The year begins on the side of Los Angeles for Pierre Gasly. After spending the end-of-year holidays in Europe, the pilot who has just turned 26 wasted no time in heading to Santa Monica, where one of the performance centers of Red Bull – the other is in Austria, in Salzburg, where the weather is less favorable in January. “At this time of year, I clearly prefer to be in Los Angeles rather than Austria,” smiles Pierre Gasly during our video call, a rested face and lively gaze, an ultra sober black hoodie on the back. In this space of 270 square meters installed in the North American HQ of the brand, the Frenchman has high-tech equipment (neuro-training system, anti-gravity treadmill, cryotherapy chamber, etc.) to gauge his level. in current form, carry out ultra-personalized pre-season physical preparation and optimize recovery.
“Once the season starts, it’s like a TGV launched at 300 km/h and it doesn’t stop, so physical preparation is essential,” he told me, briefly outlining the program for his next six weeks. . In summary, one to two sessions each day of cardio work and weight training, or about 3 hours daily.
If this period is not the most exhilarating moment of the season for a Formula 1 driver, Pierre Gasly approaches it with confidence and determination as he can measure his athletic development from year to year. “During my first seasons with Pyry (Salmela, his physical trainer, editor’s note.), we have laid the foundations on which I can rely today. I did not train at all with the same volume or the same intensity when I started in F1, he assures. We compared my physical performance at the moment to that of February of last year, after the preparation. They are obviously less good but not that much so I already know that I will be in better shape than ever in a few weeks.”
Pierre Gasly had the best season of his career in 2021, finishing ninth in the drivers’ classification, behind the duos of the four teams which dominated the F1 championship (Mercedes, Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and McLaren) and which AlphaTauri can hardly imagine competing. He finished on the podium in Baku, Azerbaijan, spent the entire Monaco Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton in the rearview mirror, started on the front row in the Doha GP, Qatar, and above all was more consistent. His regularity, more precisely his propensity to start or finish in sixth place has even earned him the nickname “6asly” on social networks.
“In an F1 season, there are 2 races that go exactly as planned and during the other 20 we have to react to unforeseen events, such as the tires degrading too quickly, a bad start or unexpected fights”, he says. judging to have made considerable progress in his ability to adapt. Compared to football, basketball or tennis which are sports where athletes spend 7 days a week practicing on the field and training before their match, F1 is completely different. During the season, we spend every weekend from one race to another without having time to improve. So the experience gained over the years counts a lot.”
“Every year I change details and try to improve as an athlete and as a driver,” he adds. So what are these adjustments that Pierre Gasly makes and that allow him to optimize his daily life and perform more and more remarkable? When I ask him the question, two elements stand out among others: nutrition and sleep. For example, if the native of Rouen could already count on a very strict dietary program to be on top during the races, the F1 driver will now work with a personal chef who will prepare all his meals for him outside the circuits. Nothing should be left to chance to optimize his level of energy in competition and the quality of his recovery between Grands Prix.
Yuki Tsunoda’s teammate goes on to talk about his Oura Ring that he’s been using for two years. This is a connected ring allowing detailed monitoring of sleep. “I clearly see the difference in terms of cognitive abilities and concentration when I don’t have an 8 or 8:30 night during race weekends or simulator sessions. My reaction time deteriorates when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep, he says. So it’s extremely valuable to have this data that really allows you to become aware of the quality of sleep and recovery. It’s one of the best tools I use.”
Beyond the physical aspect of preparation for this new Formula 1 season, Pierre Gasly will above all – like the other drivers in the championship – have to adapt quickly to the new regulations which notably involve a complete redesign of the single-seaters and their aerodynamics. or even the use of 18-inch tires (against only 13 inches previously). The heavier cars will cause a noticeable drop in speed and will inevitably change the sensations of driving, however explains the French driver who wants to be reassuring: “It will be different but we are not changing category!”
Whoever has worn the number 10 on his helmet since his arrival in F1 will have the opportunity to carry out his first tests with his new single-seater in mid-February on the Barcelona circuit, then in early March on the side of Bahrain. “I haven’t driven since Abu Dhabi (the GP in question took place on November 20, editor’s note.) and there will be a lot to discover in a very short time. In total, I will only spend three days in the new car before the resumption of competition, underlines Pierre Gasly. If we said to Roger Federer, ‘you have three days on clay before playing Roland-Garros’, I’m not sure he would agree!”
While waiting for the end of winter, Pierre Gasly must take his troubles patiently and be content with simulator sessions to begin to familiarize himself with his future single-seater. Failing to carry out tests on the circuit, the driver who raced for the Red Bull team during the 2019 season works in collaboration with AlphaTauri engineers, follows the progress made on the prototype, tries to understand the new limitations of his car and shares his feelings over the weeks. “Over the past few years at AlphaTauri, my technical team has managed to create an osmosis that has enabled us to perform very well, he says with delight. We’ve achieved a level of efficiency that’s occasionally above the actual performance of the car. That’s how we got a win at Monza, a podium in Brazil and another in Azerbaijan.”
Still “in the dark” vis-à-vis the new regulations and his future single-seater, Pierre Gasly confides to us that no specific objective has yet been set by his team for the 2022 season. It is too early for the moment. “I’m a very optimistic person and I hope this season will be the opportunity to do even better than last year. I want to continue the progress we have seen since I came back to Toro Rosso and AlphaTauri and continue to pull the team up. Created in 2006, the scuderia AlphaTauri (ex-Toro Rosso) had the best season in its history in Formula 1 in 2021.
Pierre Gasly’s good results have earned him praise from F1 observers in recent months… and rumors about his future. Nico Rosberg was surprised, for example, that Red Bull did not recall its driver for the 2022 season while some media sent him to Mercedes to replace Lewis Hamilton, in the event of the seven-time world champion’s early retirement. When we talk about his possible desires elsewhere, the pilot linked to the Red Bull group until the end of the 2023 financial year smiles. “Joker”, he said before reaffirming his intention to return to the team led by Christian Horner. “As long as I’m under a Red Bull contract, racing for them will always be my primary goal because it’s clearly my goal to win races and fight for a title,” he said. Red Bull just won the world championship with Max (Verstappen) and they have one of the best cars, if not the best car on the board, so it’s definitely a goal to go back there. But, of course, in conditions that allow me to perform.”
These conditions, sums up the Frenchman, are largely due to Red Bull’s desire to integrate him into a project that allows him to shine. “I am a competitor and I wake up every morning with the aim of improving myself to win Grand Prix, but Formula 1 is above all a team sport, he insists. We must create a collective strength and a common desire to give 110%. That’s what they do very well with Max. They are capable of it. On both sides, we learned from the 2019 experience which had not been positive. Things have evolved a lot since then and I’m sure it could work out.” And if this is not the case, Pierre Gasly will undoubtedly find another first-class team ready to put him in the best conditions to pass a new level and fight for the very first places in the classification from 2023.