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There is “no way” to challenge top teams, says Gasly

The Alpha Tauri driver hoped for closer competition

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Despite the significant rulebook changes for 2022, Pierre Gasly is not convinced that the field is more competitive.

With the introduction of new regulations, teams and fans alike expected closer racing, more on-track action and shiny new cars.

Highly-anticipated changes were made to the design of the 2022 Formula 1 car (Photo by Race Service/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The FIA placed tougher restrictions on areas such as aerodynamic testing in a bid to even out opportunities for development. In previous seasons, the richer teams were able to dedicate more money and time to wind tunnels whilst others were limited in their chances to do so.

Alongside this, one of the most topical elements of the regulations is the budget cap. This season, teams are permitted to spend $140m, although the actual amount will be higher. There is a concession that every race above 21 on the calendar adds $1.2m to the budget.

The idea was that all of these changes would enable a variety of teams to compete for podiums and victories, thereby preventing the pattern of constructor dominance that has characterised F1 in recent years. Whilst people dreamt of different winners in every race and a tight battle in the standings, the reality is not quite as exciting.

Across the first seven races, the only teams that stood on top of the podium are Ferrari and Red Bull. Mercedes have achieved a couple of podium finishes while they linger as the third fastest team. Apart from that, the only true midfield team to have similar success is McLaren – Lando Norris took third place in Imola.

What is Gasly’s view?

Driving for Alpha Tauri alongside Yuki Tsunoda, Gasly finds himself in 14th in the standings with six points. He has been unable to convert his evident skill into high point finishes this season.

He said: “Last year, I got excited many times because I could outqualify a Ferrari, sometimes the Red Bulls, sometimes Mercedes. I felt like this top three, they were faster, but they were not such a different league that you could tease them sometimes.”

Unlike recent seasons, Gasly has been unable to showcase his potential. (Photo by Maxim Shemetov – Pool/Getty Images)

At the same point in the 2021 season, the Frenchman had 37 points and had achieved a podium in Baku. Now, he has little faith that he can get similar results. He explained: 

“This year, there is no way. It’s clearly a big step. Only [Valtteri] Bottas can challenge at times. We’re literally fighting for seventh, which is a bit sad because clearly the target was to close [up].”

“I think if you look from fourth-fastest to probably the last actually, I think we all bunched up quite a lot,” Gasly continued. “Today I think even if you’re driving a Ferrari or Red Bull, you can go completely wide at one corner and still qualify in the top six, compared to a guy who nailed his lap with another car.”

The other side

Although Gasly is not encouraged by the new regulations, there are some who notice clear differences.

Andreas Seidl, team principal at McLaren, said: “It just needs a bit more time in terms of washing out and then seeing the full effect. We shouldn’t forget that the teams that are running in front of us at the moment in the championship, they have built up their organisations, their infrastructure, many, many years ago.

“They are fully on top of using their infrastructure to the maximum. They are established organisations in terms of their people and talents as well.

“And that’s something where they still benefit from, and where they simply keep doing an exceptional job.”

Have the regulations made a positive difference?

It largely depends on how you define a positive difference. If you support Gasly, McLaren, or Williams, then you probably haven’t noticed much of a helpful change in their performances.

The rules have certainly benefitted some teams more than others – Ferrari and Haas, appear to have made significant strides forward. Guenther Steiner used to dream of points finishes. Now, his driver Kevin Magnussen is one of the top 10 in the standings.

Looking at the field as a whole, there certainly isn’t a major improvement in the competitive gaps. Some have lauded the changes, with Norris believing that fans are “seeing better races this year than for many years”.

Norris is the only driver outside of the top three teams to finish on the podium this season (Photo by Arthur Thill ATPImages/Getty Images)

It’s generally accepted that it is possible for competitors to remain closer to other cars than before. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the racing itself has improved. There have been exciting side-by-side battles, especially between Verstappen and Leclerc, but we saw those last year too. 

The regulation changes are far from perfect; it may take several seasons before they fully achieve the FIA’s goals. However, there was never going to be a single solution to bettering the spectacle of Formula 1. For now, all we can say is we’re heading in the right direction. 

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

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