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Behind the scenes with Pierre Gasly: The Alpine racer on his first year with the team, winter plans, and catching up with Zidane
Hey everyone, what a year it has been. It was my first season in a completely new environment at Alpine and, I must say, it was a year with so many highs and lows. In my final column, I’m sharing my thoughts and feelings from across the year and my plans to unwind over the winter. I hope you enjoy reading.
And breathe… but not for long!
The last few weeks have been so busy. We had six races in eight weekends from Qatar to the Americas, Las Vegas and then the season finale in Abu Dhabi. It was a mixed end for us, some good races like Austin and Sao Paulo where we scored points and then some disappointing ones like Vegas and Abu Dhabi where we narrowly missed out for various reasons.
Anyway, it means we ended my season in 11th place in the drivers’ championship with the team in sixth place in the constructors’ championship. For us, that is very much below the expectations we set ourselves and, of course, we wanted much more than that. We did record two podiums – three including my Sprint in Spa – something the team did not achieve in 2022, so that does constitute a mini victory to some extent.
I have really enjoyed my first year with the team. I felt, especially, I hit my groove after the summer break and that is really shown by the results.
The reason for that? I do not really know the full answers to that question other than feeling much more comfortable and embedded in the team with a much slicker understanding with everyone, especially those with a direct impact on me like the engineers.
Next year we expect more from ourselves and I already cannot wait. While it’s important to have some downtime during this moment, it’s equally important for the hard work behind the scenes to continue. I’m already thinking of 2024. We have to hit the ground running when the time comes. There are no excuses. It is my second year; I am fully integrated in the team and I already cannot wait to drive again.
I like to break up race weekends by taking some downtime away from the track and this has been good to do in recent weeks with so many race weekends. As I’m sure is apparent, my new hobby is playing golf, which I absolutely love right now.
I have been fortunate to play at some magnificent courses in Texas, Sao Paulo, Las Vegas and Dubai. At Alpine we have the legend Rory McIlroy as an investor. It was a pleasure to meet Rory in Austin (and beat him in a putting challenge!) and he even gave me some golf tips.
I love meeting and exchanging with elite athletes. It is so interesting to share stories, hear about their routines and schedules and it is easy to see why people like Rory are able to be able be at the top of their game so strongly and so consistently. Just hugely impressive.
And my interest and admiration for golf completely skyrocketed when I took part in The Netflix Cup in Las Vegas. What an experience. My original partner Collin Morikawa was unable to play, so in stepped big Tony Finau to create Team GasNAU! I admit, I’m nowhere near good enough to be on the same level as Carlos, Lando or Alex, as I’m relatively new to playing properly.
But, the odd shot meant I could near enough hold my own. Tony was on fire. I’m still mind blown at the power off the tee and the distance and accuracy these guys have. Just incredible. We managed to beat Max Homa and Alex in our match-up before narrowly missing out on the Netflix Cup in a nearest the pin contest against Justin Thomas and Carlos.
My week was pretty set by that point. An amazing experience and opportunity to be involved in Netflix’s first live sports event in front of so many people at an amazing course. With some more practice and maybe some coaching along the way from Rory and my new mate Tony I’m sure I’ll be back next year ready to go one better.
Zidane in Madrid
This week I spent the day with one of my sporting heroes: Zinedine Zidane. What an honour! Zinedine is Alpine’s equal opportunities ambassador and he welcomed us to Madrid for a day of activities alongside Esteban, the Alpine Academy, two of the Rac(H)er programme young karters and two young mechanics from Viry who won the Concours Excellence Mecanique competition that the team runs each year.
We had a tour of the Santiago Bernebeu with Zinedine. It’s really a fantastic stadium with so much history and prestige. It felt very cool to have a tour alongside a legend that has contributed to so much success at Real Madrid. Then we did some karting in electric karts in an underground car park.
I must say that was so enjoyable. As soon as you put us racers on track it turns into pure, competitive fun. And add Zinedine into the mix – who was pretty good in a kart – then it becomes exceptionally surreal. Fortunately, we all jumped out with huge smiles!
After that, Zinedine took us into his area as we had a football match between us all. If you told the 10-year-old Pierre Gasly that he would share a football pitch with Zinedine Zidane, he would not have believed it! It was great to be with him on the pitch and with his sons, who are also very talented footballers. A pretty cool day in Madrid to round off a busy year off-track with Alpine!
It actually feels strange to already be talking about the off-season. The racing year has just gone by so fast and here we are already on our downtime and preparing 2024. It was a crazy end to the year with so many races so, immediately, I already plan on doing nothing for a good while.
By that, I don’t mean a complete shutdown but just giving myself a short period of time to switch off and go off radar for a few days. Taking that time is just as important as physical training. I spent some time in London, which was fun. I did some ice-skating with my girlfriend, caused a bit of a pile-up with some late braking, so I’ll probably stick to driving and not skating in the future!
One thing I am proud of is, recently, I became an ambassador for the Make a Wish Foundation, which means I will be getting very much involved to help make young kids’ dreams come true as well as taking part in events and fundraising campaigns.
I was at an event in Paris earlier this month for the first time and it was a huge privilege for me. I do really look forward to doing more in the near future with Make a Wish and making young kids smile.
An eye on next season
I’ll be spending Christmas with family and friends in Normandy and I can’t wait for a bit of normality and a switch off before hitting intense preparation in January. As I said, I’m excited for next season and I’m already thinking about hitting race mode again. I’ll be doing some warm weather training in Dubai in January then some preparation in the factory at Enstone before we get going once again. For now, though, a break.
Thank you all for your support during this season. There were some high moments, some low ones, but the support and love from the fans makes it all so special. I hope my F1 columns have been interesting and insightful throughout the year and has given you a sense of my thoughts and feelings both in and out of the race seat.
I wish you a Joyeux Noël and a Bonne Année!