Pierre Gasly continued to strengthen his bid for a Formula 1 race seat by taking his second straight win in the Japanese Super Formula series on Sunday at Autopolis.
Gasly, 21, was placed in Super Formula for 2017 by Red Bull after winning the GP2 title last year, and took his maiden victory in the series at Motegi last month.
Gasly qualified fifth for Sunday’s race at Autopolis, but managed to jump up to second at the start before closing on early leader Tomoki Nojiri on the softer compound tire.
Gasly made his sole pit stop earlier than Nojiri, who by not reacting immediately handed the Frenchman the undercut and the chance to jump ahead.
A series of fast laps on fresher tires saw Gasly move into the lead once Nojiri pitted, with the Japanese racer then tangling with Kamui Kobayashi and dropping down the order.
Despite Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist being within striking distance towards the end, Gasly was able to hold on and secure his second straight win, thrusting himself into the thick of the title fight.
Gasly sits 5.5 points shy of Hiroaki Ishiura at the top of the standings with three races to go, with Rosenqvist sitting just half a point further back after taking three consecutive podium finishes.
The result is well-timed for Gasly following reports that Carlos Sainz Jr. is poised to move to Renault as part of the deal that will see Toro Rosso take on Honda power units in Formula 1 next year.
Autosport notes in its report regarding the deal that Sainz could move across to Renault as early as the Malaysian Grand Prix should the team cut ties with Jolyon Palmer early, perhaps paving the way for Gasly to make his F1 debut at Sepang.
The Super Formula season continues in two weeks’ time at Sportsland SUGO, with the final double-header round being held at Suzuka on October 22, clashing with the United States Grand Prix weekend.