MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The immediate smile on Pierre Gasly’s face told the story.
The Alpine F1 driver was sitting in his team’s hospitality area – located in the middle of the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium – last week before the Miami Grand Prix. And among all the questions dissecting his team’s Formula One season to date, he was unmistakably happy to talk about his stop at NASCAR’s RFK Racing shop earlier in the week.
Gasly and his Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon spent time at the RFK team’s Mooresville, N.C. shop and also at Charlotte Motor Speedway, courtesy of shared sponsor Castrol – and essentially the open-wheel stars got to see how their counterpart in the American world of big-time auto racing lives and operates.
They were equal parts intrigued and impressed.
Gasly and Ocon – both natives of France – took turns driving Chris Buescher’s No. 17 RFK Ford Mustang, turning laps around Charlotte’s famed ROVAL course, site of the NASCAR Cup Series’ annual October Playoff race. Afterwards, the NASCAR stars hosted the F1 stars at RFK’s shop for a tour and a pit stop demonstration.
“Felt like on the ski slopes when I was on the banking,” Gasly said with a grin about his drive around the track.
“I was facing kind of sideways which was very odd,” he added. “I’d never had that feeling. Going through the banking in fifth gear and bottoming out, I did think about my insurance and whether the car was well-insured at one point. I thought ‘Don’t push too much, because you don’t know how to do it,’ … but you want to feel the limits.
“I must say, I was quite amazed with the braking. I didn’t expect the car to brake that hard and cornering is so far away from what we experience with a lot of downforce in F1 cars. In terms of the braking and banking, pretty amazing.”
The reaction was genuine and the experience was something he definitely appreciated.
“Clearly, I would not be part of the pit crew but I found it pretty amazing,” Gasly said. “I watched some NASCAR racing on TV when I was younger – it’s a different way of working and I was amazed with the NASCAR factory and the team – just how professional it is, all the history.
“It was a like a museum and to see all the facilities and the pit crew so dedicated to the pit stops, they actually don’t do any work on the car, which I found fascinating because it looks like a proper team, a football team getting together just for that one proper task they have to do.
“It’s not for us. … not for us,” he added with a smile.
-Photo credit: RFK Racing