Gasly earns his ‘lucky’ win
This was a first French F1 win since Olivier Panis at Monaco way back in 1996, and came in equally dramatic and unlikely circumstances. But make no mistake, Pierre Gasly earned his victory during a season when he has already proven to be one of the drivers of the year.
The key was an early stop for fresh tyres, just before Magnussen triggered the safety car. That vaulted the AlphaTauri up the order when almost everyone else pitted under the caution period, and he was able to take the restart after the red flag in third place. Ahead of him, second place starter Lance Stroll blew his chance of victory with a poor first lap when the race got going again on lap 28 of 53, leaving Gasly to inherit the lead from Hamilton when he took his penalty. But the 24-year-old still had plenty to do as Sainz loomed.
But the leader kept his head and drove beautifully to keep the McLaren out of range, delivering his team its second victory – 12 years after Vettel scored what was then Toro Rosso’s first at the same track. Cue delirium for the Italian crew, who were just missing the mania of a home crowd to celebrate with them.
For Gasly, it’s hard to imagine just how sweet this shock victory must be. As he acknowledged, he’s had a turbulent 18 months since Red Bull gave him his F1 chance, then dropped him mid-season because of his poor performances. Demoted to the company’s second team, he has shown a great sense of character and has now settled into F1 as the accomplished rising star he was supposed to be. Given Alexander Albon’s continuing slump in both form and luck, we can’t help wondering how soon it will be before they switch places once again.