Red Bull’s promotion of Alex Albon seemed to be a good move after watching both Friday Free Practice sessions but it’s early days yet. There’s a lot of running left this weekend and for the balance of the season.
Albon was not that far off Max Verstappen’s pace but then Max wasn’t necessarily running in anger, then again, neither was Alex. Alex looked confident in the car and managed the longest track on the calendar with a very adept hand. It almost looked like he’d been in this car all season but this was the first time he’d every been in a Red Bull Racing car.
Apart from his early performance, the lingering question for us was why they chose Albon over Toro Rosso teammate, Daniil Kvyat. We understood why Pierre Gasly was demoted but weren’t sure what the thoughts were regarding who they chose. Christian Horner explained:
“We considered Daniil of course, he’s doing a very good job with Toro Rosso this year,” he said.
“But we felt a few things: one it would perhaps be hurting Toro Rosso too much by taking their most experienced driver away. And we always felt we’ve got a pretty good understanding of Daniil.
“He’s been in the programme for some time. He’s driven for Red Bull Racing previously. And we were quite keen to have a look at Albon based on his emerging ability during the first 12 race period.”
He added: “We’ve seen this emerging talent of Alex in the first 12 races and we have a lot of information available to us on these drivers, and we felt that to use these last nine races to evaluate him, to then make an informed decision as to who should partner Max for 2020, was the right thing to do.
“With the summer break, there is never going to be a good time for this but it was as good a time as you could take. So that is why we decided we may as well get on with it.”
Daniel Ricciardo is a driver who understands the Red Bull system very well. In fact, he understood so well that he left it for Renault F1. how did he see the move of Gasly and Albon?
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s unfair,” said Ricciardo. “I think they had to do something.
“Nothing against Pierre, I have no issue, I like Pierre as a person and I’m not happy to see him going back to Toro Rosso.
“But I think the reality is Red Bull did give him six months and I don’t think there was that much sign of progression or momentum.
“And obviously with Max winning and showing the car is capable of at least being on the podium, Red Bull did expect to see that for now.
“It’s also what as a Red Bull driver, I’ve experienced it… you know in the programme they’re expecting this from you and if it doesn’t happen, they’ll move on.
“I don’t want to say it’s unexpected, and I’m sure Pierre had some suspicions that maybe something could change, but it’s just the reality of their programme.
“So yeah, it’s obviously a shame for him, but I think Red Bull had to do something.
“Now it’s Albon with an opportunity, we’ll see how that goes.”
Carlos Sainz is another driver who understands the Red Bull program having launched his career there. He had an interesting point.
“We all know how the Red Bull world works and how quickly they can change opinion of things in a driver, so it doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said.
“I think it is fair to compare because they were driving the same car.
“But I’ve always said adapting to a new team takes a bit more time than people think or maybe what drivers or teams think the first time.
“There is always more to extract from an F1 car if you spend a few more years on it than the first 10 races of the season, and I am sure that can apply to any F1 driver out there.”
If you look back at Max Verstappen’s challenges coming to grips with his F1 role at Red Bull in the early days, he had a lot of “moments” and clashes and it took him three seasons to really get his skill and race craft equalized.
Gasly wasn’t given anywhere near that time so what was the difference? I would argue that Red Bull know the potential and could see it in Max but didn’t see it in Pierre. Oddly, they didn’t see it in Albon either and dropped him from the program and now he’s back in the main team. Perhaps with Daniil Kvyat’s return as well, Pierre should buckle down and there could be another chance.
Hat Tip: Autosport