Red Bull dropped a bombshell on Formula One on Monday when it announced that Alexander Albon would take over Pierre Gasly’s seat while the Frenchman would be demoted to Toro Rosso. The Milton Keynes-based team explained the reasons behind the sudden driver swap.
Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, team principal Christian Horner indicated that Gasly found himself in a very difficult position as a team-mate of Max Verstappen. According to the Briton, it is extremely tough to keep up with the Dutchman as the lightening-quick six-time F1 race winner sets an almost unreachably high standard in any condition.
"I think it's very tough. If you go up against Verstappen at the moment - for me arguably he is the most in-form driver on the grid - that’s an enormous barometer for any driver to go up and be measured against.”
Since realizing the performance difference between his drivers, Horner kept on trying to motivate Gasly to raise his game. Despite to the warning messages, the Rouen-born driver was unable to lift his performance apart from his strong showing at the British Grand Prix. Red Bull advisor dr Helmut Marko explained that the team had no other option than implementing changes to the driver line-up.
“Gasly has had issues [while driving] in traffic. He loses places there. He can’t overtake with ease either. We had to react and give Albon a chance. He will drive until the end of the season and Gasly takes his Toro Rosso over. We will need to have a look to decide who will drive alongside Max next year,” – Marko is quoted as saying by Autobild.de.
While he was less than delighted with Gasly’s performance at Red Bull, Marko praised Albon for what has been an “incredible debut year” for the Thai-British driver.
The in-season change was also fuelled by Red Bull Honda’s improving competitiveness. While the team miscalculated the aerodynamics demands for the 2019 cars, it has managed to carve a competitive machine from the initially unstable car for the halfway point of the season. Red Bull expects a much more successful second half of the season and therefore they need two drivers who are able to get the best out of the car.
“We designed a car with too little downforce. We underestimated how much of an improvement our new engine partner Honda would be able to achieve. They delivered simply more power than we expected.”
Verstappen acts as an enormous barometer
When comparing the numbers of the twelve races in which Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen formed the driver pairing for Red Bull, it is clearly evident that the Frenchman could not keep up with his Dutch rival in any regard.
Verstappen has scored 181 points so far, enabling him to occupy the third place in the Standings. In contrast, Gasly lies sixth in the Drivers’ Championship with 63 points. The Dutchman has scored 15.1 points per race while the Frenchman has averagely collected 5.25 points. With his point haul, Verstappen has obtained 74 per cent of Red Bull’s points.
Failing to secure a podium finish, Gasly’s best result has been a fourth place at the British Grand Prix. On the other hand, Verstappen secured his sixth career victory at Spielberg and his seventh triumph in Germany with having stood on the podium on two other occasions. The Hasselt-born driver’s average finish position was 3.33 while Gasly’s only 7.73.
When it comes to the qualifying results, the picture is similar. The average starting position for Gasly has been 8.33 while for Verstappen it has been 4.16. The seven-time race winner secured a pole position in Hungary and three other Top 3 starting positions. By contrast, the Rouen-born driver’s best qualifying result was a fourth place which came in Germany.
Of 12 qualifying sessions, Verstappen was faster on ten occasions. Gasly had the upper hand in Baku and Azerbaijan. The gap between the best qualifying lap times was usually enormous. In Hungary, on his way to the pole position, Verstappen went by 0.878 seconds faster than Gasly while the gap was over seven tenths of a second on three other occasions. Interestingly, apart from the two sessions when he was the faster Red Bull driver, Gasly was the closest to Verstappen during the opening meeting in Australia with the gap having been only 0.144 second.