Just a few weeks after Red Bull saying that Pierre Gasly’s seat for the reminder of the season would be safe, turns out to be false as the team demote the Frenchman back to Toro Rosso with Alexander Albon named to drive alongside Max Verstappen for the rest of the season.
They’ve done it once and now they’ve done it again. Red Bull have made the ruthless decision to drop Pierre Gasly for the rest of the season and in his place to promote rookie Alexander Albon to partner Max Verstappen for the rest of the F1 2019 campaign.
Gasly’s struggles provide Albon opportunity
After being promoted after an impressive at Toro Rosso due to Daniel Ricciardo departing for Renault, Gasly was the obvious choice for Red Bull to be promoted for 2019 to partner Verstappen.
Red Bull came into the season expecting to have a learning season due to being partnered with Honda for the first time, so teething problems were expected and fingers were crossed to have a championship assault come 2020. However, starting the season, the team seemed to have more of a problem with their chassis rather than the Honda engine. Since, the team have taken 2 victories in the hands of Verstappen along with 3 other podiums. In complete contrast, Gasly has struggled.
While Verstappen took his first career pole, Gasly qualified in 6th a shockingly 8 tenths behind and then in the race, he was lapped by eventual race winner, Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen, who’d finished in 2nd. After the Hungarian GP, Gasly lies in 6th in the championship on 63 points, only 5 points ahead the resurgent McLaren team headed by Carlos Sainz Jr, but 118 points behind 3rd place Verstappen.
The stats don’t make Gasly’s life any easier. He’s only out-qualified Verstappen once in 12 races and he’s only out-raced the Dutchman once in 12 races.
Why did Red Bull make this decision?
As mentioned before, Red Bull did not expect to have such a good season in that they were preparing for a championship challenge come 2020. However, the team’s progress and with the mighty Honda power have made Red Bull a challenger for this year’s championship instead. Red Bull sit 44 points behind Ferrari in 3rd and Verstappen’s recent performance in the past 4 races have Red Bull realise what an opportunity they now have.
The target for the second half of the season is to now out-score and beat Pre-Season favourites, Ferrari. Red Bull ultimately made the decision based on the new target set and with Gasly under-performing, it would have left Verstappen to take the fight to the Ferrari drivers. Hopefully, with two drivers taking the most out of the car, Red Bull can fight for 2nd.
Albon set-up to fail?
Back in 2016, Kvyat and Ricciardo made-up the Red Bull pairing but inconsistent results along with a crash with Sebastian Vettel in Russia, gave Red Bull the golden opportunity to demote Kvyat to Toro Rosso thus giving Verstappen a chance to shine. Verstappen debuted for Red Bull in Spain, a race he’d go onto win and both parties haven’t looked back since.
Runner-up in last year’s F2 Championship, Thai-Brit Albon has scored on 5 occasions with a best of 6th at the German GP in his rookie season. Early potential was easy to spot at the 3rd round of the championship in China where in qualifying, Albon crashed heavily meaning he’d start the race from the back. He put in an impressive drive to finish in 9th claiming his second F1 points finish after leaving Bahrain with a 10th place finish.
‘The team will use the next nine races to evaluate Alex’s performance in order to make an informed decision as to who will drive alongside Max in 2020.”
Red Bull Statement
It be a tough job going up against Verstappen – a driver who equally been the most impressive driver this season alongside Hamilton and has been simply sensational since last year’s Japanese GP.
This is it. Albon has the rest of the season, 9 races in total, to impress Red Bull Management that he’s the right choice to partner Verstappen come 2020.