Pierre Gasly has told the tale of how he was scammed by a fake sponsor, whom he had travelled to Uganda intending to meet.
The bizarre incident happened ahead of the 2016 GP2 season, just before the time when Gasly turned 20 years old.
The Frenchman, who had finished eighth in the series the previous season for DAMS, needed budget to make the move to the Prema team, who were stepping up to GP2 for the first time.
In order to try and secure the necessary funding, Gasly flew to Uganda with his mother having been in contact with a supposed prospective sponsor.
“I needed to find some sponsors and took a trip to Uganda,” said Gasly, quoted by Motorsport.com, when asked at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to describe one of his greatest adventures.
“I had to meet with a guy who wanted to sponsor me, since I needed the budget to run with Prema.
“It was during the presidential elections, so there was a high risk of rebellion in the country. But if I wanted to run with Prema, I had to find money and there I went.
“I was 19 years old then and, in [the space of] 24 hours, we decided to get the tickets, go there for 12 hours and meet an unknown guy, who unfortunately I did not know. He never showed up. We never received the money.”
It was an experience Gasly, who in 2020 won the Italian Grand Prix for AlphaTauri, puts down as part of his learning curve.
“It was a real adventure because from the beginning to the end, nothing went as expected,” he added.
“I went with my mother and we thought we were never going back to Europe. The truth is it was amazing to see the poverty and the conditions in which people live.
“We went through the equivalent of the favelas and this makes you see what some parts of the world are like, and how poverty affects some people.
“I came back without money. In fact, I lost money on plane tickets. But it was a good lesson of life.”
There was, of course, a happy ending to the story. Gasly did race for Prema in 2016 with he and team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi dominating the championship, the Frenchman taking the title by eight points and moving up to F1 with Toro Rosso the following year.
After a brief spell with Red Bull, he returned to their ‘sister’ team, now titled AlphaTauri, and triumphed at Monza in 2020 before finishing ninth in the 2021 Drivers’ standings, highlighted by an Azerbaijan podium and a first F1 front-row start in Qatar.
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