On a weekend of constant dark clouds over Spa-Francorchamps, it seems gloomier over the Alpine compound in the Formula 1 paddock, in the wake of the “tumbling of heads” at the French team in a state of crisis or revolution or both until Pierre Gasly shone a bright light for them.
Heavy-hitters Otmar Szafanauer, Alan Permane and Pat Fry were shown the door the French team accounted, curiously, on Friday of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend. The bombshell, life-altering alteration to the team’s senior hierarchy focussed all attention on the French team, which will now be run by interim Alpine team principal Bruno Famin.
Add to that the double DNF last Sunday in Hungary, when Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were skittled out (both faultless) by a sequence of events triggered by a ‘missed-my-braking-point’ Zhou Guanyu in his wayward Alfa Romeo. In other words, ‘Les Bleues’ were due some good news.
And indeed it came today. With Gasly driving his socks off to hang on to third place in the tense F1 Sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps. Where weather varied from dark water-laden clouds, rain and then rapid drying in the spell of an hour or so as the erratic micro-climates induced in the Ardennes decided to have fun with F1 this weekend.
Gasly: I could see Lewis coming back and getting closer
Thus the piste varied from wet to fast drying. For this, the Alpine team executed well well and their French driver delivered one of his better performances, in a car that made a surprise appearance in third place with faster cars behind it.
Gasly who rarely makes it into the top three in F1, ( three GP podiums in 119 F1 race starts) was unsurprisingly chuffed with a much-needed result for himself and his beleaguered team: “It feels amazing, I’m extremely happy to finish in the top three especially here at Spa which feels some kind of home race for us without the French GP.
“It was very difficult conditions. I’m extremely happy, we pitted at the right time and managed to hold off Lewis until the end. It does feel very special to do it here at Spa, I have a thought for Anthoine (Hubert). I’m just extremely pleased for the whole team.
“I gave it everything, I could see Lewis coming back and getting closer. I was just trying to stay focused on my driving, making clean laps. It wasn’t easy but I gave it all and it paid off. I’m super happy for all the guys and will go for it all tomorrow,” added Gasly who will line up in p12 for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Ocon: On my side, it was a pretty straightforward race
Big congrats to Pierre and the team for today’s result. 👏🏼 We really needed this after a few tough weeks… Full focus now on tomorrow’s GP and the fight for more important points. Merci à tous pour votre soutien ce week-end 💙🤍❤️ pic.twitter.com/qZQjkC5NEW
In the sister Alpine, Esteban Ocon, who was good for ninth, said of his Sprint experience on the day: “First of all a big congratulations to Pierre and the team for today’s great result. These are some important points for the team after a few tough weeks so I’m very happy for everyone.
“On my side, it was a pretty straightforward race. The conditions were tough out there but the team did a good job with the strategy and pit stops. I had a couple of good fights on track with Daniel [Ricciardo] and George [Russell] but, unfortunately, we just missed out on the points today.
“We are fully focused now on tomorrow’s Grand Prix where we’ll be looking to move up the grid and finish the first part of the season on a high,” concluded Ocon, who will start the race on Sunday, from P14. His 127th GP start.