The concept of Pierre Gasly being demoted to Toro Rosso seemed inevitable heading into the summer break. We weren't really sure about when it would happen since Christian Horner said Gasly's seat was safe until the end of the season. That all turned upside down this morning (12th August 2019) when Red Bull announced that Alexander Albon would be replacing Pierre Gasly as of the Belgium Grand Prix.
Today, I am going to be looking at whether this was a good idea for Red Bull, considering they have another driver in the other Toro Rosso with much more experience. But before this article turns into anything that could be looked at as negative - I am absolutely thrilled for Albon; he deserves the seat and he will do great things with the team! Anyway, let's take a look at some results:
As you can see in the above graph, Gasly has consistently beaten the Toro Rosso drivers, which is to be expected by a driver in a faster car. The graph shows that Albon and Kvyat are very similar in terms of results, with Kvyat finishing higher on more occasions. Please note that the gaps are for DNF's; for instance, in Baku, Albon was the only finisher out of the three.
If we remove Gasly from the equation, we will find that out of the 12 races that have been completed so far, Kvyat has finished ahead of Albon 6 times, and they finished the other way around 3 times. I didn't factor retirements into the results as the outcomes probably would have been different otherwise.
Now that we know Kvyat has outperformed Albon based on results (even with 2 retirements), let's discuss why Red Bull may have chosen Alexander Albon as the man to replace the French driver:
1 - Kvyat has a history
Kvyat has a history of being relatively clumsy. In China, we saw him ruin the race of both Mclaren's when squeezing them wide at Turn 4, putting Norris on two wheels in the process. Looking back further, you may remember Kvyat hit Sebastian Vettel twice on the first lap of the Russian Grand Prix, which was the final straw for Red Bull before they dropped him. He was also labelled 'The Torpedo' by Vettel after a move into Turn 1 at China in 2016 (which personally I don't think was a bad move by the Russian). Looking even further back, he rolled his Red Bull in an incredible style in the 2015 Japanese GP Qualifying, then binned his Red Bull at the US GP a two rounds later.
It is understandable why Red Bull were skeptical to put Kvyat in the seat, but I still think he is a superb driver - with an error free run since the Chinese GP.
2 - Kvyat might not have much time left in F1
Red Bull will be looking at the long run. If this were to be Kvyat's last season in the sport, it would be a waste of valuable time for Red Bull as they could put someone else (such as Albon) in the seat to get more of an understanding and experience before their first full season next year.
At the end of the day, Red Bull want to be looking at winning the championship in the next few seasons - wasting time with temporary drivers won't help them reach their goal.
3 - They want to give young drivers a chance
Alexander Albon and Max Verstappen are currently the second youngest lineup on the grid, with a combined age of 44 (McLaren take the top spot with a combined age of 43). If we expand on the above point of Red Bull drivers gaining experience so they can fight for championships; Albon would be following the same pattern Red Bull used with Sebastian Vettel, who won his first championship at Red Bull aged 23 - the same age as Albon is now.
Red Bull seem to have a lot of success with young drivers, Verstappen and Vettel being great examples. Vettel performed much better than the much older Mark Webber during their time as teammates; proving age is definitely a factor when it comes to topics like these. This has been proved otherwise with driver rivalries, such as Schumacher vs Senna, Hamilton vs Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo vs Sebastian Vettel and more.
Having a young driver line-up isn't a particularly new thing either - Leclerc being at Ferrari and Ocon being considered for Mercedes show that other teams are also willing to take the risk. Furthermore, the success Vettel and Hamilton had at young ages shows that this method does work if you give the young drivers a shot.
Now let's take a look at why Red Bull may have made a mistake in choosing Albon:
1 - It's his rookie season
Alexander Albon made his debut for Toro Rosso in Australia, and has been promoted to Red Bull after just 12 races. This is even sooner than Max Verstappen's shock promotion to the Milton Keynes-based team; which happened after a full season at Toro Rosso. Pierre Gasly also had a year and a bit experience at Toro Rosso before being promoted to Red Bull.
This can cause concern as not all drivers are the next Max Verstappen. It is safe to say that Pierre Gasly was not ready to join Red Bull after one season, so I'm not sure what Red Bull's thought process is here. I can see the first few races for Alex being quite overwhelming, and if his results become similar to that of Gasly's, Red Bull may also drop Albon a year down the line...
But who knows? He may do a Verstappen and win at Spa - in which case, I'm completely wrong!
2 - Kvyat is more consistent
Kvyat has scored more points this season than Albon and is currently 5 positions higher than him in the drivers standings. If Red Bull are trying to challenge for 2nd place in the standings, wouldn't it be more logical to pick the driver who is scoring more points?
This argument can be countered based on simulator statistics and how good Red Bull believe each driver is on track. If Red Bull believe that Kvyat is weaker at overtaking than Albon, then they won't choose him as their second driver. You only have to look at Albon's Chinese GP comeback to know he is good at overtaking!
3 - The move is unfair on Gasly
Christian Horner stated that Gasly was safe until the end of 2019. Many Formula One fans are upset and disappointed with Red Bull for not sticking to their word and keeping Pierre to the end of the season.
Gasly has had an underwhelming season so far at Red Bull, but ditching him this early seems to be harsh in my eyes. This may even upset Gasly and result in him leaving the Red Bull family all together - what other team do you think Gasly would fit in at? I think he would fit very well at Haas alongside Romain Grosjean!
I feel quite sorry for Pierre Gasly; yes he has had a bad start, but for Red Bull to take back their word of letting Gasly keep his seat for the rest of the season is really harsh. Alex thoroughly deserves his seat in the Red Bull, but I am concerned on whether he is ready for it or not. Furthermore, Red Bull could really ruin the motivation of their drivers if they are constantly in fear of being demoted. Was this a mistake? I don't think so, but I think they should have waited.
Was this a mistake? I don't think so, but I think they should have waited. I believe the safest option would have been to repeat what they did with Toro Rosso in 2017 - keep their lineup until the last few races (around the Mexican Grand Prix would be perfect), then make the change they believe is best based on the results of the season up to that point. Overall, I lean towards Kvyat being the safer choice; but if Red Bull made the switch at Mexico, I feel that Albon would be able to prove himself without fear of being demoted. I look forward to see what Albon achieves at Red Bull Racing, and wish him the best of luck, as well as Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso.
What do you think of the switch? Do you agree with my point about waiting until Mexico? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you want to see more from me, click here to see my profile. You will find more articles like this one, as well as my recent post - 'Bugatti vs Hennessey: The Race to 300mph', which can be found here. Thanks for reading!
BONUS: Check out 'young Albon; hoping that he will one day become a Red Bull Driver: