Autosport today reported that Red Bull junior Dan Ticktum has recently lost his drive in Japanese Super Formula, his strongest hope of scoring enough F1 Superlicence points that might enable the young British driver a shot at Formula 1.
Alas, it seems that the Red Bull Junior may well be completely off the radar for the ruthless head of Red Bull driver development, Dr Helmut Marko. Ticktum will be dropped from their programme immediately.
Some saw Ticktum as a possible F1 driver of the near future and someone who could be a key person in the continuing Red Bull driver saga, of which the talent pool is fast appearing to dry up. Not good news for the senior F1 team who are finding their latest driver Pierre Gasly a poor team-mate of Verstappen.
To get an idea of just how much of a musical chair dance the Red Bull F1 junior programme has been, here’s a brief synopsis of Red Bull’s Toro Rosso team from 2016 onwards.
In 2016, Daniil Kyvat lost his Red Bull Racing seat to Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen early in the season, Verstappen famously winning his first outing for the team in Spain. Kyvat returned to Toro Rosso, his original team from 2014, for the remainder of the season partnering Carlos Sainz. The pair would race for Toro Rosso the following 2017 season.
By September 2017, it was announced that Pierre Gasly would replace an underperforming Kvyat for an unspecified number of races, beginning with the Malaysian Grand Prix. At the United States Grand Prix, Sainz moved to Renault for the remaining rounds of the season, ahead of his previously announced move for 2018, with Kvyat returning to the team. Gasly was absent in order to participate in the final round of the Japanese Super Formula Championship, so Brendon Hartley replaced him for this race.
After the race, it was announced that Gasly would return to partner Hartley for the Mexican Grand Prix. After the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix, Helmut Marko said that Daniil Kvyat would not be returning to Toro Rosso and that the team would race with Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly for the remainder of the season.
On 16th November 2017 it was announced that Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley would be racing for the team during the 2018 season, the Frenchman Gasly eventually being promoted to Red Bull Racing for 2019 and the Kiwi Hartley finally being dropped altogether.
Amazingly, Daniil Kyvat returned again to Toro Rosso for this season with F1 rookie Alexader Albon, another Red Bull Junior whose light had seemingly gone out some years previously in 2012, but somehow came back to the brand again with this surprise chance to race in F1.
So, with a clear hatchet history of chopping off young drivers and then bringing them back to life again, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko might well need to use the triple comeback kid Daniil Kyvat at Red Bull Racing to replace an underperforming Pierre Gasly. There simply is nobody else coming through with enough Superlicense points.
Earlier today, TJ13 published an interesting interview with Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost, who more than hints that Kyvat could well end up back at Red Bull Racing.
Perhaps this could be seen as a learning process for the Red Bull driver program? Proof if ever that sometimes a driver needs experience to reach their full potential in F1. Not everyone can be a Vettel or Verstappen… although any true motorsport fan would know this having looked at ex-Red Bull Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Verne.
Lets’ just try and ignore Scott Speed whilst making this point though… And maybe Dan Ticktum is hopeful that in 5 or 6 years time he too might be good enough to race for Marko in an Albon or Kyvat sense.
Toro Rosso boss talks Kyvat to Red Bull
On the German Formula 1 podcast ‘Starting Grid’ hosted by the writing team of motorsport-total.com, Franz Tost talks about Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kyvat stating that at Red Bull Racing, “Daniil could perform well”.
The pressure on Pierre Gasly in the Red Bull team increases before the home Grand Prix for the Red Bull owned teams in Austria. After another disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix, Christian Horner certainly let it be known that it is “frustrating” to only be competitive with only one car at the moment. Furthermore, after some revealing spy photo’s of the Russian’s manager talking to senior Red Bull Racing members including Dr Helmut Marko, rumours have been rife these last few days.
TJ13 now understands that the meeting wasn’t entirely chance or routine either.
How amusing it is that the once-disgraced Red Bull Racing driver replaced by Verstappen mid-season, the ‘Torpedo’, has been performing flawlessly for several races and Gasly finds it nearly impossible to stay within spitting distance of team-mate Max Verstappen in identical machinery.
Adding further fuel to the fire, during the F1 podcast ‘Starting Grid’ Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost is asked about the current rumours, and definitive denial doesn’t appear either. “Daniil Kyvat,” he says, “is a Red Bull driver. He is currently on loan at Toro Rosso.”
“We will then see how all this crystallises out in the future.” continues Tost
“I would be happy if Daniil could return to a top team, Red Bull. Why? Because I think he has the speed.
“If all the circumstances there are right, he can perform very well,” confirms the Austrian.
After Baku this year, Tost had already mentioned Daniil’s name with the senior team claiming that “In terms of speed he can do it. When he brings everything else together and when the car fits.”
Marko has recently denied that Kyvat will soon be sitting in the Red Bull instead of Gasly anytime soon, claiming that the speculations are simply wrong, just as those about Nico Hülkenberg a few weeks ago were wrong. The good doctor is obviously referring to the rumours regarding the Renault driver possible move over to Red Bull in an obvious ‘tit for tat’ move after former Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo defected to Renault this year.
Tost’s opinion is somewhat less obtuse, however, saying that there’s “no loss of face” for Red Bull, and that “The decisive factor in Formula 1 is performance. If a driver does the performance, why not bring him back?”
Gasly, who pushed himself to Toro Rosso in 2018 with solid performances for promotion to Red Bull Racing, Tost is “a bit surprised himself” that the Frenchman isn’t doing any better, “because I think Pierre Gasly is much better and faster than he seems at the moment. But I don’t know the exact circumstances.”
It’s clear to all that Gasly has had an unusually bad start at Red Bull as Verstappen’s team-mate, starting with a test accident in Barcelona during winter testing. He was unsuccessful in Australia and Bahrain, but at least he was protected there by Horner and Marko who stood up for their chosen rookie. From China, Azerbaijan, Spain his performances seemed to recover, relatively speaking.
But in Montreal he already had a hard time in direct comparison with Verstappen, and just at his home race at Paul Ricard in France, he delivered perhaps the worst performance so far: In qualifying he was one of only two drivers who needed a soft tyre to get into Q3 – which ruined his race in which he seemed to just go backwards.
Horner said of Gasly in China that “Pierre was of a high caliber in the lower categories and did well with Toro Rosso. I’m confident that he can do it.
“He sits next to a driver who is probably the hottest stock in the paddock right now,” he added.
Some speculate that Red Bull may have come too early for the 23-year-old, but Tost thinks otherwise citing the history of success in the junior categories as proof:
“Gasly drove well in the Renault World Series 3.5, which is similar in speed to Formula 2. Then he drove Formula 2 for two years and one year in Japan in their Superformula. Japan is the closest thing to Formula 1.”
“In terms of talent,” says the Austrian, “there’s no question. He can do it all. But he just needs his time.”
“You have to give him the time to adapt everything correctly. He is unlucky that he is driving next to Max Verstappen, who is now of course established in the team.
“But Max has also been with us once and has also gone through his learning processes too.”
Gasly is currently having difficulties “because he can’t cope with the car like that. The car is unpredictable for him, light on the rear axle, and that’s something he doesn’t like. He likes a stable rear axle,” said Tost
He’s “miles away” from the level of Verstappen but “Not because he lacks talent, but because he lacks experience.”
“And two factors come together. First, finding his own level of natural speed.
“Second, if the car doesn’t fit Gasly one hundred percent. The two factors are enough to lose two or three-hundredths of a second in every corner. If that’s 15 corners, that’s three, four-tenths of a second.”
What is certain is that Gasly will be under pressure in the next few races. A surprise driver change is considered unlikely, for now. But if Gasly doesn’t improve before the summer break (Spielberg, Silverstone, Hockenheim, Budapest) it’s not impossible that another driver will be sitting in the second Red Bull in Spa on 1 September.