Of course, the Frenchman has already had his ‘shot’ with a big team, when given the chance to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull for the 2019 season. In the end, he was given just five months and 12 races before it was decided by the hierarchy that mid-season change was necessary, and in came Alexander Albon.
While some may have thought it was harsh to be so ruthless with a young racer, it was generally accepted that Red Bull were justified in needing to act quickly. His results were a long way from where they needed to be, and it was clear that Gasly himself was struggling under the pressure.
It wasn’t for a lack of talent – the man from Rouen has that in abundance. But the combination of difficulties in getting used to the RB15 and adjusting to the intense scrutiny which comes with racing for a top team at such a young age made it almost impossible for him to succeed.
In the two-and-a-half seasons since, Gasly has done the exact thing he needed to do. He has delivered consistent results in both qualifying and races – some of them extraordinary, like his shock victory at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix – and matured as a person, coming across as far more confident both as a racer and a person than he was when given the opportunity of a lifetime.
No wonder, then, he is so frustrated that this appears to have gone unnoticed by the powers-that-be in Milton Keynes. Gasly could not have done much more than what he has to convince Christian Horner and his colleagues that he is now, truly, ready for the chance to compete with Max Verstappen. But so far the shot at redemption has not been offered.
Now that Perez is contracted to Red Bull until at least the end of the 2024 season, it appears the chance will never come. In rewarding the brilliant Mexican’s strong form with a lucrative new deal, the team has accepted that they will lose Gasly to a competitor.
After all, time is of the essence now for the Frenchman. Aged 26, he still has plenty of time to make the sort of impact on the sport that he would have dreamed of since he was a child racing go-karts. But these are his prime years, and someone with his talent needs to be racing for a team which is capable of matching his ambition – with all due respect to Red Bull’s ‘sister’ (junior) team, AlphaTauri.
So if not Red Bull, where will the opportunity come. There are only really two other teams which have dined at the top table in recent seasons, and one of them is Ferrari – the Prancing Horse also have two drivers tied down for several seasons, so no luck there. That leaves only one other option, a shock switch to Red Bull’s long-running rivals Mercedes.
George Russell is likely to be around for years to come, but Lewis Hamilton ‘s future is far less clear. There was plenty of talk that the 37-year-old might retire ahead of the current campaign. While that turned out to be untrue, the Briton could decide at any time that he has had his fill of F1. It might even come as soon as the end of the current season.
In theory that would come a little too soon for Gasly, who is contracted to AlphaTauri until the conclusion of the 2023 campaign. But if the Silver Arrows decided to offer the Frenchman his second chance at a top team, it would be harsh of the Red Bull group to deny him that opportunity – even if it was their bitter rivals who were knocking at the door.
If not Mercedes, then the next best option may well be McLaren. Lando Norris looks to have made his nest there, but the future of his current team-mate Ricciardo couldn’t be much less secure. His second year driving a papaya car might be his last amid disappointing results and rumours that the 32-year-old might call time on his F1 career.
In any case, Gasly will be hot property and F1 teams planning for a vacancy in their driver lineups will no doubt have been put on high alert the moment Perez’s new deal was announced. There is no doubt he is committed to his desire to race for a top team again – but he might have to defect to Red Bull’s biggest rivals to do so.