Eighteen-year-old Pierre Gasly made his GP2 Series debut for the EQ8 Caterham Racing team in Italy, but the Red Bull Racing backed driver suffered a tough baptism of fire at Monza. He finished seventeenth in the Feature race after a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, before crashing out of the Sprint race on the opening lap.
The Frenchman was insistent the Sprint race crash that saw the Frenchman receive a five place grid penalty for the first race in Sochi was not his fault. After Sergio Canamasas ran across the grass and gravel trap at the Ascari chicane on the opening lap, a concertina effect saw a number of cars bunch together, and Gasly clashed with Russian Time’s Artem Markelov that saw both cars eliminated.
“The first few corners were quite good and I made up a couple of places until Ascari where there were many cars who had been in the gravel re-joining the track really slowly,” said Gasly. “The guys directly in front were very slow because of the incidents, so I had to try to avoid and overtake them. I was forced into Markelov, there was nothing I could do, and there were about 10 cars all going for the same 10 metres of track, no room.
“Luckily I am OK, it was a big accident, I have no damage but the car is not the same at all. The guys have a lot of work to do now and I guess I am lucky. It is a shame because we all put a lot into the weekend. I had so much to learn and the team tried very hard to give me what I needed.”
Gasly admitted he had a lot of learning to do at Monza, with his first time driving a GP2 car being the free practice session on Friday. He immediately found he could not use his Formula Renault 3.5 Series experience to help him in his new surroundings.
“It was a really late call to join the team and I had everything to learn,” said Gasly. “You can’t compare anything to World Series, the car is completely different, so are the tyres and the races. I just had to gain experience as quick as possible. I also had to learn to work with a new team and they had to pick up what I needed from the car.
“There isn’t a lot of practice time and the driver who had the car before needed completely different things, he liked a lot of front and that doesn’t work for me so we were really struggling to sort things out all the way through qualifying. There just isn’t the time to do it the way we’d like.”
Gasly’s Feature race did not go to plan, with a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, a punishment that also befell his Caterham Racing team-mate Rio Haryanto. The Red Bull Racing backed driver was disappointed to make the pit lane error as he was running competitive lap times, comparative to eventual race winner Stoffel Vandoorne, but Gasly used the remainder of the race as good experience for the future.
“We knew going into the race that there was still a lot of work, then coming round to the grid I realised that there was a problem with the throttle so that had to be sorted out on the grid, there was a lot going on,” insisted Gasly. “Then the start is a lot different to the World Series car and I didn’t make a good job of it.”
“I was having trouble with the rear locking up and when I came into the pit lane the lock-up caused me to slide into the restricted speed area so I was caught a few K over and that gave me a drive through.”
“That was a shame because out on the primes I was doing the same sort of lap times as Vandoorne (Race 1 winner) and the others. I had to do the drive through and later as the tyres started to degrade I had a lot of oversteer but I certainly learnt a lot in the race, the hour is also something I am not used to and the whole tyre management situation is different.”