I very rarely write about F1 races anymore. There are many reasons for this, some of which I will go into another time, but today I felt it necessary to write about what we have just experienced because, well it was too damn special not to.
Firstly, what a wonderful day for both Pierre Gasly and the whole sport as a whole. A new race winner, the 109th in F1 to be exact, and such a deserving victor. Genuinely, I don’t think there are many people out there who are upset or disappointed with Gasly taking his maiden win. It’s very well documented what a shite 18 months he has had, and was brought up both by journalists and Gasly himself in the post-race press discussions. From being dropped by one of the top teams in the sport, to losing one of your closest friends both on and off the track, these blows can not be an easy thing to overcome especially at such a young age but Gasly has done so with such grace and strength.
Speaking with Gasly back after he won his GP2 title in 2016, I asked him about how he can maintain a good mental attitude after what was a crazy 12 months for him then. Looking back, his words speak volumes about the kind of mature man he is.
“I am a positive person in life about everything,” Gasly said to katyfairman.com, “of course there is always a bit of negative in most situations but I always try and turn it into something positive. I like to get the best out of it and try to improve myself. For me, it is really important to stay positive.”
His win today has not only proved his talent and ability, something which many doubted when he struggled at Red Bull, but also finally put an end to the dominance showed by the top three teams. In a sport controlled by supremacy with the top three teams, having an underdog finally battle though and come out on top is such a welcomed achievement. Honestly, I think we all assumed it would be Carlos Sainz Jr or maybe even a dramatic win from someone like Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault, but I am chuffed it was Gasly in the AlphaTauri who slayed the three-headed dragon of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari to take the win.
Now, many will question a return to Red Bull Racing. He has proved himself that he can perform under pressure and secure race wins, but personally I think Gasly should avoid a Red Bull return as it will only do more bad than good. Yes, logically it makes sense to go to a team who can go into a weekend with a chance of taking a win, and unfortunately for Alexander Albon his time as Max Verstappen’s team-mate looks limited, but I believe Gasly should stay away from another promotion to the ‘top team’.
After all, to be a successful race winner, you need three things: a bloody good car, flawless race craft and to be in an untouchable mental and physical state (oh, how I make it sound so easy). The latter I feel was lacking when Gasly was racing with Red Bull. It could have been for a variety of reasons, but it is public knowledge of how ruthless the Red Bull team can be with their younger drivers and the clear preference and bias they have to star pupil Verstappen.
I am not saying having a number 1 driver for a team is a bad thing, in fact in almost every successful F1 team there is a clear favourite driver, but Gasly is just too good to go back to Red Bull to just get chomped up and spat out again. The kid has been though enough, and although I don’t doubt he could find a way to pull himself though it, I think he needs to look elsewhere and jump ship from the Red Bull family. Maybe a switch to the soon to be rebranded Alpine F1 Team to replace fellow countryman Esteban Ocon in the near future, or eliminate the ten thousand drivers who have been linked with the Aston Martin seat for next year. All that is known is that no contract for Gasly has been signed, but should he stick with what he knows or venture out for another opportunity elsewhere on the grid?
Away from Gasly’s sensational drive, today was also a great day from Sainz who managed his best-ever race result and the chance to finally find himself able to celebrate a podium – be it a COVID-19 protocol special. I am sure he will be disappointed it wasn’t him taking away the 25 championship points, seeing as it was totally possible today, but it was still a fantastic day for McLaren and a brilliant points haul. We have to remember what an awful state these guys were in just a few years ago and how impressive their turn around has been. It shows that it can be possible to go from back-markers to challenging for wins, which takes me nicely on to my next point. Williams.
Today marked the end of an era. The departure of the Williams family.
It was a sudden decision, announced just this week, and inevitably brought with it a lot of sadness and reflection of what Williams have done for this sport. Yes, they have dropped significantly in performance over the last decade – some would even say longer – but it still doesn’t mean that them leaving isn’t a hard pill to swallow. What they brought to the sport, and the opportunities they gave to individuals who have made the sport what it is today, shows what an influence they have had in F1 and will forever be a huge part of the sport’s DNA for generations to come.
Of course, this team was the brainchild of Frank Williams and that should not be forgotten, but Williams is also a team who has always shown a great deal of diversity and having women in positions of power that was often not seen. Claire Williams, although Frank’s daughter, was given the honour of being the team’s deputy team principal and have help in running the day-to-day dealings, but Frank’s wife Lady Ginny Williams also played a huge role in the team during their early days and through their peak as a race team. In fact it was Ginny, also known as Virginia, who was the first woman on an F1 podium back at the British Grand Prix in 1986.
The Williams’ family who truly lived and breathed motorsport, will leave a huge gaping hole in the hearts of fans around the world. They helped inspire so many into the path of motorsport – drivers, fans, engineers, mechanics, managers, the list goes on. What they stood for, and their strong willpower to never give up is a characteristic which is respected and admired by hundreds of thousands.
Perhaps I will put together another post in the week analysing just quite the impact of them stepping away will mean for F1, but for now I just wanted to thank Williams for all they have done. The joy that they have brought to millions of fans; all ages, races, genders, whatever their background. You will always hold a place in of our hearts.
Other talking points from today’s race would be the dismal performance from Ferrari. How can they do worse than expected, when we already had the lowest expectations? Glad to see Charles Leclerc out of the car with minimal injury after that horror shunt. Such high speed but once again testament to the safety features now in place both in the cars and the barriers around one of the fastest tracks on the calendar. A nice touch to see Leclerc was also one of the first to congratulate Gasly after his win. It’s pretty heartwarming stuff to see this newer generation of drivers having such visible support of one another.
Great race from Stroll, even if his race was fairly unforgettable. Lucky he didn’t have to pit for tyres and that he could switch them during the red flag that was brought out midway through the race. Not a rule I think should remain, but fair enough to Racing Point for their gamble that worked out. I can’t get too grumpy it, after all it provided us with yet another team and driver who have very limited podium success.
Without turning this into a race report, which is exactly what I didn’t want this to be, I found Hamilton’s penalty unfortunate but understandable. Mercedes cocked up (very technical term) and their mistake cost them the victory today, no question. Proof that even if you spend £333 million on winning a champsionship, a statistic shared by AUTOSPORT this week, you can still make mistakes and slip ups such as the one seen today.
I am sure there are many other things to digest and direct, but I just wanted to blurt down some of my thoughts on one of the wildest Grand Prix we have seen in a very long time. Very pleased to see everyone safe after the race, with a new F1 winner in the history books and a race that could even go down as one of the best of this era of F1.
Anyway, hope you are all well and enjoyed that race weekend.
Take care and have a lovely week.