Alex Gives You Wings: The Right Red Bull Decision?
Okay, so the massive news that Red Bull Racing dropped today admittedly doesn’t really come as much of a surprise, apart from it does more than it should, and it does for a completely different reason. What I am on about of course in fear that you’re living under a rock is the news that struggling Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly will be demoted back to former team Scuderia Toro Rosso and will be replaced within the top team for the coming Belgian Grand Prix. The surprise? It’s the driver elected to replace him, British/Thai youngster and F1 rookie Alexander Albon. Is that really the best idea?
Firstly, we all did kinda know that Gasly was sadly on his way out from the team, eventually it was going to happen, even with Red Bull's best attempts of assurity that he would keep his drive until the end of this season at least. He may have been struggling with the transition from the two teams, the car, the team itself whatever it was, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t good enough. There were questions even last season if Gasly was ready for such a quick promotion when it broke that he was to step up and replace the Renault bound Daniel Ricciardo this time last year, and you would be mistaken for thinking so with his brilliant first full season with Toro Rosso. I’m not for one second saying Gasly is bad but he’s just on a rough stage and sadly it’s costing the team in the long run.
Thanks to recent performances from teammate Max Verstappen and the package as a whole with the new and ever improving Honda engine, second place in this year’s constructors championship is a real possibility with nine races to go thanks to Ferrari’s flawed SF90 not playing as the Scuderia would like, but they need two drivers to deliver maximum results to achieve that. Ferrari have the two drivers in Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, but comparing Gasly’s results to Verstappen’s in the same equipment shows it just hasn’t been good enough, time to bring back a more experienced driver to deliver in the goods in the number two slot?
Well I thought that would be the reasonable option, for example Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat knows all too well what Gasly is going through, as he himself was booted out of the senior team and back to Toro Rosso four races into 2016 to make way for Max Verstappen, and even though Verstappen had a full years’ worth of Grand Prix experience under his belt. Kvyat was then dropped completely from Red Bull in late 2017 and found a home in the Ferrari stable the following year, only to make a shock return for this season to Toro Rosso this year, defying the critics and coming back a changed person, one now reformed and capable of a top team drive.
Albon on the other hand, has twelve Grands Prix to his name and prior to the team’s launch of the STR14 had never even driven an F1 car before. Now I’m not being harsh or playing favourites here and I have spoke very highly of Alex Albon in the past. He was always one to watch in F2 and was the dark knight constantly pouncing from the shadows during the glorious Russell/Norris battle throughout the 2018 F2 season, and considering he had never driven an F1 car properly or had his super licence during pre-season testing, he really impressed me how he came in to this season and showed himself capable of being a quick driver and constant points finisher. Remember that brilliant race in China where a crash in FP3 left him starting from the pitlane and he fought all race to finish tenth? In only his third race? Great stuff, sure. But is he really ready for a top team with only twelve races to his name? Especially one as notorious and brunt as Red Bull?
I mean I leave the decision to you. Christian Horner and Dr. Marko tell you Gasly is being replaced, but you have to choose either Albon or Kvyat and they must perform from the off. Do you choose Albon, A driver with only 12 races completed and still a lot to learn in terms of experience, or Kvyat, an ex-Red Bull driver who knows the mechanics and how the team structure itself works? Sure he was in a rough patch, but has come back stronger than ever and delivered Toro Rosso their second ever podium position finish only weeks ago? It’s kind of a no-brainer isn’t it? Well, then come the conspiracy theories and looking at some fans today on social media, some of them do actually make sense.
Some have suggested that Kvyat was possibly asked but initially refused a second chance with the team, possibly having something else in the works for 2020. After his podium finish in Germany a few weeks ago, he told Sky F1 reporter Nathalie Pinkham in a post-race interview that he was hoping it was the first of many podiums to come soon. Now I initially flagged this as a blatant hint that he was indeed replacing Gasly at Red Bull, but when asked by Nathalie what he meant, he told her that he was looking at other options for next season, not necessarily Red Bull. Some suggest Haas, or maybe a move to Renault to partner old teammate Ricciardo. Interesting.
All eyes will be on both Gasly and Albon to see how they perform with their assigned teams in Belgium.
Others suggest that Albon’s move is strictly to gain experience with a senior team in an effort to cook up a possible Albon/Kvyat line-up for the future should Verstappen make rumours into reality and jump ship to rivals Ferrari or Mercedes at the end of his contract in 2020, but I don’t think this has much chance. Well, I didn’t think Albon joining the team had much of a chance either, but this is F1 after all. The third one I came across is my favourite, is the idea of putting Gasly alongside Kvyat so Kvyat could mentor him back to his performing days of last season and build a strong line up in the sister team for the midfield battle. After all, nobody knows Gasly’s heartache better than Kvyat himself and if we are honest, Kvyat was dumped for far less.
I am very intrigued to see how well Albon will do in Belgium and for the rest of the year and I wish him well in this new opportunity, and I wish Gasly the best and hope for a return to form soon for him. I hope he was near a bar when he got the call from Dr. Marko today and got sloshed out of it, a total reset and come back strong in Belgium. As Kvyat proved, it is possible to comeback from such a crushing blow and I have no doubt that he can do it, I’m sure this isn’t the last time we have heard of Pierre Gasly. From now on your line-up at RBR will be Verstappen and Albon for the foreseeable future, and even though I question Albon’s worth in the RB15 just like I questioned Verstappen’s in the RB12 three years ago, I was fairly silenced after that race in Barcelona. You think I would’ve learned to shut up by now, wouldn’t you?