Pierre Gasly will have his second outing of his second spell with Scuderia Toro Rosso this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, but last weekend’s tragic events at Spa-Francorchamps are still fresh in the Frenchman’s mind, with the passing of close friend Anthoine Hubert still hard to take.
Gasly and Hubert grew up together and forged their own career’s in motorsport, and whereas Gasly would make it all the way to Formula 1, Hubert’s own route there was tragically ended last weekend in a horror crash in FIA Formula 2 that cost him his life.
Although Hubert’s passing is still fresh in the memory, Gasly knows it is important for his focus to mainly be on his own racing activities, which continue this weekend at Monza.
“Just a few days on from that terrible Saturday in Spa, I am still thinking a lot about Anthoine, but we are here to race, and I will be trying my best as usual this weekend,” said Gasly.
Gasly admits he likes the Monza circuit, with its speed in a modern-day Formula 1 car giving him an adrenalin rush. He enjoyed a strong performance in Qualifying in 2018, making it into the top ten of the grid but he was unable to convert that into points on race day, finishing down in fourteenth.
“I like this circuit, it’s one of the truly historic ones on the calendar,” revealed the Frenchman. “It is one of the fastest tracks of the year and in a modern Formula 1 car, it generates plenty of excitement and an adrenalin rush.
“It’s a legendary track, which often produces great races with some good fights. In the past, I’ve always been very competitive here and last year in Qualifying I made it into the top ten with Toro Rosso, which was a bit unexpected, although the race turned out to be a bit more complicated.”
Gasly goes into this weekend knowing he will be starting at the back of the field as he will be taking a new Honda power unit for this weekend, so Qualifying simulations will not be as important as they normally would be on a regular race weekend. He hopes the upgraded engine provides him with the tools to move up the order on race day and fight for a top ten finish.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend,” said Gasly. “My race might be quite exciting, as I will have grid penalties because of taking on the latest specification Honda PU, so I will be trying to fight my way up the order from the back of the grid.
“That means Qualifying will be less important for me and, with my engineers, we can focus fully on the race itself, trying to make up places and using the power of the new engine.”
Gasly says the ‘simple’ looking Monza is far from easy, with the skinny wings and long straights making for heavy breaking and tricky cornering, particularly with chicanes coming at the end of long spells on the throttle.
He feels Monza will offer opportunities to slipstream other cars and overtake, something he will need to do a lot of if he is to recover from his back of the grid start after the grid penalties are applied.
“If you look at a map of the track, it looks very simple with so few corners, but the difficulty comes from the fact we run with very small wings and therefore very low downforce to have as much top speed as possible,” said the Frenchman. “That means you approach the corners at around 350 to 360 km/h coming down the straights and have to brake very hard.
“There are two slow chicanes and then the most exhilarating parts are the Ascaris, the Lesmos and the Parabolica, because with so little downforce the cars slide sideways at the rear. It’s a real challenge which is fantastic for us drivers.
“There are lots of opportunities to slipstream other cars which is why it’s great for duels with other drivers. On top of that, it’s Toro Rosso’s home race, which is a plus and for me too, because I spend more and more time in Italy now that I’m moving to live here.”