2016 GP2 Year in Review: Pierre Gasly
Despite having no wins and just four podiums in 27 starts before the 2016 season, Pierre Gasly grew into a champion with a superb full sophomore season in GP2.
Points: 219 (1st)
Car No.: 21
Driver Name: Pierre Gasly
Team Name: Prema Racing
Total Races: 22
Average Start: 7.7
Average Finish: 4.5
May was an important month for Gasly, a Red Bull junior driver. Before the first weekend of the GP2 Series in 2016, news broke that Max Verstappen was replacing Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull in Formula One and speculation began over the future of Kvyat, now at Toro Rosso, with the Frenchman next in line for a seat.
It was important than that he got off to a good start in his racing season, with two podiums at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the first time he had taken two podiums in one race weekend.
A miserable weekend at Monaco followed, albeit caused by having to start from the pit lane after missing the weighbridge in qualifying. He had only qualified 16th. This is one of the features of his season, at times he would have random qualifying results despite having five pole positions for feature races, the most of any driver.
At this point, it was unclear who was a possible championship contender due to 10 drivers swapping positions at various stages.
A second-place finish in the sprint race in Baku was his only podium between Monaco and British feature races, a gap of three races between two Monaco rounds and the feature race in Baku was his longest spell without a podium in the entire year. During this time, teammate Antonio Giovinazzi capitalized and grabbed two victories in Baku and started growing as a driver, putting the pressure on.
As the summer came, Gasly moved into domination mode. He qualified in the top two for every race between Britain and the end of the year, while wins in Britain, Hungary and Belgium feature races propelled him to championship contention.
Despite Giovinazzi winning three out of four races between the Belgian sprint race and Malaysian feature race and leading the championship with two races to go, Gasly had the much stronger end of season form, finishing with two podiums in the last three races to take the crown by just eight points. Gasly is a deserved champion.
Highlight of 2016: The emotions of winning his first GP2 race in Britain, with a gap of 693 days between his first race and first victory. Winning the championship in Abu Dhabi obviously also stands out.
Downfall of 2016: The downfall was just his early form as he got settled into the season. Like a fine wine, as time went on he got better and better.
Notes for 2017: As champion, he cannot return to the series in 2017, and finds himself still outside the Toro Rosso Formula One team. Possibly racing in Japan in Super Formula, like previous GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne did in 2016, but could be given an outside chance of a seat in F1 if a driver like Carlos Sainz shockingly departs for Mercedes or Daniil Kvyat is sacked during the season.
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