SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - French driver Pierre Gasly could not sleep for excitement after being told he was in line to make his Formula One debut for Toro Rosso at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The 21-year-old will replace Russian Daniil Kvyat, who has underperformed this season, alongside Renault-bound Carlos Sainz at Toro Rosso this weekend, in a last-minute shuffle announced on Tuesday.
“I travelled from Tokyo on Monday to Malaysia and then when I got here, I received a text saying that I might be driving this weekend,” Red Bull-backed Gasly told reporters on Thursday.
“I tried to sleep Monday night even though it was a bit difficult with all the excitement and then on Tuesday morning I had the confirmation that I was going to drive,” added Gasly, who is racing in the Japanese Super Formula series this season.
Toro Rosso and Red Bull are both owned by the energy drinks manufacturer, with the former acting as a feeder outfit and proving ground for Red Bull-supported drivers.
With Sainz moving on loan to Renault next year, Gasly, who won the GP2 championship last season, is seen as the leading candidate to replace the Spaniard next season.
Slotting him in the car will allow Toro Rosso to assess his performances before making a final decision on their driver lineup for next year.
The Italian team have not said how many of the remaining six races this season Gasly will drive.
Yet he looks set to stay until at least the next race in Japan with the United States Grand Prix after that clashing with the Super Formula season finale.
“At the moment, I don’t know how many races I’m going to do in F1 so there is nothing confirmed,” said Gasly, who said he has set no targets for his debut.
“I think I need to take each session at a time, learn as quickly as possible next to Carlos and then we will see where we are.”
Gasly had sympathy for Kvyat, who has scored four points to Sainz’s 48 and was demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso last season to make way for Max Verstappen.
“Of course I feel sorry for him,” Gasly said.
“I think he’s a really good driver, talented and unfortunately it’s happening and I’m going to take his seat.”
Editing by Toby Davis