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Bahrain could boost Gasly into contention for Red Bull seat

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Pierre Gasly's stunning drive to fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix has confirmed his status as a rapidly rising star in the Formula 1 paddock.

The breakthrough performance even won him recognition from Red Bull's formidable motorsports consultant, Dr Helmut Marko.

"He said I did a great race," Gasly revealed. "But I knew that already!"

Last weekend's race was only his seventh Grand Prix with Toro Rosso - and just the second with a Honda engine. It's the first time he's finished in the points since his F1 début last year in Malaysia.

He qualified for the race in fifth position. He then gained a place in the race when the senior Red Bull drivers suffered disastrous early retirements.

It left Gasly as the standard bearer for the drinks company's colours - and he delivered beyond anyone's expectations.

"We didn't expect fourth place in the second race," admitted Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost. "But we were always told by Honda that we can expect a good result within the first ten races."

"Honda has made great progress," Gasly concurred. "But it's difficult to compare them to other manufacturers. I don't want to mention numbers, but it's obvious that they made a big step forward."

And Sunday's success means that Gasly is now working at a whole new level in the sport.

"It was a very important experience to stand on the grid next to Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas," he said. "They've been in F1 a long time

"Now I'm with very experienced and talented drivers and I cannot make a mistake," he added. "I have a lot to learn, but Bahrain helped me a lot."

Gasly won the GP2 title in 2016, but Marko had previously indicated he was still unconvinced whether the Frenchman was fully F1-ready. It's why he spent most of last season competing in Japanese Super Formula, instead of getting an immediate seat in Formula 1.

"My way here was not easy," Gasly admitted. "But in the end I was always in the top three in all the junior series I did."

Having finally been given a promotion to the Toro Rosso team last summer, the 22-yer-old has now proven he's ready for the big time.

The question is now whether Red Bull view him as a potential replacement for Ricciardo, if the Australian should decide to leave the squad at the end of 2018.

"I don't want to think about it now," Gasly insisted. "But a little later I'll analyse everything."

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