Pierre Gasly has slammed his Formula 1 team AlphaTauri for wasting a chance to equal their best result of the season by calling him into the pits too early during the Singapore Grand Prix team.
Gasly was well placed in seventh ahead of Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel when he was called out for slicks on lap 33. Given the poor grip on the out lap, this allowed Vettel, who pitted a lap later, to skip it.
But the deployment of the safety car, ironically because teammate Yuki Tsunoda crashed after stopping for slicks on the same lap, did the most damage as it allowed Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll to make a “cheap” pit stop and stay ahead.
In a race where fifth place was possible, Gasly eventually finished 10th, with AlphaTauri slipping to ninth in the constructors’ championship behind Aston Martin.
“We didn’t do a good job,” Gasly said after the race. “We were seventh, ahead of two Aston Martins, [we had] track position, everything in our hands and we threw it away because we decided to box too soon.
“There was no communication, no dialogue, which I don’t fully understand. We took a bet at a time when we didn’t need it.
“We boxed, everyone stayed on track and we were overwhelmed. I am very disappointed for the whole team because we are ninth in the team championship. Nine we lost, nine important points.
Examination of Gasly’s on-board footage confirms Gasly’s claim that there was no communication prior to the stoppage as he was simply called off at the end of lap 33 in response to the elegantly shod George Russell , which set up fast sectors in the Mercedes.
The last dialogue on the conditions had taken place on lap 26, moments before the deployment of the virtual safety car because of Alex Albon who had planted his Williams in the wall. When asked for comment, Gasly said the slicks were “too risky right now.” Once the VSC was deployed, he reiterated his position and said “if nobody does it, I won’t go” in terms of stings, adding that whether AlphaTauri should respond to stopping others “depends on whether we fight them or not”. He also reported that there were “still a few corners” where grip was an issue.
He was absent during this VSC and the one that followed immediately after which was triggered by Esteban Ocon’s retirement from Alpine with a powertrain failure, but there was no further dialogue on the subject before it is called.
“It was clear it was too soon, I don’t understand why we did it,” Gasly said.
“It’s obviously something we’re going to revisit. They had reason to, but at least we should have communicated and it didn’t.
“In the position we were in, you have track position over two main rivals in Singapore in dry conditions; I don’t see the point of taking that risk like that. We gave our position.
Gasly could have finished fifth had he stayed outside and then pulled over under the deployed safety car after Tsunoda’s crash – although it’s worth noting that if AlphaTauri hadn’t stopped him, he also could have left the other car on intermediates. Given that Tsunoda being on slicks contributed to his crash, there’s no guarantee a safety car would have followed in a similar timeframe.
Considering AlphaTauri had a tough season, with Gasly’s 10th-place finish only his ninth point of the season, the missed chance was a blow.
“When do we have opportunities to score fifth?” said Gasly when asked by The Race about the lost chance to equal his best result of the season. “This year it happened once in 18 races.
“It’s frustrating because we’re all pushing really hard and today we just didn’t get the job done.”
Aston Martin driver Vettel also felt he had opted for slicks too soon, which also caused him to lose positions and finish eighth. If he had stayed outside and then stopped under the safety car, he might have been able to finish fifth.
“I’m a bit disappointed, we could have stopped a lap or two later because I think it was a bit too early to continue in the dry,” Vettel said.
“Pierre lost a lot of time but then we lost time, and then there was the safety car so I lost position to Lance.
“I would have liked to have stayed out for another lap or two or three, so I don’t think there was much in it, but obviously with the safety car it would have been a free stop.”
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo clinched the fifth place Gasly and Vettel could have had thanks to a strategy based on patience.
He said resisting the temptation to try to “make things happen” was key to being able to take advantage of Tsunoda’s triggered safety car.
“Today was like 50/50, where we certainly had some luck,” Ricciardo said. “But I also think we’ve been patient and mature in not jumping for the slick.
“It was very tempting. When you’re just off the dots, it’s very tempting to be a hero and try to make things happen. But we had the right conversations and I said that while I wanted to be a bit of a hero, that didn’t feel right.
“Then, as George and then Pierre followed them, it seemed to them that it had taken them a long time, so let’s continue. Maybe also in my head I was, “OK, the track is very slippery, especially on a slippery slick, the risk of someone getting out is high, so obviously all we need is a car pit safety” and that’s what happened.
“So it was an ideal scenario for us and it happened. I wouldn’t wish anyone to fall like that with Tsunoda, it was more just that the safety car was perfect for us.
The strategy calls for Sunday’s race were probably some of the toughest in a long time. Knowing that during qualifying it took a long time for the track to be almost dry was the only factual information available – that and the fact that Russell had pitted early for the slicks and was struggling and the comments from the various riders at the radio.
I sympathize with Gasly. Trying to pull off a clearance meant you increased the risk of putting him in the wall, as pushing as hard as necessary on the pass is very risky. If you need proof of this, just ask teammate Tsunoda about it.
Gasly was running in a decent position so there was really no need to take a risk for a lap or two when the information you have means you know the track isn’t going to suddenly come to life and reward you with that improvement of five seconds that we often see when a dry track and a team puts on slicks. If you’re running out of position, like Russell was, then it’s fine to take a gamble and hope for a miracle, but in general overtaking was the best compromise. As Gasly says, why take a chance when you run well?
When it comes to the VSC or the safety car, waiting and relying on one or the other is a risk. However, with the conditions as they were and everyone taking a gamble to go slicks as soon as Russell started laying down purple sectors, it meant the likelihood of one being increased exponentially. .
If the strategy had worked, the AlphaTauri crew would have been heroes. It’s the risk you take when conditions change.