(Reuters) - Pierre Gasly thanked his lucky angel for a first Formula One victory nobody could have predicted at the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 24-year-old AlphaTauri driver, the first French race winner since Olivier Panis in 1996, also declared himself lost for words although his joy suggested otherwise.
In a race full or surprises, with the top teams all tripping up, Gasly was in the right place at the right time and reaped the rewards to give his Italy-based team their second home success to celebrate after Sebastian Vettel in 2008.
Vettel was a rising talent then, fast-tracked to the Red Bull senior team, but Gasly -- the 2016 GP2 champion -- has travelled in the other direction.
His greatest successes have come after being demoted by Red Bull last year back to the former Toro Rosso outfit he started with in 2017.
Second place in Brazil last year was something special but Sunday, at the temple of Italian motorsport and Ferrari’s home track, was in another dimension -- even if there were no spectators to witness it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s amazing... it’s unbelievable. I’ve been through so many things in the last 18 months and it’s better than anything I expected,” said Gasly, who has gone from strength to strength this year.
“Day by day, race by race, improving and getting stronger. They gave me my first podium in F1 last year in Brazil, today they gave me my first win in F1, in Italy, in Monza. I don’t know what to say.”
Gasly said he had given everything to stay ahead.
“I pushed so hard at the beginning of the stint to open the gap and not give the other guys the slipstream behind. The last five laps were so difficult I almost shunted maybe 10 times because I was pushing so hard and my tyres were gone.
“I wanted that win so much and now we’ve done it, it still feels weird to say that.”
The key move was to pit just before the safety car was deployed, what seemed a bad move turning out to be extremely fortunate after leader Lewis Hamilton was handed a time penalty.
“There was no way we could have planned this,” said Gasly. “I think today we had a little star with us, a little angel taking care of us. We get really lucky with that one.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis
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