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Formula 1

A badly-backfiring F1 move is a warning to others

by Edd Straw
5 min read

When Pierre Gasly seized on the unexpected chance to move to Alpine in 2023 amid the driver-market maelstrom initiated by Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin deal, it seemed the ideal opportunity.

While not a frontrunner, Alpine was fourth in the championship, one of the few full works teams in Formula 1 and ostensibly on the way up. For Gasly, still rebuilding after his short-lived Red Bull stint, that was as good a chance as he could get. 

To find himself driving the slowest car in the field at the start of his second Alpine campaign must be intensely frustrating. I put that to him in Melbourne last weekend, and that “it’s not good for your career to be messing around at the back when you need to be kicking on”.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, F1

After a few moments to consider the appropriate answer, wise given he needed to make his point without being seen to slam the team, Gasly grinned and gave his response.

“That’s a fair point,” said Gasly. “You said it yourself, I signed with Alpine after a season where they finished fourth. Last year was a bit disappointing in terms of performance, we didn’t manage to close the gap to the top three and dropped back in the order.

"This year is not really continuity of the work we’ve done last year, unfortunately the car isn’t well-born.

“In the background, there’s been a lot of positive change in the way that we’ve been approaching the work, the focus on details and the mentality inside the team. I see a lot of positives, but it doesn’t translate straight away into performance.

"No-one wants to be in a position of driving a car that is not competitive, and ultimately that [a competitive car] is what I want. But I also believe that’s possible with the current team and that’s why we need to find the solutions and the way to make it happen.”

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, F1

At 28, Gasly is hardly old but, given he’s in his seventh full season, he is in what amounts to F1 middle age (as the 12th-oldest full-timer on the grid).

While Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton continue to excel in their 40s, once the oedometer ticks over into the fourth decade for a driver they are, rightly or wrongly, perceived by team bosses as closing on their sell-by date.

With the 2025 driver market in a state of flux thanks to Hamilton’s surprise Ferrari deal, there’s a warning in Gasly’s situation for everyone. It’s a reminder that there are few sure things when it comes to pinning your future to one of the 10 teams in F1. Even the obvious choice, Red Bull, has the question mark of its new 2026 in-house power unit hanging over it.

Gasly is well-aware of this. He’s understood to have some kind of option in his contract for 2025 but it likely permits him to leave should the team’s results be poor, which means there’s every chance he will be free to move next year.

But as he isn’t a contender for any of the top drives, he faces a difficult choice should he lose faith in Alpine. And you couldn’t blame him if he has lost confidence given its recent travails and the risk that if he does extend his stay and there isn’t clear progress, he could find himself at the age of 30 in the first year of the new regulations in 2026 stuck in a no-hope situation. This makes progress made in the coming months - starting with an upgrade at Suzuka - the acid test in terms of proving the understanding is there, even if its form isn’t going to be transformed overnight. 

“For sure - the understanding of what we have and the concept we have, the car we have, the potential,” said Gasly when asked how Alpine’s progress will influence his plans for next year. “More important is the understanding of what we are doing.

"There’s a big regulation change in 2026, which will be a challenge for every team, whether it’s on the engine side or the car side.

“It’s not that because that car concept isn’t working, that we don’t know what we’re doing, but it is very important that we’re able to identify and come up with solutions and all that understanding.”

Whatever happens across the rest of 2025, it’s difficult to imagine Alpine doing any better than at best repeating last season’s underwhelming sixth in the constructors’ championship. With major changes in the technical leadership, Alpine is again in one of its interminable spells of rebuilding and has much to prove.

Yet if Gasly were to want to leave, where would he go that’s a better bet? Alpine’s power unit project is progressing well according to the team - albeit with no comparative frame of reference - and there is a big opportunity for any team that can fully integrate the design of its powertrain and chassis for the new rules. Being with a factory team, even one that’s doing badly, therefore must appeal.

“That’s important, yeah,” said Gasly. “I’ve been on both sides of being with AlphaTauri [Toro Rosso] and Honda and Renault when I started in 2017, and obviously the ceiling is higher.

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, F1

"There’s no limit when you’re a manufacturer. You can just set your own limits and develop and invest as much as you want.

“So I do see that benefit from being a manufacturer in Alpine, and obviously funding is not the issue. That’s why I do believe there is no reason and there is no limit to ourselves and the way we’re going to approach the future.”

That’s the question for Gasly, does he stick or twist? You can make a case for both choices - as a sidestep to another potentially upwardly-mobile team could pay off. Could Sauber/Audi be a better bet? Williams? It’s difficult to be sure and a move is just as likely to backfire as succeed.

It’s logical for Alpine to want to keep Gasly on and it could be disastrous for him to turn his back on a team that should have genuine potential. But it could also be disastrous for his career if he fails to make the jump to a rival that could end up outperforming Alpine not just in 2025, but beyond.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, F1

His current situation is a reminder to all those considering their options that backing the right horse to jump to is far from straightforward even if you do have the luxury of multiple offers. 

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