After a string of poor results, it was recently announced that Alex Albon will replace Pierre Gasly at Red Bull with the latter being demoted to Toro Rosso. Albon has from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards to prove why he deserves to partner Max Verstappen at Red Bull for the 2020 season. Although in some ways this isn’t particularly surprising, it also is due to Red Bull continuously saying that they were going to give Gasly until the end of the season to prove he is the right man for the job. But why have Red Bull decided to make this switch now, going against what they have repeatedly said this season?
Red Bull are within fighting distance of Ferrari to take second in the Constructors Championship and if they can beat Ferrari it would put them in a very good place for fighting for the top spot next season. However, it is clear the Gasly is currently holding them back with Verstappen having 181 of the 244 points Red Bull have won this season. If Red Bull are to push for that second place in the Constructors Championship then something needs to change, hence the driver swap half way through the season.
Now you may ask why Red Bull have decided to take on Albon over Daniil Kvyat? I think it is probably due to Red Bull already knowing the potential that Kvyat has as he has previously driven for them before. They want to see what Albon can bring to the team and then assess their options for a more competitive 2020 season. This way they have the choice between Gasly, Kvyat and Albon to partner Max Verstappen for the next season. But this move also poses a lot of risks for the team and could easily backfire.
Gasly, who has gone back down to Toro Rosso, desperately needs to assert himself over his new teammate Kvyat. If Kvyat were to also outperform him that would put Gasly at the bottom of the Red Bull pack, dramatically damaging his reputation and his confidence. He needs to put his performance at Red Bull behind him and get the best out of the Toro Rosso car, consistently scoring points, but most importantly, he needs to outperform Kvyat. If Gasly does not prove that he is Red Bull’s future, then he could see himself slipping down a similar slope to previous Red Bull hopefuls such as Sebastian Buemi and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Obviously, this is a huge opportunity for Albon, he has nine races in which to impress Christian Horner and put himself at the top of the pecking order for a seat at Red Bull next season. But he is moving to a team where he will be facing far more pressure then he was facing at Toro Rosso. On top of this Albon needs to learn how to drive a completely new car and gel with a different group of mechanics within a very short time. It is certainly a huge mountain to climb for Albon and won’t be an easy task for the rookie driver. If Albon were to fail at Red Bull, it could have a drastic impact on the future of his career.
It is certainly a risky move from Red Bull and one that could pay off for the team, alternatively Red Bull could end up with three drivers low on confidence and under huge amounts of pressure. Christian Horner has put everything on the line in a desperate attempt to force his team to the top and it is certainly a brave move to make midway through the season, especially considering the history of failed midseason driver swaps that I evident in Formula One.
Do you think the swap was a good idea? Was it a risk worth taking?
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