Following several years in the Red Bull stable, Pierre Gasly will part ways with the organisation at the end of the 2022 season and set up station at Alpine.
Gasly’s departure from the Red Bull system has felt inevitable for some time now, a mood that was accelerated when the team passed up on him and signed Sergio Perez to partner Max Verstappen for the 2021 campaign.
Perez was then extended to the end of the 2024 season, leaving it all but certain that Gasly would seek to escape the system sooner rather than later, given there was no clear path back to the top team in the near future.
The Frenchman received his ‘big break’ at Red Bull in 2019 but it was a dream that lasted just half a season, as a series of unwelcome results saw him demoted back to Toro Rosso, where he had spent his first full season the year prior.
Although his rookie campaign was impressive, Gasly’s launch into the Red Bull team came too early in his career. The run of poor results had the potential to derail his F1 stint – but following his demotion, Gasly went from strength to strength, evolving into a team leader.
The 2020 Italian Grand Prix was a breakthrough moment for him, as he withstood the pressure to take his first F1 win. It signalled, after his Red Bull woes, that he wasn’t fazed by the uncomfortable period he had endured, and it reset somewhat the opinions that had been fabricated during that time.
But despite his consistently imposing performances, the door to a Red Bull return remained shut. Alpine has long been suggested as a destination for him, given his French connections, and it seemed to be the most logical place to continue his F1 journey, free from the Red Bull umbrella.
Four and a half seasons in a ‘sister’ team to a front-running squad isn’t healthy, and it is time that Gasly looked for something new. Just what he will achieve at Alpine remains to be seen, as his last adventure into a new environment was far from exemplary. But Gasly now has a more established command of Formula 1, and is a driver with a higher level of maturity and experience.
There are also question marks over how he will get along with new team-mate Esteban Ocon, amid reports that the two are not fond of each other. Ocon, in the past, has had rifts with his garage partner and tension will be something that Alpine is keen to avoid following its saga of losing Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri in one sweep, which has left its reputation in a desolate place.
Between Gasly and Ocon, there is no clear “number one driver” and the performance differentials separating the duo could be quite small. In turn, this may create issues for Alpine if the drivers are joined at the hip weekend after weekend, vying to get the upper hand on each other.
At this stage, it’s all hypotheticals, and Alpine are right to pursue Gasly, who is its best realistic option for 2023. For Gasly himself, it’s a positive situation, as just a handful of years ago, he risked never having a team show interest in him again.
Alpine’s commitment to Gasly highlights the turnaround from his Red Bull misery, and it is now a chapter he can place behind him as a new team wraps its arms around his shoulders.
But perhaps it’s one that he won’t necessarily be keen to forget – during the difficult days he showed determination and followed through with an admirable period of redemption when he was kicked and at his lowest.
He is now left with a new career chapter to write, as he aims to once again be delivered an opportunity to fight for F1’s top positions.