Any chance of real career progression for Gasly thus relies on him attracting the attention of another top team.
It’s certainly possible for him to move if an opportunity opens up, and logic suggests that he would be of interest to Alpine, should current incumbent Esteban Ocon underperform alongside Fernando Alonso in 2021.
To land a job elsewhere he’ll have to maintain the momentum that he built up in 2020, and keep his name in the headlines. That might not be so easy, as the likes of Aston Martin, McLaren and Alpine all have strong packages.
However, the indications are that Honda has made a step, while AlphaTauri’s seventh place in the 2020 Constructors’ Championship ensures that under the new rules the Italian outfit now has more wind tunnel time and CFD usage than those who finished ahead, which will be a useful boost to development. In addition, this season the newly-instigated budget cap will start to rein in the better-funded teams.
In other words AlphaTauri is not a bad place to be at the moment, irrespective of its secondary status within the Red Bull family.
Gasly should be armed with a car that is capable of qualifying in the top 10, and which will allow him to hustle for points every weekend. He should thus have a decent chance to further bolster his reputation in the paddock.
“The car did seem pretty good,” he says of 2020. “Where we are in the midfield, all the teams made a lot of progress and the gaps are very small. We finished seventh in the championship, but there were times when we were fighting to be the fourth or fifth best car in the field.
“We were fighting some very good teams that have big budgets and a lot of experience. Last year, we had a car that allowed us to fight with them, and I got through to Q3 quite often.
“This year I hope we can make a step up, that will allow us to be nearer the front of the midfield.”
The big challenge for Gasly in 2021 is the arrival of his rookie team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.
On the one hand the imbalance of experience makes him the de facto team leader, and ensures that he has the chance to lead the way on car development and set-up, something that was not the case alongside Kvyat last year.
On the other hand he is the clear target for Tsunoda – who has the potential to make an immediate impact, helped by an extensive winter test programme in a 2018 chassis.
The Japanese driver carries huge expectations from Red Bull and Honda, and both have great faith in him and want him to become a future superstar.
The management clearly sees Gasly’s role in 2021 not just as a benchmark for Tsunoda, but as a teacher from whom he can learn. Tsunoda is known to be adept at soaking up information from engineers and others around him, and his eyes will now be on Gasly.
“I reckon Pierre is one of the strongest drivers in F1 nowadays,” says team principal Tost.
“Pierre’s good technical understanding allows him to get the best out of the car. Pierre has been with the team for some time now, so he is familiar with all procedures and with our way of working, he will be a good leader, helping Yuki in his development.
“He knows how to win a race – as he proved last year in Monza – and if we provide him with a competitive car, I expect him to be very successful this season.”