Pierre Gasly on incredible recovery drive after starting from ‘Bahrain city centre’

Michelle Foster
Pierre Gasly on the grid, thumb up. Bahrain March 2023

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly on the grid, thumb up. Bahrain March 2023

Starting the Bahrain Grand Prix from the “Bahrain city centre”, Pierre Gasly put in an epic recovery drive as he raced from 20th on the grid to ninth at the chequered flag.

It was the perfect response from the Frenchman after he’d been criticised by his new Alpine team boss for a wretched qualifying performance on Saturday that left him at the very of the grid.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix, Otmar Szafnauer told Sky Deutschland that “if you look at Pierre, he doesn’t live up to expectations” with the driver having lost his fastest lap time in Q1 for track limits.

But while his team-mate Esteban Ocon imploded in Sunday’s race, the 26-year-old hit with no fewer than three penalties, Gasly was the driver who would’ve been the star of the race were it not for Fernando Alonso’s headline-grabbing overtakes.

Alonso, though, only overtook three drivers on his way from seventh on the first lap to third at the flag. Gasly climbed from 20th to ninth.

The former Red Bull-backed driver told F1TV he “definitely enjoyed it.”

“I knew starting from the Bahrain city centre it would be quite an eventful race so I had to stay calm.

“I knew we had race pace, yesterday [qualifying] it didn’t come together so I had to make up for it today. I was so mad last night. All morning I was so focused, I had these points as my target.

“The team did a great start, race pace was good, and it was important for the first race with Alpine to get these points.”

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Scrapping with rivals, and inspired to stop for a third time behind the late Virtual Safety Car for Charles Leclerc’s stricken Ferrari, Gasly found himself passing Alex Albon to sit ninth.

He tried to chase down Valtteri Bottas for eight but missed out by 1.1s.

“Definitely had to be quite smart because some times I was just stuck in a DRS train and some times I had to push hard on out-laps,” he explained.

“When I could use the car’s pace I definitely had to go for it and make a couple of important moves in the race.

“I’m happy because I could see and I could feel there is potential in the car.

“Came close to Valtteri in the end but we know that if we fix what didn’t go well we are clearly there for the points on Sundays.”

But at the end of the weekend there was an opportunity to reflect on what could have been had Gasly not qualified down in last place.

“That’s two laps and that’s probably the only two laps that didn’t come together since I did the first test in the car,” he conceded.

“Was a shame but shows that in the midfield if you don’t get everything right it’s so close you pay the price straight well.

“It was a one-off.

“We recovered from that, we’ll fix that, and make sure we start in the right position next time.”