16 races into the 2019 season, and Pierre Gasly is racing for his future at Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso, a scenario that seemed unlikely at the start of the year following his promotion to the brand’s top squad.
… where he expected to take the fight to new teammate Max Verstappen.
SOUNDBITE (English) PIERRE GASLY,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I could not have asked for a better thing because I’m in my second year in F1. I still need to develop and still need to learn a lot of things. And to have a super competitive teammate [Max Verstappen] next to me will for sure push me.”
There’s no doubt that Red Bull’s motorsport operations, including both its F1 outfits and the junior team that feeds into them, is a cutthroat, brutal operation. Fail to deliver, and you’re out.
… with the brand’s motorsport consultant Doctor Helmut Marko in charge, a former Grand Prix driver and top talent spotter.
It’s no exaggeration with six of the top-10 in the drivers’ standings either current or former protégés with Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz racing for McLaren, and Daniel Ricciardo with Renault.
The stable’s current golden racer is Max Verstappen.
And he’s been quicker than Sainz, Ricciardo and Gasly this year, who was sent back to Toro Rosso after just 12 races. And the spotlight is now on the French racer, his F1 career on the line after just 42 starts.
Across their 12 races together, Verstappen outqualified Gasly 11-1, and went 10-1 in races when they could be compared, with 181 points to 63. Too huge a gap for Red Bull to endure.
The move was contentious, with Gasly assured by Red Bull both before and after Hungary that he was safe until the end of the year.
But former Red Bull star, Daniel Ricciardo believes it wasn’t unfair.
“Red Bull did give him six months, and I don't think there was that much sign of progression or momentum,” he said.
To stay at Toro Rosso at least, he must demolish teammate Daniil Kvyat, who was demoted himself from Spain 2016 to make way for Verstappen. Something he had to quickly move on from.
SOUNDBITE (English) DANIIL KVYAT,
F1 DRIVER, TORO ROSSO:
“I’m just gonna get out there, and do the driving the way I know how to do it. And I think nothing else is necessary. Otherwise it’s just pointless feelings. You just go there and do your job.”
In the four races since the break, Gasly has outqualified Kvyat twice, and once in races when they could be compared. The pair scoring six points each from Belgium to Russia, which isn’t conclusive enough.
So Gasly must up his game, with Alex Albon who replaced him at the top team making a solid impression.
And bring back the aggression that saw him earn some standout results and the promotion to Red Bull Racing in the first place.
At 23, Gasly’s F1 career hangs in the balance… with just five races left and Red Bull assessing his every move.