One of the stand-out performers on the F1 grid for the best part of two years now is deciding where his future lies. Does it lie with current team AlphaTauri, who are linked with Red Bull, or does it lie elsewhere on the grid?
Since his short and underperforming stint with Red Bull in 2019, Pierre Gasly has transformed himself into a completely different driver since returning 'home' to AlphaTauri. With more freedom and a little less pressure on the Frenchman's shoulders, he has been one of the stand-out drivers on the grid as he continues to extract the maximum out of his mid-field machinery.
That 'buzz' that was about him when he first entered the sport in 2017 is back, his motivation is higher than ever and his determination to prove his critics wrong is one of the factors that is ensuring that he is driving to the best of his ability at the moment.
The opening seven races to the 2021 Season has been his best start to a full season with Pierre acquiring a points haul of 37 which includes a podium finish he robustly defended from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to secure third in Azerbaijan. These results means that Pierre sits in eighth in the Championship, splitting the Ferrari and McLaren drivers.
A FAMILIAR FEELING: In only 70 races, Pierre has finished on the podium three times picking up a win, a second and a third place finish and is now the most successful driver for AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso
Pierre is also on a run of six point scoring races stretching back to the second race of the season at the Emilla Romagna GP. However, his qualifying form has been absoultely scintillating with six top ten appearances with a best of fourth at Azerbaijan.
With his recent form, Gasly is the driving force behind AlphaTauri's charge with Pierre being the defacto team leader while his rookie team-mate, Yuki Tsunoda, is still trying to iron out the little mistakes.
After the French GP, AlphaTauri are currently fifth in the championship with 45 points and while Pierre has brought home 37, Tsunoda has secured only eight. The numbers don't lie when it works out that Pierre has scored over 82% of the teams points so far.
SUCCESS ON HOME SOIL: Qualifying in sixth, Pierre was ahead of both McLaren's and split the Ferrari duo to end up only +0.028s behind Carlos Sainz Jr in fifth
So, Pierre's on great form and AlphaTauri are in the mix in the mid-field with a capable car of scoring points on a regular basis and even having a sniff of McLaren and Ferrari who are battling for third in the Constructors Championship. As a combination it's working extremely well but Pierre isn't satisfied with the odd podium or lower-end points each race, he wants more.
Pierre's contract is set to expire this season and with Sergio Perez performing well in the second Red Bull seat alongside Championship Leader Max Verstappen, the talented Frenchman is in the process of deciding his future and what team he'll be driving with next season.
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has applauded Pierre's results and his form over the past season but admits that there'll be little hope of him returning to the championship-winning team.
In the Third series of Netflix's Drive to Survive, in an interview Horner is talking about Red Bull's options for 2021 and who would end up partnering Verstappen. Speaking about Pierre, Horner said:
“From a team point of view, there’s been no-one pushing internally to say: ‘We’ve got to have Pierre back."
With a return to the top team all but essentially ruled out, Pierre is scouting the eight other teams on the grid and whether they would take him on.
One avenue that Gasly was heavily linked with was Alpine. That was until the start of the French GP weekend when the team, formerly known as Renault, signed Esteban Ocon on a new deal lasting until 2024.
With Double Champion Fernando Alonso starting to rediscover his pace, his results have improved over the past few races with a stand-out finish of sixth at Azerbaijan. The Spaniard is also in contract to continue into next year so this option for Gasly is most definitely out of the question.
STAYING PUT: There'll be no change at Alpine heading into 2021 as a new deal for Ocon ensures the Frenchman will remain team-mates alongside a rejuvenated Alonso
Over the past few weeks, I've heard this rumour and theory being thrown about and the more I hear and read about it, I'm 'warming' to this move for Pierre.
With George Russell in contention to replace Valterri Bottas at Mercedes, a spot would open up at Williams. Yes, the team that have finished plum last and haven't scored any points since the 2019 Italian GP.
CONSTRASTING MOVES: Willliams star George Russell hopes to move up the grid to Mercedes while a step backwards might favour Gasly's trajectory
Williams however are a team on the up. Having been bought last year, the team have had a steady cash flow from new owners Dorilton Captial and seem to be making progress. With the downfall of Haas, Williams are currently ninth in the championship and are there on merit with Russell's twelfth place in Sunday's race lifting them back ahead.
The team has also been restructuring since Dorilton Capital took over from Frank and Claire Williams who emotionally left their position when the cheqeuered flag fell at last season's Italian GP. After an internal restructure, Simon Roberts has left the position of Team Boss and has been replaced by Jost Capito with that move happening a few weeks ago.
If Pierre was to end up at Williams for next season, he'd be the first French driver to race for the team since multiple World Champion Alain Prost claimed his fourth and final title before leaving the sport at the end of 1993.
FRENCH REVIVAL: Prost remains the last driver from France to win a World Championship, could Gasly follow in his foot-steps?
It's not a crazy theory or suggestion and it would give Pierre a 'fresh start'. The ability to make the team his own and build the team around him is a quality and need for drivers who are aiming to become World Champions. Just look at Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, Michael Schumacher at Ferrari or even Sebastain Vettel at Red Bull. Drivers who successfully build the team around themselves to achieve greatness.
With Williams switching focus on the new regulations set to come into place next year, pundits are predicting that the grid will be closer than ever and there'll be teams who'll move up, or down, the F1 pecking order. And it's Williams, that many pundits are predicting to have real benefit from these rule changes.
At the moment, a move to Williams seems the most viable route to take if Pierre doesn't want to stay at AlphaTauri. However, that decision may be made for him as there are a lot of exciting young drivers in the Red Bull Driver Academy who are performing well in the junior catergories.
Pierre would be content with staying at AlphaTauri but nearly everyone else in the F1 paddock believes that his future lies with another team. It's time for Pierre to break free from the Red Bull family and find a new home on the grid.