Pierre Gasly: Finishing on F1 podium “the best day of my life”

by Tom Cairns
Pierre Gasly - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda in the 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix - Autódromo José Carlos Pace - Podium

Toro Rosso Honda had one of their best days in their fourteen-year Formula 1 history at the Brazilian Grand Prix, as Pierre Gasly brought home his first ever podium finish, with an unexpected second place finish behind former team-mate and race winner Max Verstappen.

After a difficult period with senior team Red Bull Racing earlier this year, where the Frenchman could manage no higher than fourth at Silverstone before being demoted back to Toro Rosso during the summer break, he was still able to show his fighting spirit and consistency to perform well at the top level.

Gasly started the race in a brilliant sixth on the grid and remained in contention for points during the whole event. That was before the Safety Car periods due to incidents involving those ahead of him, which bunched up the field and was running third on the final restart. More was to come when following Lewis Hamilton‘s pass on him into Turn One, a collision between the World Champion and Gasly’s Red Bull replacement Alexander Albon, allowed the twenty-three year old into second with over a lap to go.

Despite a drag race to the line with Hamilton, the Toro Rosso pilot crossed the finish line in the runner-up spot to round off an emotional day for both him and those concerned within the Italian team. Gasly said that finishing on the podium was his dream.

“This is just incredible! My first podium in Formula 1 and with Toro Rosso,” Gasly added.

“I kept working every race on myself, I always thought that if I could be in the right place at the right time something will come, and today it happened, it’s just amazing – I have so many emotions! I’ve always said the team is my Italian family, I love their spirit and passion, they always push like hell and today was the best present I could give back to thank them for their massive constant effort.

“You dream a lot about being in F1, you dream about your first podium, but then when it happens all of the emotions coming through me are just unpredictable, it’s just the best day of my life right now. I want to send a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me since the start of my career and have gotten me to where I am today.”

That astonishing result makes Gasly the favourite to finish sixth in the Drivers’ Championship, as he is tied on points with Carlos Sainz Jr. but his second place in Brazil means that he is ahead on count back. Alexander Albon is still in the fight, albeit eleven points behind going into the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Pierre Gasly - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda in the 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix - Autódromo José Carlos Pace - Paddock
Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images

Daniil Kvyat‘s drive proved to be more of a struggle on his way to salvage a point in tenth place. The Russian began in sixteenth, which is where he was until the Safety Car periods. However, he was able to pick up the pieces and cautiously keep out of trouble to bring home a championship point that could prove crucial to the team in a couple of weeks time.

“Starting from P16 I knew it wasn’t going to be easy today,” Kvyat said.

“There not much to say, it was a difficult race until my safety car restart on the last lap, as I was able to overtake three cars, getting at least one point. It’s the second podium for Toro Rosso this year and I think we are the only midfield team who achieved that, so we can be really pleased with our effort.

“We scored many points today, taking back the sixth position in the Championship. Today’s result is a great achievement for the team.”

Kvyat drops to fourteenth in the Drivers’ Championship, two points behind nearest rival Nico Hülkenberg.

Daniil Kvyat - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda - 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix in the Autódromo José Carlos Pace - Race
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The good hall of points in Brazil has elevated Toro Rosso back ahead of SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team into sixth in the Constructors’ Championship. The gap between the two teams is now eighteen points but the Faenza-based squad still have Renault F1 Team in their sights, as the margin to the French outfit is reduced to eight points going into final round.

Chief Engineer of Vehicle Performance Claudio Balestri is well aware of the team’s targets going into Abu Dhabi after a breathtaking display at Interlagos.

“What a Race! This is a great day for Toro Rosso and Honda,” Balestri shared.

“It’s thanks to a fantastic team effort here at the track, in our Operations Rooms in Faenza, Bicester and in Sakura that we could achieve such an amazing result together – the second step of the podium!

“Today we didn’t make any mistakes; we had a good start, good pace during the whole race, we managed our tyres when the track temperatures were very high, especially at the start. Pierre drove impeccably and was able to keep Lewis (Hamilton) behind in an incredible last lap, finishing his race P2. Amazing!
 
“As for Dany, his race was a bit more difficult, having to fight with all the other cars around, but he was able to finish the race in P10, bringing another point to the team. Now we will go to Abu Dhabi on a high and ready to fight again. Fifth position in the Constructors’ Championship is not unreachable.”

Pierre Gasly - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda in the 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix - Autódromo José Carlos Pace - Podium
Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Team Principal Franz Tost could not hide his excitement, especially when the Safety Car periods set up a sensational finale to the race.

“It was a fantastic race today, especially for the spectators as the safety car periods really made it a show, very exciting,” Tost added.

“Toro Rosso, Honda and Pierre Gasly together showed a fantastic performance. Pierre was competitive straight away, from Friday onwards, and he showed great pace again yesterday in Qualifying, where he finished the session in P7. He started from P6 on the grid (due to LEC’s penalty) and he had a good start to the race, with a very clever first stint in managing his Option tyres and avoided overheating.

“On his first pit stop, he changed to the Prime tyre and he had even better pace than expected, and then on the last set of Options he already had a five-second advantage over the others. He reacted well to Kimi Raikkonen’s challenge because he was able to pick up the pace and go a couple of tenths faster to hold his position – this was very impressive as he was able to do this without overdriving and overheating the tyres.

“It was a great drive from him, so he really deserves his second-place finish. Ferrari and the others have certainly helped, but Pierre anyhow had the pace to finish in P5 or P6 without these collisions, and today he drove his best race at Toro Rosso.

“Daniil’s race was much more difficult, but he was able to score a point. It was tricky for him on the Prime tyres because it took a long time to get them into the ideal working range, and it was the same for a few of our competitors as well. On Options it was much better, and I think that without the safety car he could have had a chance to finish further ahead.

“Having said this, we are still happy with the point he scored as it also helped reclaiming the sixth position in the Constructors’ Championship. I also want to congratulate Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Max, for their amazing victory. We are looking forward to Abu Dhabi now, where we still have a chance to fight for an even better position. Let’s hope we can find a good setup and put everything together for the last race of this season.”

Max Verstappen - Aston Martin Red Bull Racing & Pierre Gasly - Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda in the 2019 Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix - Autódromo José Carlos Pace - Podium
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Honda Chief Engineer for Toro Rosso Masamitsu Motohashi was “lost for words”, as he would not have thought the team would have picked up their second podium of 2019.

“At the very end of the race, we managed to get second place with Pierre after a very close fight with Hamilton,” Motohashi shared.

“Really, I am lost for words. This is our second podium of the year with Toro Rosso, which is a wonderful achievement and it puts them in a very strong position to finish at least sixth in the Championship.

“At the start of the weekend, we had some PU issues, but thanks to the hard work of everyone in the team and our Honda crew, we recovered well and this is a great reward for all the hard work. We have worked with Pierre for the past two seasons now and so this is a great result in what was in some ways a difficult year for him.

“Our congratulations go to him and our friends at Toro Rosso and let’s not forget that Daniil also managed to finish in the points. This is a great boost for the team, but we must now aim to do even better next year.”

Honda F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe relishes on Honda’s first one-two under its power since the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix.

“This is our first win in Brazil since Ayrton Senna’s epic victory in 1991,” Tanabe quoted.

“Today’s win was down to an aggressive and intelligent race from Max and a well-executed strategy from the team. To take a third win this season is a great result for everyone at Honda and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.

“Congratulations also to Pierre Gasly on a fantastic drive in which he got the most out of the car to record his first F1 podium and also to Toro Rosso for their second top three finish of the year. Pierre performed well throughout the race especially in that last lap fight with Hamilton, which I’m sure will be a real boost for him. I am happy for him in what has been a difficult year.

“The car-PU package worked very well with both our teams and that has to be a good sign for the final race of the season and when we look ahead to next year. We would like to dedicate this win to our founder, Soichiro Honda, whose birthday it would have been today. Finally, congratulations to McLaren, with whom we scored that last win in 1991, for finishing on the podium today.”

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