Pierre Gasly is hoping for a happy return to Formula 1 this weekend, joking that his flight back from Australia consisted of members of the self-branded “Loser Club”.
The Alpine driver collided with team-mate Esteban Ocon after the final restart in a frenetic Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of the month, resulting in a double retirement when both drivers had been running well inside the points.
Both Gasly and Ocon have played down the impact of the crash, putting it down to being a racing incident after Gasly went off track and rejoined at Turn 2, with the pair making contact afterwards.
It proved to be a costly moment for the team on what was their most competitive weekend of the season so far, with Gasly explaining the Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton up ahead were all within his grasp for the majority of the afternoon.
But upon flying back from Melbourne, Gasly and Ocon were joined by two fellow retirees from the race in Charles Leclerc and George Russell, with the Alpine driver revealing the tongue-in-cheek nickname they gave themselves as they came back to Europe.
“It was a very long flight back,” Gasly said to F1 TV in Azerbaijan.
“We were at the back of the plane; we called it the ‘Loser Club’. We were sitting down with Charles, with George, with Esteban, with myself, having a couple of drinks together and crying over a pretty difficult afternoon for all of us.
“But no, on a positive note, I was very, very happy and impressed with the performance that we showed during the race.
“Being able to fight with Carlos for the majority of the race, having Fernando and Lewis in sight until the last few laps definitely proved that we understood the car a bit better and I felt better also generally in the car, so happy with the progress that we did.”
Pierre Gasly bringing ‘optimism’ to Baku after April break
The cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix brought about an unplanned hiatus in the Formula 1 calendar before the season gets going again, with a hectic schedule of 10 rounds in 14 weeks set to come from now.
With Alpine having clawed their way towards contention in Australia and worked solidly throughout the gap between races, with Gasly having spent time at the team’s Enstone base working in their simulator, he said the mood at the camp is a positive one – with a hope that the the A523 can begin to compete among the top four teams of Red Bull, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari, if they can improve enough.
The Frenchman confirmed there are upgrades coming for the team in Baku this weekend, and he hopes they have the desired effect.
“I think it’s definitely brought a lot of good hopes to all the team and optimism to the guys, that we’ve got a package which we’ve got to maximise and we’ve got to develop, but it’s not like we are missing much to enter consistently the fight with the guys ahead of us – and that should be the target,” Gasly elaborated.
“We felt like we started the year a little bit in no man’s land between the top four and maybe closer to the midfield, now that clearly the target is to get into that fight for the top four in the Constructors’ and hopefully the upgrades this weekend can bring us that performance we missed.”