Pierre Gasly on The Nest, atop The Residences at Seafire during his recent stay on Grand Cayman. Photo: Rhian Campbell

By Tammi Sulliman

Overcoming bumps in the road is par for the course for Formula One driver Pierre Gasly.

The 23-year-old flying Frenchman, who chose the Cayman Islands for his first Caribbean vacation, explained to young racing enthusiasts why they should face challenges head-on during an informal "meet and greet" at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

“Failure can scare people, but I think it’s the best thing that can happen in your life," said Gasly. "Challenges and failures give you experience, and you learn what not to repeat. You get stronger, and become a better athlete and a better human."

The race car driver visited Grand Cayman for a few days in January, spending time with his girlfriend, parents and trainer. He’s had a hectic few years proving his mettle — he was named a Toro Rosso driver in 2017, and in 2019 moved up the ranks to race for Red Bull. After last summer, he went back to Toro Rosso. He pressed hard on the gas and bounced back to secure his best-ever race result at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, finishing second and ahead of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes team.

“I have learned from my mistakes all through my career," he said. "Once you touch fire for the first time, you learn you get burned. It’s painful and you don’t do it a second time. It’s the same in sports, business, personal life and relationships; that’s how you learn."

Gasly said he has always known which path he would take.

“I am lucky to have found what I wanted to do in my early years," he said. "At 9 years old, I knew I wanted be a Formula One driver and I would do everything I could to make it happen."

Gasly and his family stayed at The Residences at Seafire during their visit to the Cayman Islands, where he says the view of world-acclaimed Seven Mile Beach was the best way to start the day, and every amenity he and his family needed was at their fingertips.

"You feel really relaxed when you wake up with a view like that," he said. "I must admit I rarely feel relaxed. It makes you feel ready every morning to give the best of yourself to the day.”

For Gasly, visiting and seeing Grand Cayman was an eye-opener. “I came here with zero expectations," he said. "It’s my first time in the Caribbean and I didn’t know what I was going to see. The island is breathtaking — I have never seen water like this. Where I come from, the north part of France, the water is pretty dark.”

He was also surprised by the laid-back vibe he found in the Cayman Islands.

“Coming from Paris and New York, everyone is rushing and stressed," he said. "Here, I don’t see anyone stressed. I don’t know what’s the secret. Everyone is relaxed."

Relaxed as it may be, Grand Cayman still maintains sophistication, Gasly noted.

“I play a bit of golf and I was able to play a round — the golf course was amazing," he said. "The food here is equally impressive. I’m surprised by the number of restaurants and the high quality of the food. I see no downside; everything has been incredible.”

However, life is not all play for Gasly, who still has to train to prepare for the next Formula One racing season. He says his workout schedule did not suffer one bit during his Grand Cayman vacation.

“The season is about to start in six weeks, so it is an important time," he says. "I came here with my trainer [Pyry Salmela] and we trained morning and evening, saving some down time to visit the island. I went to CrossFit in the morning and then I went to the gym at the hotel. Grand Cayman has all the facilities I need to get ready for the Formula One racing season."

Gasly said that he also enjoyed the warm "Caymankind" experience he had during his visit.

“I am just amazed with everything, especially coming during the winter season to beautiful warm weather," he said. "It’s difficult to believe for me as I left close to freezing temperatures in France. But it’s not just the beauty of the island. You feel a good energy here. You walk any- and everywhere, and you feel safe."

Like other first-time visitors to the Cayman Islands, the vacation made a lasting impression on Gasly.

“For me, this is the perfect spot to relax and train," he said, pointing to his left little finger. “I have this ring here that tracks my sleep and it told me I had the best sleep of 2020. That alone tells me I have to come back to the Cayman Islands.”

This article also appears in the February 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Formula One driver makes a pit stop on Grand Cayman.”

About the author

Tammi Sulliman is Senior Manager News Director at Dart, where she is responsible for content production, including Camana Bay Times. A trained Caribbean journalist with over 20 years’ experience, Tammi has worked as a news reporter, talk show host and television station manager in the Cayman Islands, focusing on political and social issues affecting the community. In 2003, she graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in French Linguistics and Professional Writing/Communications, and returned to the Cayman Islands with her daughter in 2006.