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Alexander Albon Replaces Pierre Gasly at Red Bull Racing

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Alexander Albon in 2019 Red Bull shirt
Alexander Albon
Photo: Red Bull Racing

Red Bull Racing has announced that Alexander Albon, the British-Thai racing driver, has been promoted to the team to drive alongside Max Verstappen, while Pierre Gasly will return to the Red Bull sister team Toro Rosso.

“Red Bull are in a unique position of having four talented Formula One drivers under contract who can be rotated between the Team and Toro Rosso,” Red Bull said in a press release. “The Team will use the next nine races to evaluate Alex’s performance in order to make an informed decision as to who will drive alongside Max in 2020.”

That a swap took place does not come as a surprise to the majority of the F1 paddock. Though Pierre Gasly’s performance at Toro Rosso last year had earned him a promotion to Red Bull for 2019, his season so far has been underwhelming to say the least.

So far the Honda-powered RB15 has claimed two victories and three other podiums — all with Max Verstappen at the wheel who has now scored 181 points in the first 12 races, just seven shy of second-place Valtteri Bottas. In an equivalent car, Gasly has yet to finish higher than fifth and has only scored 63 points, a huge margin.

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Red Bull is currently hot on the tails of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship and would arguably be ahead of the Italian team had a more capable driver than Gasly been driving alongside Verstappen. And given that the Red Bull had made a mid-season driver swap before, many had expected it to happen again.

The real question had been the following: Who, of the two Toro Rosso drivers, would get the promotion? On paper Daniil Kvyat seemed the obvious choice — he has more experience than Albon, who is still a rookie, and has so far performed better this season — but as it happens, Kvyat was the very same driver that Red Bull had demoted in 2016 to make room for Verstappen. Perhaps there is still some reluctance to give him a Red Bull seat again.

Or, perhaps, Red Bull fears that Kvyat would give Verstappen more trouble than Gasly, which would lead to intra-team conflict it doesn’t want. Better to protect its star driver and score enough points to beat Ferrari than to create unnecessary friction before Verstappen’s contract runs out in 2020. Perhaps Kvyat’s time for redemption will come later — or with another team.

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