After a stunning performance by Pierre Gasly and Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda last weekend in Bahrain, the Frenchman still urged caution that the team and its new engine partner remain vigilant ahead of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Speaking to the press on Thursday at the Shanghai International Circuit, Gasly alluded he has been thoroughly impressed in his own results, the team’s and the support he is receiving worldwide.
“I must say it’s [the response] been amazing,” he said jovially.
“First, just personally, y’know? It’s a big investment [by Red Bull] for a long time, since I’m a kid. It’s a lot of work, a lot of preparation and, of course, it’s my best result in Formula One – but just to see that all the work I’m doing at the moment is paying off and actually we are going in the right direction, so of course, I’m really happy about it.
“Secondly, for the team, it’s only our second race with Honda and already we can see that we are actually going in the right direction, communication-wise everything is going well and the car is competitive.”
However, the Frenchman urged caution looking ahead into the season, warning that the STR13’s giant-killing performance in Sakhir last weekend may not be replicated in Shanghai and tracks later in the year.
“I think definitely we understood much more about our car potential, car set-up, about the tyres but still we need confirmation, and I think this weekend will be a good opportunity to … judge our baseline and see if the potential is the same on other tracks,” he added.
“Definitely we need to be quite careful. Bahrain has been so good for us and I don’t know if it’s going to be similar on other tracks. So yeah, hopefully it’s going to be the same but we’ll find out tomorrow.”
But can Honda handle the heat in China? With its notable straights in Sectors 1 and 3 – particularly the 1.17-kilometre back straight – the Honda engines will be giving it all its got to battle the ever-so-tight midfield. But Gasly admits that the team must be conscious of everything to be midfield leaders come Sunday.
“We expect to be quite competitive, after what we learned from Bahrain,” he added. “But … we don’t know if we’re going to be on top of the midfield, if we are going to be in the middle, we just know that to have a similar performance as Bahrain we really need to be on top of everything and just make everything perfectly.
“The track layout, for sure, is not one of our favourites, or is not going to be as easy, with the long back straight. But still you need to have a really strong car in the middle part of the track, so I think we can still expect to be competitive.
“We have done only two races. We were pretty slow in Melbourne. We were very competitive in Bahrain, even faster than what we expected, so it’s still difficult for us to know for us exactly where is the performance of the car. I think we are going to be in the fight for the midfield, but hopefully on top of it.”
Remarkably, Gasly’s post-race radio comments have caused quite a stir over in Spain. The Toro Rosso driver celebrated over the radio last Sunday after the race shouting to the team “Now we can fight!”
Coincidentally, the same words came from Fernando Alonso after his fifth-placed finish in Melbourne earlier in March with the Spaniard’s die-hard fans giving the 22-year old a hard time speculating he was mocking Alonso’s time at Honda.
“It was simple, it was just a little joke, that’s it,” he said, hinting that the two-time World Champion’s remarks were a dig at McLaren’s former engine partner.
“I think we need to give credit back to Honda. In the end, they have had a tough three years with McLaren and to finish P4 in the second race with them was just amazing, so it was a way to give them credit, because they are working really hard.
“But don’t get me wrong, I must say I had pretty tough messages after that, after the race, by some Spanish people who are actually quite crazy.
“I have huge respect for Fernando. [He] is one of the best drivers of all time in Formula One, and one of the drivers I looked up to when I was young, one of my idols actually.”
Images via Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda