Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly says the Super Formula car he will pilot this season in the Japanese championship is a “pure joy to drive”.
Having been passed up for a Formula 1 promotion by his backers, GP2 champion Gasly moves to Super Formula this season to drive for the Honda-powered Mugen team, a role he will combine with his ongoing reserve duties with the Red Bull grand prix squad.
The Frenchman impressed during the first collective tests for the series in Suzuka last month, ending up third fastest and best of the Honda contingent, and ended up in the same position in the most recent test at Fuji.
Recounting his first experiences in the car, Gasly said he was taken aback by the grip levels of the Dallara SF14 – and relished the fact that, unlike in GP2, he was able to continue to push hard lap after lap.
“Honestly, I’ve never enjoyed driving a car so much,” he told Motorsport.com. “It’s pure joy to drive these cars.
“The grip you have is just amazing, for me it’s similar to the experience I had in the F1 car last year in the high-speed corners, like the first sector at Suzuka – maybe even quicker. The car is really light and has a lot of downforce.
“The tyres are pretty good, basically it’s maximum attack everywhere which is what you love as a driver – to be flat out everywhere. It was the first time in two years I could push for two laps in a row!
“In terms of power it’s a little bit down compared to GP2, but grip in the corner is really impressive – which is a good point with the new F1 cars. Super Formula goes in a similar way, so it’s good preparation.”
Following in Vandoorne’s footsteps
Speaking about his goals for the year, Gasly said that ending the year as the year’s top Honda-powered driver – much like his predecessor as GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne achieved last year – would be his main goal, although he didn’t discount the prospect of winning races.
“The goal is of course to be the top Honda driver, and then [we’ll see] if we have the potential to fight for wins against Toyota,” the Frenchman said.
“In Suzuka I think the potential has been pretty good, so hopefully we can fight for a podium there at the first race, and then we’ll need to see how the car is on the other tracks.
“Everything is going well, but it’s difficult to make clear conclusions about the potential of the car and of myself in the team. If I have the opportunity to win I will do everything I can to make it happen.”
Asked whether Vandoorne’s impressive rookie campaign in the category raised expectations for his own debut, Gasly replied: “Of course, people always have expectations, that’s part of the sport.
“We had a similar path and people will compare. But every driver has to make his own story. I don’t want to spend too much time comparing, there are already so many things to learn and it’s already hard enough like this.
“For me the most important is to get the best out of this season in Japan and get myself ready for a potential F1 seat.”