Pierre Gasly intends to be the “obvious” option for a top team in 2023 when his contract with AlphaTauri expires. And there may be a scenario – though it may seem unlikely – where he could occupy Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes seat despite his Red Bull connections.
Gasly finished ninth in the 2021 drivers’ championship, but was widely considered to be one of the most impressive drivers in the field, particularly Hamilton and Max Verstappen, as he finished in the points 15 times. The best of them came at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he came third.
The 25-year-old has impressively rebuilt his reputation since he was downgraded to AlphaTauri, formerly Toro Rosso, in his first season with the Red Bull senior team in mid-2019 after fighting alongside Verstappen.
He was replaced by Alex Albon after round 12 of 21 this season, but has since performed excellently on the Red Bull company’s second team and even won the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.
Gasly scored the top 110 points of his career in 2021, beating rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda by 78 points.
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Speaking recently about his long-term future, the Frenchman said his “priority” is at Red Bull, adding, “They say there could probably be an option in 2023. I’ll try to get myself in the best position for it. ” But it’s a discussion that we know we’ll have with Red Bull next year.
“I’m ninth in the drivers’ championship. All eight guys in front of me are the drivers who are running for the four best constructors. So it is important for me to show that if there is a free space that I am trying to do, then I should be the obvious choice. “
Gasly’s Red Bull relationships mean they’re clearly the most likely team in the top 4 to join, ahead of McLaren, Ferrari or Mercedes. But these connections certainly do not guarantee him a seat.
World champion Verstappen wants to spend his entire career at Red Bull and that will reduce the available places to just one in the foreseeable future, which makes the competition even tougher.
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Sergio Perez currently occupies the seat and has finished his debut season strong. He hopes to take another step forward in 2022, and with more podiums and race wins, he will then keep his place for 2023.
Even if he doesn’t, Red Bull may have known alternatives to Gasly like Tsunoda or Albon. Or maybe another non-Red Bull driver emerges as an option, like Perez did.
And if the Red Bull seat next to Verstappen isn’t open for 2023, what then for Gasly? Maybe Mercedes? It is not entirely out of the question. If he has another strong season in 2022, he will feel ready to move up on the grid.
When he retires, Gasly could face a move to George Russell at Mercedes. At Red Bull, he is only under contract until the end of 2023. pro Helmut Marko, so may be willing to disconnect with them to join the Silver Arrows instead of waiting for a 2024 shot at the Bulls if this scenario occurs.
Esteban Ocon, the ex-Mercedes junior, is another option Mercedes would consider if Hamilton retired in 12 months.
But Ocon has a contract with Alpine until the end of 2024, and it’s unlikely they’ll want to part ways with a rider they see as the future championship two years earlier.
That could therefore make Gasly a surprising top candidate for the role, especially if he maintains his promotion.
How likely is it that Gasly will switch to Mercedes? At the moment unlikely. But if Red Bull stays with Perez in 2023 and Hamilton retires, then perhaps Mercedes could be tempted to tear the French driver away from its main rivals.