Gasly’s strategy? ‘Social distancing with Leclerc’

Date published: July 3 2021 - Jon Wilde

Pierre Gasly Charles Leclerc

Pierre Gasly joked that his initial target for the Austrian Grand Prix will be “social distancing” with Charles Leclerc after their collision last week.

The two friends made first-lap contact in the Styrian Grand Prix as Leclerc, seemingly seeking a slipstream from Gasly, clipped the left rear tyre of the AlphaTauri with the front wing of his Ferrari, causing a puncture.

In losing speed as a result, Gasly, who had started sixth, dropped into the pack and was again hit by Antonio Giovinazzi, the damage from those two incidents putting him out of the race as Leclerc, after having to pit, fought his way back up to finish a fine seventh.

The first aim for Gasly in the second race at the Red Bull Ring will be avoiding Leclerc, but that should be easier this time as six places separate them on the grid. Gasly bagged his now regular starting place of P6, with Leclerc down in a disappointing 12th.

Asked about strategy for the race, Gasly told reporters: “The strategy was to keep social distancing with Charles to make sure we do more than one corner tomorrow, so fingers crossed it works!

“Jokes apart, we know on Sunday we have a bit more work, but it will be interesting to see in terms of strategy – we are the first car starting on soft tyres. We decided to keep two [sets of] hard tyres for the race, so hopefully it will work out for us. It’s kind of exciting to see what will happen.”

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There is little question AlphaTauri, and Gasly in particular, have been stronger in qualifying than in races this season, and the 25-year-old will be hoping this is not another Sunday when his team flatters to deceive.

“Really happy with that,” he said of his qualifying outcome. “We were only a tenth from P3 so we’re in the mix. We always seem to be there in Q3 and fighting for this position.

“I think it’s really positive, especially on my side – I struggled a bit more with the car, I couldn’t get the balance where I wanted it but we still managed to put things together and qualify in sixth position.”

One place behind Gasly on the grid will be his team-mate, Yuki Tsunoda, who gave another glimpse of his potential with what he described as his “best qualifying so far” in F1.

The Japanese rookie added: “I think the team did a really good job, maintaining the pace from last week from FP1 [onwards].

“From my side as well it was an easier approach to this week, which is the second week of Austria and I have already experience from last week, so just have to put it all together.

“Really happy with my lap at the end. Couldn’t use the slipstream, which cost me a little bit on the straight, but anyway best qualifying so far in this position.

“I’ll take it and prepare as much as possible for tomorrow, which is the most important thing.”

Follow all the action from the Austrian Grand Prix with the PlanetF1 live centre