Earlier this morning, Red Bull announced that Pierre Gasly would be losing his seat at Red Bull Racing, and would be replaced by F1 rookie Alexander Albon. Gasly will be returning to Toro Rosso for the remainder of the 2019 season, after which Red Bull will make a decision on who their preferred partner is for Max Verstappen in the 2020 season.
This announcement comes just a week or so after Team Principal Christian Horner announced that Gasly would not be losing his seat with the team during the summer break, and that Red Bull were looking to support their driver for the remainder of the 2019 season.
The decision to replace Gasly doesn’t come as a shock to most F1 fans, so far this season he has managed to finish in the top six just five times in the opening 12 races, collecting a total of 66 World Championship points. In the same period of time, his teammate Verstappen has finished in the top five at every race this season, with only one of those 12 finishes in fifth place. The rest coming either fourth, or higher. Verstappen has amassed 181 Championship points and is currently in third place in the Championship, just behind Valterri Bottas.
Gasly has struggled for form all season, following his impressive full debut in the junior team last year. Meanwhile Albon has not only been outstanding in his first 12 F1 races, managing to finish in the points five times, he’s also been remarkably consistent and reliable. He hasn’t gotten himself into any trouble with the stewards, and he has managed to keep his car out of the barriers when it matters most. Proving to be a smart and smooth racer – much in the mold of former champion Nico Rosberg.
Albon could well be another safe pair of hands for Red Bull, if given the chance. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the faster car, and the higher expectations. It is a lot of pressure to put on a driver that is yet to complete a full season in Formula One. As we have seen in the past, putting in strong performances for Toro Rosso doesn’t always translate into success for the Red Bull Racing team. This is now the second occasion that one of their drivers has been demoted back down to Toro Rosso, after Danil Kvyat was replaced by Verstappen in 2016.
Is it too early for Albon to be making the step up? Perhaps, but only time will tell. Realistically, it’s unlikely that he will perform much worse than Gasly, and the team should only be expecting consistent top six finishes from the young Brit – in the short term especially.
While it is admirable that Red Bull are willing to give chances to their young drivers, that come through their programme, perhaps it is time to bring in a big name free agent at the end of this season? Partnering Valterri Bottas with Max Verstappen could see them begin to challenge for the Constructors Championship once again. Either way, whoever partners Max Verstappen next season is going to have a tough time of it. The Dutchman seems to be on another level. Very much like Lewis Hamilton.
I do hope that Pierre Gasly can recapture the form that led him to a seat with Red Bull in the first place, for the latter half of the 2019 season. Hopefully he can look to teammate Kvyat as an example that just because he has been ‘demoted’, it doesn’t mean that his career in Formula One must come to an end.
This news adds to what should already be an exciting end to the 2019 season. Read more about why I am falling back in love with F1 here.