A return to Red Bull? – Where next for Pierre Gasly

Ever since that failed promotion to Red Bull in 2019, Pierre Gasly has continued to exceed all expectations in the AlphaTauri, scoring three podiums and a race win, leading to speculation about his future.

Gasly, 25, has enjoyed another incredible start to the season in Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri, progressing to Q3 in qualifying on eight occasions and has finished in the top ten in seven of nine races.

His consistent performances in the AT01 has helped the team to fifth in the Championship – ahead of Alpine and Aston Martin – while his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda has struggled to adapt to F1 life in his rookie season.

It’s no surprise to see rumours about Gasly’s future intensifying, so here at the Last Lap, we have decided to look at the options for the Frenchman heading into the 2022 season.

A return to Red Bull

Although Gasly remains a member of the Red Bull programme, the chances of a return to the top team seem very unlikely after an unsuccessful time as Max Verstappen’s partner in 2019.

The Frenchman was promoted to Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of the 2018 season, but what he described as “a dream come true” quickly turned into a nightmare.

Gasly only lasted in the Red Bull seat for nine races before the team were unimpressed with the performances and decided to demote the 25-year-old back to AlphaTauri for the remaining races, replacing him with rookie driver Alex Albon.

However, his return to Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri, worked out wonders for Gasly as he since achieved three podiums and became a race winner, prompting debate whether Red Bull should promote him back as Verstappen’s partner.

But the Frenchman was surprised that he wasn’t considered for the 2021 seat before the team decided to go out of their comfort zone of promoting a Red Bull junior and instead signed Sergio Perez.

He told RaceFans: “I’m not disappointed, I’m just surprised.”

“In 14 years Seb [Vettel] won a race with Toro Rosso, I’m the only other driver who won a race. Seb [Vettel] got promoted to Red Bull and won four titles with the team. So I must say I’m just surprised I wasn’t really considered.”

It’s clear to see that Gasly would prefer a return to Red Bull as part of a redemption plan from his first stint at the club, but Perez has shown to be an excellent signing for Red Bull and does exactly what they need from a second driver.

Anything could happen in the second part of the season, but if Gasly wants a new adventure ahead of next season, it’s looking increasingly likely outside of the Red Bull programme.

Alpine F1 Team

One team that could be the ideal destination for Gasly is the newly re-branded Alpine F1 Team – previously known as Renault.

The evident reason is that Alpine is owned by the French automotive company Groupe Renault, with the engine side of the team based in Viry-Chatillon, a suburb of Paris.

So, being a Frenchman to race for a French manufacturer would likely be a dream for Gasly.

Although, it wouldn’t be an upgrade in terms of competitiveness at the front, as his current team, AlphaTauri, are currently outperforming Alpine by a 16-point margin in the Championship.

But, as mentioned above, Gasly might want a new adventure outside of the Red Bull programme, and Alpine tick all the boxes with the possibility of developing even further in the 2022 regulations.

However, the Frenchman would have to wait until 2023, as Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso have both committed to next season with the French-based team.

Fellow Frenchman, Ocon, signed a three-year extension at the beginning of June, while two-time World Champion Alonso penned a two-year deal, meaning a seat won’t be available for Gasly until 2023 at the latest.

What about Mercedes?

The chances of Gasly switching to Mercedes are pretty slim, not only because he is part of their Championship rivals driver programme, but George Russell would undoubtedly be ahead of the queue due to his relationship with Toto Wolff.

Plus, Lewis Hamilton announced a new two-year contract ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, extending his deal to 2023, leaving the number two seat available.

If Hamilton decided to hang up his overalls after this season, and Mercedes didn’t pursue with Bottas anymore, then a potential move for Gasly to seven-time world champions wouldn’t have been a total surprise.

The 25-year-old has shown throughout the last two seasons that he can be one of the best drivers on the grid, excluding Hamilton and Verstappen. With a more powerful car, he would easily challenge for victories on a more consistent basis.

However, when Hamilton does decide the time is right, Mercedes have a bundle of options to choose from. Including their driver programme, with Russell, Nyck De Vries and even Ocon – despite him leaving the programme to join Alpine – all on Mercedes radar.

So, the possibility of this even happening is practically impossible, leaving Gasly with only one practical option heading into 2022.

Stay at AlphaTauri

It might not be the preferred choice by Gasly, but staying at Red Bull’s sister team for another year seems the only plausible outcome.

But, let’s not forget the progress the team have made this season to arguably leapfrog ahead of Aston Martin and Alpine, sitting fifth in the constructor standings.

The Frenchman has exceeded all expectations in the AT01 so far this season, finishing in the top ten in seven of the nine races, and became a real leader of the team.

Since returning to the team in 2019, Gasly has achieved three podiums – the same as Renault have achieved in the last 10 years – and won that spectacular race in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.

So, it’s clear to see Gasly can still contend at the front of the pack in the AlphaTauri on one or two occasions, albeit with some luck on his side.

However, if the Frenchman continues to produce performances similar to the first part of the 2021 season, it will only be a matter of time before Gasly gets that deserved move to a top team.

Although, at this moment in time, AlphaTauri seems the perfect location for the 25-year-old. No pressure to compete at the front of the pack, but enough to show his ability to fight alongside the Ferrari and McLaren, allowing Gasly to perform to his best.