F1 Star Pierre Gasly Reveals His Formula For Success | Men's Health Magazine Australia

F1 Star Pierre Gasly Reveals His Formula For Success

It’s impossible to know exactly what effect the suffocating, carbon-to-diamond-crushing pressure of Formula One will have on you until you experience it for yourself.

You might have seen Aussie F1 ace Daniel Ricciardo stomping around pre-race, headphones glued to his ears pumping a thrashy metal core song from favourite band Killswitch Engage, his trademark ear-to-ear grin suddenly wiped from his face as he gets into the zone. Or you might have seen Dutch flyer Max Verstappen in race-prep mode, head down and deep in conversation with his lead engineer, taking a final microscope to his car’s strengths and weaknesses and nailing down any last-minute strategy changes.

But you probably won’t have seen rising star Pierre Gasly do much of anything before a race. In fact, it’d be more than a little bit creepy if you had seen him.

Not because the French wheelman doesn’t have his own pre-race ritual. It’s more that it’s not what you might expect from someone about to strap himself to a 750kW-plus missile masquerading as a race car.

Gasly signs autographs with Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.“F1 demands an intense focus. There is a switch that flicks on in your head and you just become this different guy”

Or you might have seen Dutch flyer Max Verstappen in race-prep mode, head down and deep in conversation with his lead engineer, taking a final microscope to his car’s strengths and weaknesses and nailing down any last-minute strategy changes.

But you probably won’t have seen rising star Pierre Gasly do much of anything before a race. In fact, it’d be more than a little bit creepy if you had seen him.

Not because the French wheelman doesn’t have his own pre-race ritual. It’s more that it’s not what you might expect from someone about to strap himself to a 750kW-plus missile masquerading as a race car.

“How do I relax? It will sound a bit weird, but an hour before the race I go for a nap. I’ll probably sleep for around 20 minutes,” says Gasly. “I’m quite a calm guy, so I don’t know if everyone else manages to fall asleep an hour before the race. But I find it’s the best way just to switch off.”

“Usually I drink an espresso just before my nap, and I wake up 20 minutes later and I’m full of energy. That’s how I get into the zone.”

Quite a calm guy? Men’s Health caught up with Gasly on the eve of the Melbourne Grand Prix, the first race of the 2019 season and his first in a Red Bull Racing car. And while any normal person might be chewing their fingernails, if not the fingers themselves, the 23-year-old driver couldn’t be more relaxed if we’d caught him smack-bang in the middle of one of his pre-race snoozes.

“It’s different from one driver to another, but I think I’ve always just been quite a calm guy. And I find the best way to stay calm is to make sure I’ve gone through all the things I needed to do to get ready for a race,” he says.

“Once I feel I’ve done my job and I’m ready to fight, there’s no point in getting excited or stressed – everything should be under control by now.”

Unconventional, sure. But nobody can say Gasly’s 40-winks strategy isn’t working wonders. Meteoric doesn’t quite do his career justice. The young gun (his career is littered with wins in the junior categories, including claiming the 2016 GP2 series and finishing runner-up in the 2017 Super Formula Championship) is in only his second year of Formula One, and already he’s received the call-up most drivers wait their careers for: a promotion from Scuderia Toro Rosso to the senior Red Bull Racing team, plonking his behind in a race seat just vacated by Daniel Ricciardo.

That kind of thing rarely happens, if it happens at all (it’s the F1 equivalent of winning the lottery), and it clearly stamps Gasly as the driver to watch in 2019. And beyond.

Pierre Gasly

Playing with the big boys

At the end of most qualifying sessions, mere tenths of a second will separate the top three teams. Everyone else is largely making up the numbers. This year, Gasly’s suddenly at the pointy end of that lofty pyramid. It’s a chance he has no intention of squandering.

“Clearly there are differences in the cars – you can see it in the top three teams,” he says. “They have more resources than others and they are clearly faster. Today, if you are not in a Red Bull, a Ferrari or a Mercedes, you have no chance to fight for a win.

“It’s the details that make such a difference at this level. So, if you want to be successful you need to have the right people around you. As a driver in my second year, I still have a lot to learn. And I think I’m in the best place with Red Bull Racing, what with all the experience they have in winning Championships. And being next to Max, who has proved himself in F1, and is one of the most talented drivers on the grid at the moment, it’s a great place for me to keep developing as a driver.”

Teamwork. It’s not something immediately associated with Formula One, given there’s only room for one person in each car. But the quality of the people around them is what makes or breaks all drivers.

Every single time Gasly straps into his car, he straps in alongside some 600 support staff – from engineers to aerodynamics experts, tyre masters to a person employed, and this is not a joke, to point a handheld fan in the rough direction of his crotch every time he pits during practice – and it’s the efforts of that broader team that make the difference on race day.

“They do most of the job, even if at the end of it all we’re the ones driving the car,” Gasly says. “It’s not something you see on camera, and people might not realise it, but at Red Bull we are 800 people back in England, and there’s between 300 and 400 others, so that’s over a thousand people just to build these two cars and get them ready to be as fast as possible on a Sunday.

“So we’re the ones taking all the credit, because you see our faces, but without the right people around you, the right engineers and the right people designing and building the car, then none of this is possible.”

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Getty Images

Time to shine 

That team extends beyond those wearing Red Bull shirts, of course. After all, those ocean-deep pockets of cash have to come from somewhere, and that means big-name sponsorships who can help carry the load.

Red Bull Racing, for example, just celebrated a three-year extension of its TAG Heuer sponsorship deal, which has seen the luxury Swiss watchmaker again sign on as both offical timekeeper and official watch of the team.

And so, as Gasly naps, he wears a TAG Heuer Carrera 01; all exquisite detailing and black skeleton dials, a happy side perk of making the big team.

That TAG Heuer is involved in F1 is no surprise; in a sport where seconds are dissected into fragments so small it’s difficult to believe, a Swiss watch brand makes perfect sense (and in fact, it has been involved in the sport since its inception in 1950, with 2019 marking the 50-year anniversary of the brand’s iconic Monaco timepiece). Likewise, its choice to partner with Red Bull Racing makes perfect sense. Winning, after all, is addictive. And so, it seems, is the famed Monaco street circuit itself.

“For me, it’s my favourite track in qualifying. It’s the one lap with the most adrenaline. You’re so close to the wall and trying to extract everything you can. The race there is 95 per cent qualifying. You need to really make sure you nail everything in that lap.”

While driving a car for two hours every Sunday doesn’t sound overly demanding (especially in the vast emptiness of the Australian bush, where a two-hour drive will carry you halfway to your letterbox), it’s a different game entirely in an F1 machine. The power, the grip and the brutal physicality of the experience see drivers thrown against their harnesses like they’re attached to a multi-directional bungee cord, all while battling heat or rain, or both.

“It’s very physical. Especially with these new cars. Last year, every weekend we broke a track record. F1 cars have never been as fast as they are at the moment,” Gasly says.

“We pull up to 5.5 g when braking, and five g in the corners. It’s clearly a lot more physical than people think. It’s not like driving a normal car; pressing two pedals and turning the wheel.

“A race is between 90 minutes and two hours, and depending on the location – like Singapore or Malaysia, which are really hot – you’ll lose up to three litres of liquid during a race. So, after one-and-a-half-hours of racing, you’ve lost three kilograms, and you’re still driving at 350km/h and you need to stay focused.

“Whatever I do in training or in the simulators, there is nothing that demands such an intense focus as what you feel on the track . . . to what you experience when the lights go out at the start. I almost become someone else. There is a switch that flicks on in your head and you just become this different guy.”

But roughly an hour before this stirring Jekyll-Hyde transformation takes place, you know exactly where you’ll find F1’s most exciting prospect: Gasly will be in the Land of Nod.

By Mens Health Staff

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