Austria was one of the most difficult race weekends of the season so far and probably the Sprint format made it even worse. I know it’s the same for everyone, but it meant we did not have much time for long-run work prior to the race. Our Quali performance level was okay, but we had no pace in the Sprint. On the positive side, I was satisfied with my approach to the race and with my concentration level, avoiding any track limits mistakes, so that was a good step for me.
I’ve raced a few times at Paul Ricard, in Euro-Formula and Formula 3 and last year’s Grand Prix was quite difficult for me, as I had to start from pit lane after getting it wrong in qualifying. It’s a track where you need a set-up that works well in mid-speed corners and it can be quite tricky because you have the high-speed straight and Signes corner, but also low and medium-speed turns at the end of sectors 1 and 3. Normally, this would highlight some weak points in our car, but we will have updates in France so hopefully that won’t be the case anymore. It’s really time we return to getting into Q3 to make it easier to score points on Sunday. We’ve gone for a major upgrade rather than lots of small ones. The new upgrade is focused on adding more load to the car, as we were quite weak in the medium to high-speed corners. Hopefully, it will bring us more consistency and allow us to fight at the top of the midfield again.
Austria turned out to be a weekend to forget so I am particularly keen to go racing again at Ricard. Qualifying at the Red Bull Ring was okay, we were just outside the top ten on a track we knew would be complicated for us. But after that, the Sprint Races have unfortunately never gone well for us. On Sunday, I had an incident and we didn’t have the performance level we needed to fight, while getting two penalties didn’t help of course.
But I always prefer to look ahead and I’m hoping things will get much better with the updates we will have on the car this weekend. They are mainly on the aero-side and they should deliver a real step up in performance, so I’m keen to try them out at Ricard, in the hope that they can put us back in the fight for points.
It’s a special weekend as it’s my home race, I want to enjoy the event and share it with all my fans, supporters and French F1 racing enthusiasts. In fact, we’ve organised a special Gasly grandstand at the chicane on the back straight for my fans. It’s nice to be able to do something a bit more personal and to connect with them a bit more than usual. It’s going to be a good atmosphere and I hope we can perform well enough to deliver a good result in front of the French crowd.