10 things Pierre Gasly's saying about his F1 debut
As Pierre Gasly prepares to drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the 21-year-old gives us some exclusive insights into his preparations and how he found out he'd got his seat.
1. He had an inkling it would happen before it happened
"I already knew I'd be in Malaysia as third driver, my flights were already booked. I knew something was going on but didn't know for sure what to expect. When my flight to Malaysia touched down from Tokyo on Monday morning after my Super Formula race there on the Sunday, I got my first message from the team manager Graham Watson that I'd definitely be driving this weekend. I was so excited I could barely sleep on Monday night! On Tuesday morning, I had 100 percent confirmation from Dr Helmut Marko [Red Bull Racing consultant and head of the Red Bull Junior Team], Franz Tost [Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal] and Graham Watson.
2. He called his parents to thank them
"I immediately called my parents to let them know the news and thank them for everything they've done for me. They really have given everything and there were times when that made life difficult. They did it so I could reach my goals and fulfil my dreams, and now that's paid off."
3. He's picked a tricky grand prix to make his debut
"The conditions certainly won't be easy. It's always difficult to predict the weather in Malaysia. We've already had three thunderstorms today – one huge storm, then dry, a second storm and then another! But I've known similar conditions and I'll just have to make the best of it
4. He understands the risks involved in F1
"Single-seat racing in general is pretty dangerous, but in F1 it's heightened by the much greater speeds involved. Sepang doesn't have the longest straights, but you can still get up to 330 or 340kph [around 210mph]. So at that speed things get pretty serious. Of course, I'm risking my life, but I'm where I've always wanted to be, racing against the best at the top level of the sport."
5. He's on a steep learning curve, but it's worth it
"As far as driving goes, it's all happening really fast and that puts greater pressure on a driver. But after all you're at the highest level, at the top of the pyramid. The other 19 drivers on the grid with me are the best there is and the standard is getting higher and higher. You're talking about Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel – drivers with vast experience. It's going to be extremely tough."
6. His obsession with winning is why he's here at 21
"I've made it this far for a number of reasons. Certainly it's a combination of talent and hard work. I became Formula Two World Champion scrapping with some other extremely talented drivers out there, but I think the difference was all the extra work I put in trying to improve the car and looking at every small detail. I'm a perfectionist and I focus above all else on improving my performance. You could say I'm obsessed with winning and being the best, and I think that finally paying off."
7. He sacrificed a lot of his youth to become this successful
"I left home at 13 to combine my studies with my sport, meaning I could take part in karting championships in France, Europe and throughout the world. This definitely required a level of dedication where I didn't have the same way of life as my friends and other kids of my age. When you're a young top-level competitor there are certain strictures. You don't go clubbing at weekends, you eat the right things, you train every day and you're serious about it. I didn't see it as a sacrifice, though, just what I wanted to do. And it got me where I always wanted to be."
8. He wouldn't be here without the Red Bull Junior programme
"Red Bull helped enormously with the physical training aspect, I've been part of a programme with their Finnish coaches for the past four years. I've also done a huge amount of training on the F1 simulator to prepare and have been doing testing days since 2015. It's because of this and all of my results in the lower categories that I'm here, and now they've offered me this brilliant opportunity to start my F1 career."
9. He's a patient man, and patience pays off
"Last year, after winning the F2 World Championship, I felt ready for F1. But I was told to be patient, and so I signed up to Super Formula in Japan, where I'm now in the title fight with one race of the season left. I had to see it in context: I'm only 21 and that's still young, and I won't have to wait long. In the end I only had to wait nine month
10. He's taking things a session at a time
"I can't say if I'll be in F1 next year, we've not discussed it. Coming in at the end of a season like this is certainly a great opportunity to prepare, potentially, for next year. I'm going to take it session by session, learning as quickly as possible from the team alongside Carlos Sainz, who's in great form at the moment. It's a great opportunity, but I have to concentrate just on this weekend. After that, we'll see."