Pierre Gasly feels his demotion from the Red Bull team was an “unfair” one and part of the “toughest challenge” he has faced over the last year.
Gasly was called up to replace the Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull but he was axed after just 12 races and sent back to the Toro Rosso junior team, now named AlphaTauri.
His demotion coincided with the loss of close friend Anthoine Hubert at Spa but Gasly has countered those extreme lows with some extreme highs since.
He clinched his first ever career podium at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix and then, remarkably, won the 2020 Italian Grand Prix in extraordinary circumstances.
Gasly, who says he would be ready to return to Red Bull given the troubles facing his replacement Alex Albon, still believes his demotion in the first place was an unfair one.
“I haven’t been in Formula 1 for even three years yet and I felt already that I’ve been through a lot of things, highs and lows,” Gasly told Sky Sports F1.
“It’s fair to say last year was probably the toughest challenge that I’ve faced in my life.
“Obviously the demotion which was hard and kind of felt unfair for certain reasons.
“And then after coming to Spa and losing one of my best friends at the same time I felt like everything just came together at the worst possible moment.
“My drive and will inside me was stronger than ever to prove myself, get better, stronger, get more out of my people behind me.
“These guys every single weekend give me the opportunity to perform at my highest level. It’s something that is needed if you want to be successful in Formula 1 and I’m really grateful for that.”
Gasly provided one of the iconic shots of the season when he was sat on the Monza podium reflecting on those memories and what he had just achieved.
“There was so much emotion,” he recalled.
“Standing on that top step, hearing the French national anthem was something so powerful.
“That moment you dream of since the age of six when I started to watch Formula 1.
“I felt after Brazil the podium ceremony was so intense and I loved every second of it and then on Monday morning I woke and I thought it was so short, I wish it could have lasted longer.
“I really wanted to take the time for that first win which is a unique moment and something you live only once, to sit down and really go through the thoughts that were crossing my mind and really take every second to enjoy it.”
Gasly received a phone call from French president Emmanuel Macron following his Italian Grand Prix and Gasly revealed he had some very touching words from him.
“Yes this was really unexpected, it’s not every Sunday you get a call from your president and that was unbelievable,” he said.
“They were touching words from him, really when you hear the voice of the president you’re thinking ‘what’s happening’?
“It made me realise that something big happened in my life on Sunday, they were very touching words to congratulate [me] and saying he was really proud of me, and the whole country of France was really proud of what I had achieved.”