Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly says that his promotion to the top flight shows that young drivers without serious financial backing are able to get into Formula 1, and that ‘it is possible to do it without money.
Formula 1 has gained a reputation for taking on so-called ‘pay drivers‘; when a driver pays their way into a seat, or brings with them a large sponsor to ensure they get a seat within a team. These drivers are often chosen over racers with better results or more experience, making it harder for talented yet poorer drivers to enter the sport.
Gasly told Motorsport.com that his promotion to Toro Rosso proves that young people are able to do it without managers and money, and that other young drivers can take solace from his example.
“I didn’t have any manager, so I was in a way alone, fighting against all the big sharks in this paddock and trying to make my place,” said Gasly. “And I’m really happy I managed to do it without any manager and without paying for my seat.
“Because now it’s pretty tough to make it, it is also good for the young drivers [to see] it is still possible, you can make it. It is not all about money. It is possible to do it without.”
Twenty-one-year-old Gasly has had a slightly longer route to the sport than some. Starting in French F4, he worked his way up through to the GP2 Series (now FIA Formula 2) and, on his third year in the series, became champion in 2016.
With champions unable to remain in GP2, he moved over to the Japanese Super Formula, following in the footsteps of other Formula 1 drivers Ralf Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa. It was part-way through his first season in the series that he got the call to join the Toro Rosso team in Daniil Kvyat‘s seat, and he made his F1 debut in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Whilst he’s undoubtedly happy about having made it to the pinnacle of open-seater racing, he does question why it’s taken so long – particularly as he’s the second-youngest GP2 champion.
“If you look at what I’ve done, without being arrogant, but I won the 2.0 [Eurocup], I finished second in 3.5,” said Gasly. “Some people after 3.5, finishing second went straight to F1 – thinking about like Daniel [Ricciardo], Jules [Bianchi].
“Then I went to GP2, I won GP2, I was second-youngest after Nico [Rosberg], I looked at the other winners: Nico Hulkenberg is in F1, Lewis Hamilton is in F1, Nico is in F1, Stoffel [Vandoorne] is in F1. Why I, one of the youngest who won it, why should I not go to F1?
“Then I go to Super Formula, and I’m like ‘yeah, OK, it’s another step, if I do well again there, it will be four different series and if I’m competitive in these all four, at some point it has to come!’
“So I just kept pushing, for me it was really always in my mind.”
Gasly says he’s learned a lot from the length of time it took him to secure a seat, and that it’s made him better than he was before.
“In a way it made me much stronger mentally than I was in the past,” he admitted. “For me, there are no bad experiences. You always learn something from it, if it’s good or bad, there are always things to take with you.
“It’s been a long trip, but with a lot of good experiences. And useful for me.“