It was an emotional and improbable result for Pierre Gasly at the 2020 Formula One Italian Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Frenchman has been one of F1’s standout young drivers, constantly improving despite driving for what is considered Red Bull’s junior team. However, even if he’s on second-tier status, it didn’t stop him from capturing the Italian Grand Prix to claim his first career victory.
However, there is still one glaring question left to be answered for Gasly. Where will he drive in 2021?
While AlphaTauri will likely seek to retain him, Gasly could look for a promotion to Red Bull Racing. Or perhaps being sacked by Red Bull could’ve left a sour taste in Gasly’s mouth and he’ll look elsewhere. Let’s quickly recap all the open seats for 2021 and discuss the likely places Gasly could land.
As of this writing (Sept. 6), there are up to nine open seats for 2021. Haas, Alfa-Romeo and AlphaTauri have yet to announce either driver for next season while Red Bull, Mercedes and Aston-Martin have one seat available in their camps.
While it’s unlikely Gasly will take a spot down the grid at Haas or Alfa-Romeo, returning to AlphaTauri could seem like the most reasonable option.
Gasly has been lifting expectations with that team in ways that are just unimaginable. Scoring his first career podium last year at Brazil in addition to the Italian GP victory, Gasly also has 13 additional points finishes.
They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? So some believe Gasly will seek security by staying at AlphaTauri. He knows the cars and knows the organization, continuing to build a foundation for the future. As long as improvement continues, it could be beneficial in the long run: teams like Racing Point and Renault have shown it’s possible to rise up the grid.
However, I’m sure Gasly, a young driver yet to reach his peak, will seek a promotion in order to contend for more wins.
Being stuck in a junior team can be maddening. It’s the safe option but not the best one for Gasly going forward.
After the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, Gasly was sacked from the senior Red Bull team and sent back to the then-Toro Rosso outfit. The team replaced him with Thai driver Alexander Albon. However, despite Albon’s early success, the team has swiftly gone downhill.
Albon’s 2020 has been average at best and it looks like he could be on the way back down to AlphaTauri. Rather than running inside the top five, like last season, Albon has run in the low teens. He’s regularly racing guys like Gasly and the Renault boys, inferior equipment than what he’s driving. The results just aren’t very indicative of the second-best team in F1 and a potential demotion could be in the offing.
Although it’s only one victory, Gasly now has more wins than Albon and the same amount as Max Verstappen. A return to Red Bull appears to be the most likely option here.
While this option seems a bit of a stretch, there is an open seat at Mercedes. While Lewis Hamilton is almost assuredly going to return, he still hasn’t re-signed and there is still no announcement regarding the other seat.
Should Hamilton not sign, Gasly could make a great case as to why he should get a chance to drive for F1’s powerhouse organization. There would be a few drivers in contention if Hamilton leaves and George Russell’s name is one that’s been tossed around at the Mercedes camp. He is the only driver in the Mercedes Junior Team program in F1 and since the departure of Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein, he seems like a sure bet.
For Russell to take the empty Mercedes seat, he would need to be released from Williams first. That would leave another spot open for, most likely, Jack Aitken. If Russell can’t get released, then Mercedes may look to bring Gasly in before canning Valtteri Bottas at the end of his contract. Bottas is signed for the 2021 season but on a one-year deal.
Gasly has impressed a lot of people after Italy and if the Red Bull sacking was too tough for Gasly to stomach, he could jump ship to the Silver Arrows. Toto Wolff and his team know good talent and Gasly could serve as a perfect partner for Bottas in 2021.
Last but not least, there is the newly-named Aston Martin F1 Team. Owned by Lawrence Stroll, a few drivers have been tossed around the paddock for who will mostly likely pair with Lance Stroll. While Sergio Perez is under contract with the team, rumor has it that Sebastian Vettel or Nico Hulkenburg could replace Perez if he’s bought out.
So why not Gasly?
Standing on the podium with Carlos Sainz and Gasly was Stroll himself. The two drivers are close in age and have a relationship off the track. Their chemistry could help Aston Martin reach new heights on it come 2021. Gasly brings experience while Stroll brings ever-improving results (two top-five finishes in the last three races).
While Stroll’s dad makes it all but impossible for him to be booted, Perez doesn’t have that luxury. Yet to earn a podium this season, Perez’s position there remains tenuous and Gasly could be the top option.
Despite all that’s been said, the most likely possibility is Gasly will wind up right back in the Red Bull system next year. However, wilder driver changes have happened in F1 and the sport’s Silly Season is just getting started.
Here’s the one thing we know for certain: Gasly has become one of the hottest prospects around after Sunday’s surprising win.