What does Gasly's Rise mean for the future of Red Bull & Alpha Tauri?
Following Alpha Tauri's triumphant weekend, what does it mean for the future of both their drivers and Red Bull's?
I do not envy Christian Horner and Dr Marko right now - they have some interesting and potentially difficult decisions to reckon with over the next few weeks and months. Like so many other things, 2020 has not gone the way either of them were probably expecting. Mercedes were always going to be the ones to beat but they probably didn't expect to be in the current internal situation that they're in. So what do they do now? Let's look at the facts and see what the options are.
This part will be relatively short. Love him or hate him, there's no denying Max is a solid driver who is almost the only driver on the grid capable of consistently taking on and beating Lewis Hamilton. He's Red Bull's star driver and up until his DNF last weekend at Monza, he was second in the Championship. There's every chance he'll make it back to second by the end of the season too if Bottas keeps under-performing. His future at the team is the only stable thing at the moment with the Dutchman having a contract with the team until the end of 2023. Credit where it's due, he has earnt his spot at the top team.
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool.
This is where things start to get a little complicated. In only his second season of Formula 1 - after a shock promotion into the sport at the tail end of 2018 in order to replace Daniel Ricciardo - Albon has had quite a rollercoaster already. Initially, he took to the Toro Rosso car like a duck to water. He performed exceptionally well so that when the summer break came in the 2019 season, he found himself promoted to the senior team for the remainder of the year to partner Verstappen and replace Pierre Gasly. Albon rose to the challenge well with little pressure on him considering it was his maiden season. He almost got onto the podium for the first time in Brazil but contact with Hamilton in the closing stages of the race prevented this from happening. Despite this, he finished eighth overall in the Championship, just three points behind the man he replaced. But in 2020, Albon has had an absolutely torrid time. Since the first race of the season where he made contact with Hamilton again, Albon hasn't seemed himself. He's finished consistently in the top ten but has suffered in qualifying and hasn't been at the front of the pack with Max where he needs to be during the race. He looks somewhat defeated during many of his interviews and many think that he should be swapped again with Gasly. Speaking of whom...
What a tumultuous time this Frenchman has had over the last two years. After finishing down in 15th place at the end of the 2018 season with Toro Rosso with 29 points to his name, Gasly found himself promoted up to Red Bull for the 2019 season. But he struggled a lot at the senior team in his short spell there with a highest finishing position of fourth. A lot was expected of him but simply couldn't get up to speed and compared to Max, he didn't look like much competition. But when he went back to Toro Rosso, the Frenchman found his mojo again. Following the tragic events of the Belgian Grand Prix where his friend and fellow racing driver, F2 driver Anthoine Hubert, died, Gasly seemed a changed man - more determined to succeed than ever.
He had some solid drives and was able to capitalise on the madness of the Brazilian Grand Prix where he picked up his first ever podium in Formula 1 by coming second! Then this season, he's finished numerous times inside the top ten and was able to take full advantage of the craziness of the Italian Grand Prix, winning it and taking the team's second ever win - their first being all the way back in 2008 with Sebastian Vettel. Gasly looks like a new man and better than ever - and is fully deserving of the success he has achieved. He's earnt it. Gasly has also been dominating his teammate Daniil Kvyat in the other re-branded Alpha Tauri car. For a younger driver making his name in the sport, Gasly has shown in recent times that he's learnt from past mistakes and struggles and that now, on the cusp of the new era of F1 set to debut in 2022, he's more prepared to fight the big fight than ever before.
He's a driver on the up and up, with a renewed focus and drive that is taking him from strength to strength. The Gasly of eighteen months ago may not have been able to take the fight to Verstappen but this Gasly of 2020 might just be able to do that - and succeed this time.
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
Kvyat is not having a great 2020. In short, he has only two points to his name and is currently behind Hulkenberg in the Driver's Standings. Hulkenberg who has only competed in one race in 2020 is seven points ahead of him. That's not a good omen for the Russian. Kvyat has been in F1 for a while now and after his podium in Germany in 2019, many thought this might be the start of a comeback for the reformed torpedo. But so far, it seems as if he's a bit of a dud. With Red Bull and Alpha Tauri always looking to help new talent come through, maybe it's time they cut ties with Kvyat and let someone else have a go. Someone like...
Formula 2 driver Yuki Tsunoda is currently battling hard for the Driver's Champion in the junior category to Formula 1. He's won two races this season so far and has been a sly under dog driver, able to capitalise during a race when those around him least expect it. As a Red Bull Junior Driver and hailing from Japan, Red Bull's engine suppliers at Honda will be hoping that Tsunoda gets a chance in F1 next season. With Gasly performing so well, it only makes sense to replace Kvyat with Tsunoda.
So what do Red Bull/Alpha Tauri do?
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
Max is staying at Red Bull, that's an open and shut case. Kvyat should be departing Alpha Tauri in favour of Tsunoda for next year - whether that means Kvyat finds a seat elsewhere or leaves F1 I don't know but I don't think he has a future at Red Bull which means his life expectancy at Alpha Tauri is rather short. So that essentially leaves us with Gasly and Albon. You can see why Red Bull would offer their second seat to Gasly again - they need to do something to take the fight to Mercedes and their current strategy doesn't seem to be working. But Red Bull say that they're committed to Albon staying in Red Bull for next year but one has to wonder that if he doesn't improve, will this still be the case?
But if I was Gasly and was now offered a seat at Red Bull, I don't know if I would take it. Gasly knows what the atmosphere there is like and he also knows that he's not going to be their number one driver as long as Max is there. So does he stay with Alpha Tauri? For now, I'd say yes and then when the opportunity arises, maybe he goes to a non Red Bull team like the future Alpine team or McLaren, etc. All we know for now though is that as long as Gasly keeps performing as well as he is, Albon is in danger.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.