- Sport

Lewis Hamilton praises Pierre Gasly’s journey from demotion to maiden win

Lewis Hamilton has praised Pierre Gasly for his maiden F1 win at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. The Briton singled out Gasly’s resolve in coming back so strongly after being demoted mid-season from the Red Bull team five months after he had been taken on last year. Gasly believes his victory for AlphaTauri has proved he is ready to be given another shot with Red Bull.

Gasly won at Monza after fending off a concerted attack over the final laps from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who was in a quicker car. Hamilton had been leading comfortably until he received a penalty for entering the pitlane when it was closed. It scuppered his chances but after the race was stopped due to Charles Leclerc’s crash, Gasly emerged near the front and promptly took the lead. The 24-year-old Frenchman held his nerve and showed great skill in closing out the most unlikely of victories.

It is a remarkable comeback after the blow of being dismissed from Red Bull. Gasly began his career with Toro Rosso – now renamed AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s junior outfit – in 2017. He was promoted to Red Bull in 2019 but unable to match Max Verstappen and lasted 12 races before being dropped in favour of Alexander Albon. Red Bull did not enjoy a successful Italian Grand Prix with Verstappen retiring early due to a power unit problem and Albon finishing in 15th.

Hamilton has recently been playing Call of Duty online with Gasly and while disappointed at finishing seventh at Monza, he acknowledged the Frenchman’s achievement. “Pierre is just a really nice guy and he has a lot of talent and I don’t think he was necessarily treated fairly at Red Bull when he got demoted,” he said.

“It’s not easy for a driver when that happens, so I empathise with that. To then build the confidence up in a not-as-quick team and then come around with some really great performances he’s had this year already with that car and then to get a win, it is not easy.

“[I was] really impressed. He has done a fantastic job. He deserves the
success and hopefully that creates an opportunity for him. Also, he beat the team that demoted him, so it’s gonna hurt for them.”

The win, the team’s second in F1 after Sebastian Vettel also took the flag at Monza in 2008, caps a string of strong performances for Gasly. With standouts including second at the Brazilian GP in 2019, where he held off Hamilton in their dash for the line and a remarkable pass on Sergio Pérez through Eau Rouge at the Belgian GP last week. He has five finishes in the points from eight races this season.

It was the first time a French driver has taken an F1 victory since Olivier Panis for Ligier at the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix and Gasly said he had missed a congratulatory phone call from the France president, Emmanuel Macron, when he was celebrating after the race.

Gasly has repeatedly stressed his intent to rebuild his career at AlphaTauri and while he has done so Albon has struggled alongside Verstappen at Red Bull. A return for the Frenchman next year is already being touted as a possibility.

“I think I’m ready, but it’s not up to me to make that call,” he said. “The only thing I’ve done since they moved me back to Toro Rosso is focus on myself and just show what I can do when I get the right tools in my hand.

“There have been many, many strong drivers in Toro Rosso. I’m really happy to be one of the two that managed to get a win for this team. I guess the strong results should be rewarded with something but we’ll see what happens.”

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