Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso is a key focus as the F1 world championship moves toward to its conclusion at Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art Yas Marina Circuit on November 25 – with the rumour mill in overdrive over who might be in the second seat alongside Daniil Kvyat.
At the moment, it’s New Zealander Brendon Hartley’s drive to lose, with the 28- year-old given four more races to beat Pierre Gasly – who will head to Red Bull Racing alongside Max Verstappen next year.
Hartley, though, proved in Japan he can do it – outqualifying Gasly for the fifth time this year, at the ultimate drivers’ track, Suzuka. And it’s been part of the Kiwi’s focus from the outset.
SOUNDBITE (English) BRENDON HARTLEY,
F1 DRIVER, TORO ROSSO:
“Making it, you know, that's part of the dream - and now it's proving I deserve to be there and getting the performance I want and hopefully a few successful years to come.”
In terms of alternatives, Red Bull’s junior team member Dan Ticktum has been ruled out of contention now that Mick Schumacher has secured this year’s European Formula 3 title.
… the Brit unable to make up the 40 points required to earn an F1 superlicense and race in the sport.
Racing Point Force India driver Esteban Ocon could be an option for the team, but Red Bull motorsport consultant Doctor Helmut Marko says that would have to cut ties with Mercedes across the board.
"If he's free from all contracts, we could discuss it, Marko said. “I mean all contracts."
One who has cut ties with Mercedes is Pascal Wehrlein – who team boss Franz Tost is reportedly keen to install, the German-Mauritian shunning a seat in Formula E for a chance to be back on the grid.
But while the 23-year-old is being considered for the seat, an emerging frontrunner is former Red Bull junior team member, Alexander Albon – the Thai-British driver currently second in the Formula 2 standings.
So Toro Rosso has a big decision to make with next year’s STR14 expected to be a strong midfield contender – given the likelihood it’ll share more technology with the brand’s top team.
…and with Kvyat a pace benchmark, the Russian has intensified the fight for one of the sport’s most attractive seats in 2019.