ANALYSIS: Why hasn’t Gasly been promoted to Red Bull – and what now for Albon, Kvyat and Tsunoda?
Red Bull’s stable of four drivers for 2021 is half complete, with news Pierre Gasly will stay on with AlphaTauri after suitably impressing his bosses. But what does that mean for the other two seats?
Why Red Bull have kept Gasly at AlphaTauri
Pierre Gasly has been one of the stand out performers of the 2020 campaign, the Frenchman not only securing his first Grand Prix victory in Monza but turning out a series of impressive drives that have got the most – and at some points more – out of the car.
The Frenchman had a rough experience driving at the senior team in 2019, culminating in his demotion to Toro Rosso. But rather than letting his head drop, he turned a negative into a positive, shining for the sister team last year, and then stepping up a level this year.
As Red Bull boss Christian Horner said, he is excelling in the smaller, family team environment. “He’s driving very well in that environment with AlphaTauri, he’s comfortable in that car with perhaps the less pressure that goes with that environment as well, and less expectation,” he said on Sunday before the announcement.
”I think their aspirations as a team are different to as it was as Toro Rosso so it makes sense that the fit works well in both directions with Pierre and the AlphaTauri team,” he added.
While AlphaTauri remains a place for Red Bull to blood young drivers, it is now known as Red Bull’s sister – rather than junior – team so having a driver of Gasly’s quality in one of the seats not only helps the team contend for a better place in the midfield but also means he can act as a mentor for a younger driver in the other seat.
Why has Gasly not been promoted back to Red Bull?
Gasly has scored 63 points in 12 races for AlphaTauri, which is the same as he managed with Red Bull in the same time period, and just one short of Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
But though that – along with his shock victory at Monza – is an impressive record, it is not enough to earn another promotion and there is a feeling from Red Bull’s senior management that his time at the senior team is done.
They felt he struggled to drive their car, which is more rear-sensitive and as Horner said, “can be unnerving for drivers”. Max Verstappen copes with it well, but his team mates haven’t been able to do the same. As a result, re-promoting Gasly is not an option.
There will undoubtedly be some sense of disappointment from Gasly, but things happen for a reason. Impress again for AlphaTauri next year and other teams outside the family could come calling...
What does this mean for the second seats at AlphaTauri and Red Bull?
As it stands, there are three potential candidates for the second AlphaTauri seat – Alex Albon, Yuki Tsunoda and Daniil Kvyat.
Kvyat is thought to be bottom of that pecking order, as while he has had some strong performances this year, the Russian has lacked consistency.
Red Bull are giving Albon a little longer to prove he deserves the seat alongside Max Verstappen, otherwise they will look outside the driver pool, with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg the chief contenders.
Should Albon not keep his seat at Red Bull, the energy drinks company has a tricky call to make.
Do they place him at AlphaTauri and give him a chance to redeem himself? Or let him go from the programme for the second time?
And if they do the former, Red Bull will have to delay Honda-backed Tsunoda’s arrival in F1, which is not ideal as they discuss taking on Honda’s engine IP after the Japanese firm pull out of F1 at the end of next year.
Some big decisions to be made, then, at Red Bull HQ in the coming weeks – though with Tsunoda not finishing his F2 campaign until Bahrain, we might have a wait on our hands before all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place...