Pierre Gasly felt a possible fifth place finish could have been possible in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix but for the early safety car intervention, which all but ruined their strategy after starting on the hard compound.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda driver said it had been important to race well at Spa-Francorchamps to best honour his friend Anthoine Hubert, who passed away at the same venue twelve months ago, and in the early laps he made a few good overtakes, including one stunning move on BWT Racing Point Formula One Team’s Sergio Pérez heading into Eau Rouge.
“It was an important day for me because I wanted to do well for Anthoine after what happened last year,” said Gasly. “We decided to go for a different strategy, starting on the hard compound.
“It was better than expected and I was able to attack and overtake quite a few cars. The move on Pérez was especially intense but very enjoyable!”
Ultimately, the timing of the safety car, needed following the crashes of Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell, ruined their strategy.
Gasly opted not to follow the field into the pits for their mandatory pit stop, deciding instead to run long, and although he dropped almost to the back of the field when he did pit, he was able to use his fresh tyres to climb back up to eighth at the chequered flag.
The Frenchman ended only seven seconds behind fifth placed Esteban Ocon, which he felt proved that he had the pace to finish inside the top five as they lost around twenty seconds compared to their rivals for not pitting behind the safety car.
“We knew a safety car between the start of the race and lap 20 would be a killer for us, but unfortunately, that’s what happened and gave the other cars a free pitstop,” said Gasly. “We didn’t give up because we had a great car, good pace, so I pushed as hard as I could.
“After our pitstop, we exited almost last and we had to fight back through the field, but I enjoyed it and to recover to P8 was just great! I reckon the safety car cost us a potential P5 today because I think we lost around 20 seconds there and finished seven seconds behind Ocon in P5.
“We had a big job ahead of us today, so to recover the way we did was great and I think we can be very happy with that. It’s nice to be voted Driver of the Day, so thanks to all the people who voted for me and I’ll try to put this kind of performance again and again in the coming weeks.”
“I was on the wrong side of the strategy call” – Daniil Kvyat
Team-mate Daniil Kvyat missed out on points in eleventh, and he believed the decision to start on the medium compound as opposed to the hard compound ultimately cost him dearly.
Kvyat, who had out-qualified Gasly for the first time in 2020 on Saturday, dropped outside of the points due to his strategy call, as his team-mate climbed through the order on a different strategy.
“I think that we didn’t choose the right strategy today, so we will have to review our race,” said Kvyat. “We couldn’t have known it before the race, so we split the cars and unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the strategy call.
“It would have been better to start on the harder compound, and I felt I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time today, because at a track like Spa, it’s very hard to keep cars behind on old tyres.”