“After Hungary, the frustration was overwhelming” were Red Bull’s words on the subject of Gasly’s underperformance within the team, and then Red Bull’s decision to transfer Pierre Gasly back to Toro Rosso and instead give Alexander Albon a chance in the A-Team came as a surprise to some, including myself, who thought Kyvatt was a sure fit for the rest of 2019.
Not so much because of the performance of the two drivers, because they had already let many paddock commentators speculate about such a driver exchange. But rather because of the fact that Helmut Marko had declared at Hockenheim that the driver line-up would not be changed during the 2019 Formula 1 season.
But apparently the decision makers in the Austrian-British team had changed their minds again after Gasly’s disappointing performance at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Team boss Christian Horner explains how this happened:
“After Hungary the frustration was incredibly great. And the week before the frustration was already big.”
“Then we looked at the World Championship stand. It just didn’t feel right. We have a car with which we should actually be fighting with Ferrari in the Constructors’ World Championship. But we couldn’t do that. That’s why the pressure on Pierre became ever greater, also from the media. And at the same time we’re in the unique position of having four drivers and four cockpits.”
But especially in view of the Constructors’ World Championship (currently 254 to 326 points compared to Ferrari), many would have found a promotion from Daniil Kvyat to Red Bull more logical. The Russian has stabilised mentally, brought along experience as a Ferrari simulator pilot and is driving in perhaps the best form of his life, not just since the surprise podium at Hockenheim.
“Daniil is a known quantity for us. We already know a lot about what he can do. At the same time, we saw Alex’s talent in the first twelve races and wanted to see how he was doing in the last nine. To make a well-informed decision about who will be Max’s team-mate in 2020.” said Horner.
“We didn’t want to hurt Toro Rosso by taking the experienced pilot away from them”. A decision that Dietrich Mateschitz finally made: “It’s his team,” Horner clarifies. “But of course we made a recommendation. Helmut, me, we discussed that. Also with the engineers and Adrian [Newey]. There was no one who disagreed.”
But while Gasly gets a new chance at Toro Rosso to cope with a little less pressure in Formula 1, Albon now faces a difficult task. The expectations are high: “The car will be able to finish on the podium,” says Horner. “That must be the goal, that he drives and finishes at podium places.”
As far as the gap to Verstappen is concerned, the British born Thai driver hasn’t been set a concrete yardstick. You want to see progress from race to race, says Horner. That Albon, if he can’t convince, will drive for Toro Rosso again in 2020 is “possible. As I said, we’re in the unique position of being able to move the riders around as much as we want”.
If Albon isn’t convincing, Red Bull’s driver choice for 2020 will be an exciting one. Observers believe that it is unlikely that Gasly will be promoted again. Albon would then be out of the race. And Kvyat has already faltered once before due to pressure from a top team.
As far as Red Bull were concerned, Hülkenberg and Vettel apparently were not an option.
“If we have the feeling that none of the drivers in our own pool can meet our expectations, then of course we will also look around externally,” Horner admits. “But I have a good feeling that the talent in our pool is sufficient.” in a rather towing the line kind of fashion.
Recently, Nico Hülkenberg was considered a possible Plan B. “We’re looking forward to the next round. But Helmut Marko has already categorically excluded the German reported in Germany’s Auto Bild motorsport outlet. Then there are always rumours in the paddock about Sebastian Vettel’s return. The contact to the four-time World Champion has never been completely broken off.
But: “He won’t be available next year”, Horner replies to the question of whether Vettel would be considered for 2020. How does he know that? “I just know,” he grins. “Sebastian is a Ferrari driver. He is under contract until the end of 2020.”
Horner firmly rejects the accusation that the uncompromising decision-making culture at Red Bull could have an impact on morale among the drivers and in the team. On the contrary, the driver change at Spa has brought a breath of fresh air through the pits.
In addition: “I also talked to Pierre. He seems to be approaching the task with Toro Rosso with the right attitude. He realises that he still has possibilities,” Horner claims.
Fatal F2 crash: detailed new analysis on how it happened, is action needed?
Two days after the fatal accident of Anthoine Hubert in Spa, yet more crash videos appear online slowly revealing what really happened: race fans never really saw how exactly the fatal accident came to pass.
Certainly, TJ13 has never been shy to say it’s piece after tragic accidents, the last significant moment being the 2014 Jules Bianchi crash in Japan. Perhaps out of misplaced respect, many professional news outlets haven’t embedded the many minutes of footage doing the rounds on social media from Saturdays’ terrible crash. I will say this at the beginning of my piece that we will embed clips detailing how the accident happened toward the end of this page, so if you are offended by this, I implore you to close the browser now….. READ MORE