Breaking: Alex Albon replaces Pierre Gasly at Red Bull Racing
Alex Albon will replace Pierre Gasly in the senior Red Bull Racing team with immediate effect, the outfit confirmed on Monday morning.
Gasly has struggled to match the pace of his highly rated team-mate Max Verstappen, and the notoriously ruthless Red Bull management has decided the Frenchman's time is up.
He will return to Toro Rosso, effectively swapping seats with Albon, who is in his maiden F1 season and will now step up to the top team from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards.
A team statement said: "Alexander Albon is being promoted to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing to drive alongside Max Verstappen, while Pierre Gasly will return to the Red Bull sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
"Red Bull are in the unique position of having four talented Formula One drivers under contract who can be rotated between Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. 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.
"Everyone at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing looks forward to welcoming Alex to the Team and supporting him during the next phase of his F1 career."
Gasly's future has been the talk of the paddock for some months now, as the 23-year-old has been unable to extract anywhere near the same pace or results from the RB15 as Verstappen.
Gasly's best result this year was a fourth place at Silverstone and he has a total of 63 World Championship points. By contrast Verstappen is third in the championship table on 181 points having taken two victories this season.
Gasly's shortfall in points is starting to hurt the team who have a realistic chance of overhauling Ferrari for second in the constructors' championship battle – but only with both drivers bringing home points.
“Obviously not having two cars running at the front does hurt us,” team boss Christian Horner said after the Hungarian Grand Prix. “Particularly in the constructors’ championship where we’ve scored the same amount of points as Ferrari today at a track we should have taken more out of them.
“Our intention is to leave in the car to the end of the year,” Horner said at the time. “But we desperately need to see him realising more of the potential of the car.”
Clearly Horner and the Red Bull motorsports supremo Dr Helmut Marko have decided they do not believe Gasly can make the improvement required.
British-Thai driver Albon, also 23-years-old, has had an impressive start to his Formula 1 career, sealing points finishes in five races so far this season, but it remains a big ask for a rookie to step straight into a race-winning car – especially with Verstappen on the other side of the garage.