Red Bull juniors get preference, admits Horner, who denies Albon/Gasly swap
Horner downplayed the chance of an Albon/Gasly swap, also admitting that Red Bull juniors will get preferential treatment in driver selection.
The 2020 F1 season has blown open the Red Bull driver programme.
What appeared to be the optimal driver line-up in the end of 2019 with Alexander Albon and Max Verstappen now seems seems an inadequate one; this, especially so after the incredible performance of Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri this year.
Not only has Gasly joined an elite club of F1 winners in his 2020 season, the Frenchman has also maintained a level of consistency only achieved by other stars of the season thus far, in Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, Lando Norris, and perhaps a few others.
Albon, in stark contrast, has struggled to match the pace of his teammate Verstappen, also having difficulties controlling the diva of a car that is his RB16. His failure to match the performance of the Dutchman has led to rumours of a swap between the two within the programme, switching teams just as they did in 2019, this time with the roles reversed.
Team boss of Red Bull Horner, though, denied that such a switch is on the cards, especially as many of the issues stem from poor car performance, not to be remedied by a driver switch. "I think Pierre has done a fantastic job," he said. "I think taking a step back into what was Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri he’s found his confidence, he’s driving incredibly well and AlphaTauri are doing a great job with him, I think it’s good to see.
"It’s really good to see that that’s working out for him and I think that as far as Red Bull Racing’s seats are concerned we are focused on Alex Albon, we want to try and give him the best opportunity to retain that seat. We’ve got some issues that we are working on with the car and I think that it wouldn’t make sense to switch the drivers back," he continued.
"I think that Franz is happy, I believe, with Pierre. The final decision will be made later in the year but there’s no push from our side to reverse the situation. We want to address some of the issue that we have with RB16 which I think we’re starting to understand and get on top of and then go from there," summed up Horner.
For the same reasons listed by Horner, a switch to a driver from outside of the Red Bull ranks is viewed as equally unlikely, but the Brit stated that such a route will be considered if no drivers in the program are prepared, especially with Sergio Perez now in the market after being dumped by Racing Point.
Horner did not categorically rule out such a step, but he expressed that he hopes to promote from within the program where possible. "I think our preference has always been to nurture talent and whether that’s Sebastian Vettel, whether that’s Daniel Ricciardo, whether that’s Max Verstappen, they’ve all come through the junior programme," said Horner.
"They’ve been schooled by Franz and then they’ve obviously delivered very well in Red Bull Racing seats, so our preference is always in that home ground talent but if the pool isn’t big enough, then of course occasionally you have to look outside of it but our intention is absolutely to work with the talent pool that we have."
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida, and edited by Darshan Chokhani]