Remember when... Pierre Gasly raced in Formula E
In the run-up to the start of pre-season testing Motorsport Week brings you left-field reflections and stories of teams, drivers and reserves that will be part of the Formula 1 paddock in 2019.
Several ex-Formula 1 drivers have made the switch to Formula E since the inception of the electric-based championship in 2014. Indeed, all four of its champions, all of whom are still on the Formula E grid, raced in Formula 1, while they have been joined for 2018/19 by Stoffel Vandoorne, Felipe Massa and Pascal Wehrlein. Current title leader Jerome d'Ambrosio is also an ex-Formula 1 driver, having spent 2011 with Virgin prior to a one-off appearance for Lotus in 2012 in place of the suspended Romain Grosjean. Of the Formula 1 grid a handful have sampled Formula E machinery – Alexander Albon and Antonio Giovinazzi – but only one has actually raced in Formula E. Step forwards Pierre Gasly.
A few months before his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2017 Gasly made his Formula E bow with Renault e.dams in the New York double-header.
Renault e.dams tried to extricate defending champion Sebastien Buemi from his WEC commitments with Toyota, due to a calendar clash with the Nurburgring round, but a last-gasp attempt failed and it called up Gasly as a replacement for the series' first visit to the Big Apple.
Gasly arrived last-minute, having been booked for Red Bull simulator duties on the Friday, but impressed by taking seventh on his debut on Saturday and fourth in Sunday’s race – dragging his damaged car across the line after hitting the wall at the final corner in a failed-but-bold pursuit of third.
“It was actually pretty good fun to drive, especially at New York and at street track, it always makes it more exciting to drive as there’s no space for mistakes,” Gasly told this writer in 2017. “I found it interesting and the race pace was good, I finished in the points in both races, P4 in front of Lucas di Grassi on Sunday, which was good for the team, in front of my team-mate, Nicolas Prost, in both races. It was good to be back with DAMS, who I was with in 2015 and a team I really like, even though it was only two days: a short weekend together!”
It was an impressive showing, considering his inexperience in the various nuances of the series, and the points he gained assisted Renault e.dams in the eventual defence of its Teams' title, as it edged out rival Audi. He remains the only driver to have raced in Formula E before Formula 1, rather than vice versa.