There were a couple of interesting comments made regarding the Alpha Tauri and Red Bull Racing driver situation this week. At the center of these comments is the drivers each team will select for 2021.
Alpha Tauri announced that Pierre Gasly would be retained for the 2021 season and many believe his resurgence at the team, delivering a win as well as a truckload of points, warrants a second chance at Red Bull. That doesn’t appear to be the case.
“I’m extremely happy to continue with Scuderia AlphaTauri for another season,” said Gasly. “This year is going very well, and we are on track to have our most successful season in the team’s history.
“I feel we have a very strong relationship, we have managed to take every opportunity that’s come our way, the best one at the Italian Grand Prix.
“Winning my first Formula 1 race in Monza was a very special moment for me, and it was made extra sweet to deliver a second win in the team’s history, so I’m very proud of that.
“I’ll do my maximum to push the team and take all my responsibility to bring it as far forward as I can.”
If Pierre isn’t the choice for Red Bull, then does that mean Alex Albon will be retained? That remains to be seen but there are plenty of rumors about the team signing other veterans that are available such as Perez, Hulkenberg or others.
I find those rumors interesting because when Ferrari announced they were parting company with Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull were quick to say there is no room at the inn fo the German and they weren’t interested. If they do select a seasoned veteran over Albon, what does that say about their feelings toward Vettel?
Albon has struggled but Red Bull boss Christian Horner explained why Gasly isn’t in the picture for the team.
“Obviously, we have a lot of information on the drivers over a big period of time.
“So Pierre has done a super job, he’s driving very well in that environment with AlphaTauri, he’s comfortable in that car, with perhaps the less pressure that goes with that environment as well, and less expectation.
“And I think that obviously their aspirations as a team are different, as it was as Toro Rosso.
“So it makes sense that the fit works well in both directions with Pierre and the AlphaTauri team.”
So the mission of Alpha Tauri is different now? Is it less focused on young driver development and more focused on results, points and being a contender toward the front of the field? And where does this leave Albon?
“Our first and foremost priority is to give Alex the opportunity to lay claim to that seat,” Horner said.
“Let’s not forget when he jumped in the car last year, he outscored and outperformed Pierre significantly in the balance of 2019.
“So if we were to swap them back, why would it be any different?”
Th interesting issue is why did Pierre Gasly and now Alex Albon struggle at Red Bull where Max Verstappen is excelling?
“I think that the car is a more difficult car to drive than the AlphaTauri,” Horner said.
“We know that, it’s very, very clear. I think that the car is much more rear sensitive, and I think that that can be unnerving for drivers.
“Max copes with that incredibly well. Other drivers have struggled more with that. I think that’s just the facts of it.
“I think that if Alex was in an AlphaTauri, he’d probably be doing a very similar job as we saw last year to that of Pierre, I’ve got no doubt of that.
“So it’s just the characteristics of our car. They’re struggling to commit on corner entry.
“And you see it a little bit with Ferrari with Leclerc and Vettel at the moment, you see it in the race with Hamilton and Bottas today. That’s just the way it is sometimes.”
We mentioned on the podcast that it may be less about the driver and more about the team, the pressure at the team and now Horner suggests that it very well may be the car itself that makes life difficult for Alex and Pierre. This adds credence to the thought that the cars can redesigned to flatter a driver’s style such as Verstappen, or as Christians says, Leclerc.
If what Horner says is true, then maybe he should be the one to be demoted. Obviously, Tost seems to understand better how to put a decent car on the grid with limited resources and how to create an environment in which the drivers can succeed.
Redbull used to be the cocksure team on the grid. Short of Verstappen now though, they don’t really have a clear driver direction. Sort of weird, where they’re at right now.