Gasly 'extremely happy' with P3, but 'didn't feel safe'

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In what’s been a turbulent weekend for Alpine behind the scenes, Pierre Gasly was delighted to come away from Saturday’s Sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps with third place – although he admitted to concerns about safety today.

Gasly had started the race from sixth on the grid, but opting to make a pit stop at the end of the formation lap – or rather the fourth lap behind the Safety Car that properly started the race – to exchange full wet tyres for a set of intermediates proved the right call and boosted him to third.

He was able to maintain the position despite coming under pressure from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Perez retired after contact between the pair leaving Hamilton dogging Gasly to the finish.

A post-race penalty for Hamilton made the battle moot and Gasly duly picked up third place and a spot on the Sprint podium – albeit four seconds behind Oscar Piastri, with Max Verstappen out of sight in the lead.

“I must say it feels amazing,” Gasly said afterward.. “I’m extremely happy to finish in the top three, especially here in Spa, which feels like a home race for us without the French GP.

” It was very, very difficult conditions but I am extremely happy,” he added. “Pitted at the right time and managed to hold off Lewis until the end.

“I gave it everything,” he said of the battle. “I could see him coming back, getting closer. I was just trying to focus on my driving, making clean laps one after the other. Wasn’t easy – tyres were degrading – just gave it my all, and it paid off.

“I’m just extremely pleased for the whole team, because it hasn’t been the smoothest start of the year, but we managed to put it together here today,” he added. “It does feel very special to do it as well in Spa.”

Gasly dedicated the result to his best friend Anthoine Hubert, who died in an F2 racing accident at Raidillon in 2019. “Obviously a thought for Anthoine,” he said, having organised a memorial track walk earlier in the weekend.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Rew / XPB Images

In the circumstances it was no surprise that safety was foremost on Gasly’s mind today in the treacherous conditions. Rain hit the circuit just minutes before the start was due, leading to a delay and a rolling start behind the safety car.

“It’s not really a question of conditions because the conditions were probably raceable since the first lap,” he acknowledged. “It’s a tricky call. You want to race, but at the same time I’m glad everything went safely today.

“The problem is the visibility. The spray at the moment is so huge out of these cars, the water just stays in the air.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

“I just couldn’t even see ten to 20 metres in front of me, even when we were all warming up the tyres and stuff,” he pointed out. “You were just hoping for the best. I didn’t feel safe.

“Obviously you can only compare to your position at the time. I was in sixth position, and pretty sure like when you’re first or second it’s slightly different and when you’re at the back it’s worse.

“I was in P6 and I couldn’t see anything. So, I can only imagine how bad it was at the back of the field,” he said, adding that this had contributed to his decision to pit for inters as soon as he did.

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523 leaves the pits. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

“I wanted to box already straightaway for inters and this just added another sort of incentive to box and just have visibility.

“It was down to a well-executed pit-stop to switch to Intermediates which meant we jumped a number of positions and put ourselves in contention for the top three.

“When they restarted, I was really hoping no guy gets off the track or collides and gets stuck in the middle of the straight because we know obviously what’s happened [in the past].

Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team celebrates his third position in Sprint parc ferme with the team. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

“If Oscar or Max [had crashed] in the middle of the straight I would’ve been straight inside him,” he warned. “All you need is just one person to be stopped in the wrong place in the straight and it can go wrong very quickly.”

Starting at the front, pole sitter and race winner Max Verstappen had initially felt that it had been a safe race, but after listening to Gasly’s comments in the post-race FIA press conference he saw the point that the Frenchman was making.

“I fully get Pierre’s comments,” he said, agreeing that the issue of water spray had “become worse from when I started in F1” in 2015. “Sometimes I couldn’t see the safety car, and I’m the first car.”

(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing and Pierre Gasly (FRA) Alpine F1 Team in the post Sprint FIA Press Conference. 29.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Sprint Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

The FIA are looking into measures to reduce the problem of spray, which Verstappen welcomed. “We really want to get rid of it – we can’t do a race at the moment in the wet if we want good visibility.”

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