Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly
Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly has finally departed from Dubai with a promise that he will be back soon.

The 24-year-old Gasly had to spend nearly two months in Dubai after he had travelled here following the cancellation of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 15. Apparently, at least that was his original plan before everyone headed off for the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 22.

Gasly is based in Italy, but sadly for the driver all airports in Italy were shut down during the early lockdown period there. He had the option of going to his native France, but he didn’t want to potentially put his parents at risk.

So, the Frenchman chose to stay on in Dubai along with his trainer.

Immediately after the lockdown was temporarily lifted in Dubai last week, among the first things on his list was taking a spin at Dubai Autodrome. The 24-year-old had to secure special permission to get some time off for some laps on the track.

“I managed to go to the karting track, so I had a couple of days doing karting, which is always good for practice, and also for fun,” he said before taking one of the repatriation flights to France last week.

“I need to go and see my family as I’ve been missing them for more than two months here. And after that I’ll go back home to Italy and just continue training.

“We still have quite a bit of time before the first race, so we will just focus on more preparation, and hopefully we can start the season very soon, because I’m missing racing as well.”

Last November, the Toro Rosso F1 team were renamed Alpha Tauri, with Gasly being joined by Daniil Kvyat behind the wheels for the 2020 season.

Organisers had put together a calendar of 22 grands prix for the 2020 World Championship. But then came the pandemic forcing frequent revisions to this calendar. For the moment, F1 has cancelled three races and another seven have been postponed.

The 2020 season is now expected to get under way with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, on July 5. In addition, venues in Austria and Britain have signed contracts to hold two races on consecutive weekends, but implementing this depends on the development of government regulation related to the pandemic.

“I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve been waiting that long between two races. The last one was in Abu Dhabi in December, so I need competition, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car,” Gasly said.

The French driver admitted that he had the best of stays in the UAE while working hard on his fitness. “What made me take a decision to stay back was that I had better facilities in Dubai than back in France. I’ve had been training hard the last two months. The good thing is that we’ve been really focused on our training since the day we arrived in Dubai,” he said.

Resident of a hotel on Palm Jumeirah, Gasly recalled how staff did their best to accommodate him and his teammates’ needs during their stay. With public facilities, such as hotel gyms being closed, the hotel’s team created a special gym in an empty apartment adjacent so he could continue training safely during isolation.

“We would train six days a week, three days focusing on the cardio and three days focusing on more gym-like exercises and strength work,” he explained.

“The temporary gym at the apartment next door had treadmills, weights and everything that we needed to train and keep in shape.”

The French driver further confessed that aside from training, he often killed time while being involved on PlayStation. Unfortunately, he did not have his simulator with him, forcing him to stay involved in e-games such as Call of Duty or Fifa. In addition, he also picked up Italian so that he can apply for his boating licence once he gets back.

“At this time of the year, we’re usually travelling every three days. It’s all about going to airports, touching down in different countries, in various time zones, and we are usually quite tired while trying to recover,” he said.

“Now, we’ve really had a lot of time to work, and try to improve physical conditions — even though I felt like I was ready for this season, I have gotten stronger.”

While 2020 will be a year in remembrance of these sad unparalleled circumstances, Gasly acknowledged that he has been in a fortunate position during these times, and is grateful that his lockdown experience has been a positive one.

“Honestly, I really enjoyed my time here over the last two months,” he said. “I’m probably going to miss it, but I know I’ll come back to Dubai soon, because I really like this place.”