope of proving his worth and erasing the mistakes he made the first time round in 2019.
With Perez’s deserved contract extension and Verstappen’s commitment until 2028, there won’t be an open seat at Red Bull until 2025. The chances of Gasly returning to the team have evaporated and now the Frenchman is debating his next move.
Gasly has been part of the Red Bull family since 2014 when he signed onto their Academy. Having won the GP2 Championship in 2016, Gasly was given his chance to drive for Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior team, in the latter half of the 2017 Season.
Toro Rosso, now known as AlphaTauri, was created back in 2006 as a proving ground for young drivers to show their worth in the hope of getting the chance to race for Red Bull.
Having impressed in the five races he contested in late 2017, Gasly was offered a full-time drive for the 2018 Season where he finished a best of fourth with a flawless drive in Bahrain. With Daniel Ricciardo’s shock departure from Red Bull, it was Gasly who was given the call to move to the senior team for the 2019 Season.
Up against a maturing Verstappen, Gasly’s spell at Red Bull was brief. The Frenchman struggled to get the maximum out of the car and therefore lagged behind his Dutch teammate. Numerous crashes and incidents followed and Gasly’s confidence was deteriorating race by race.
At the halfway point in the season, the decision was made by Red Bull management to effectively “demote” Gasly back to Toro Rosso in a swap with Alexander Albon.
With his confidence at rock bottom, Gasly reset and bounced back in spectacular fashion – wringing the neck of the STR14. As a result, strong races followed but the biggest reward was his first podium appearance as he finished second in the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.
His next two seasons were simply sublime and the Frenchman was arguably in contention for driver of the season in both 2020 and 2021. The highlight obviously has to be his first race victory where Gasly kept his cool during a dramatic 2020 Italian GP.
Following such disappointment, his confidence at an all-time low and the humiliation of being punted down the order to a less-competitive team, Gasly has rebounded and his market stock has risen – potentially higher than before he moved to Red Bull.
With a return to Red Bull ruled out and AlphaTauri still being in amongst the midfield fight, pundits and fans have now stated that the time is right for Gasly to move on. It also might be in AlphaTauri’s best interests that the Frenchman departs as there is a whole host of potential candidates, who are currently in F2, who are chomping at the bit to get into F1.
Gasly’s options are limited as Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes have their driver line-ups signed and sealed ahead of next season. His best bet could be at McLaren.
Despite having a contract for next season, Australian Daniel Ricciardo has struggled to consistently match British superstar Lando Norris. It’s been revealed that there are clauses in Ricciardo’s McLaren contract which could lead to his departure. Gasly seems to be the top contender for that seat if certain clauses are invoked.
Elsewhere on the grid, there’s little to choose from as the other teams are less competitive than AlphaTauri at the moment so it would seem like a step backwards for Gasly. There potentially could be a spot at Aston Martin alongside Lance Stroll but this depends on whether Four-Time World Champion Sebastian Vettel extends his stay.
There also could be a spot at Williams with Canadian Nicholas Latifi who struggled to match former team-mate George Russell and still continues to lag behind Albon. Moving to the Grove based team, who are currently last in the championship, would be like starting his F1 career all over again for Gasly but with the team now financially secure, the future’s looking brighter.
For Gasly, the Frenchman might just have to bide his time for just one more season if the cards don’t fall his way. The only thing he can do right now is by scoring points and driving to the best of his ability to show his worth. There’s one thing that’s certain, he’ll have to find a different path to the top instead of what he hoped for.