Inside Red Bull’s driver line-up quagmire


Following Max Verstappen’s successful promotion to the Red Bull team back in 2016, it seemed that the team had their driver set-up sorted, but it was disrupted with Daniel Ricciardo’s shock move to Renault.

The daunting task of replacing a seven-time Grand Prix winner fell to twenty-three-year-old Pierre Gasly, a man who was veteran of only one full season in the sport and who’s best result was a creditable fourth place at the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix.​
While Gasly’s performances were deemed strong, the absence of a known quantity in single-seater racing in Brendon Hartley left a level of uncertainty around the form of the Frenchman.​
Despite this Red Bull went ahead with the move, passing over the highly-rated Carlos Sainz Jr. in the process as Sainz made the move to the seemingly struggling McLaren team.​
Sainz has gone from strength to strength in a revitalised McLaren in 2019 alongside Lando Norris, leaving him seventh in the drivers’ championship and arguably in the best form of his still fledgling career.
Gasly, on the other hand, has fallen into a career vacuum, as his form spirals further out of control. This culminating in him crashing out of last weekends German Grand Prix, following contact with the Toro Rosso of Alex Albon.​
Furthermore, Sainz only sits seven points behind the Frenchman in the drivers’ standings, as the pressure continues to mount on Gasly.​
For Gasly, Hockenheim marked a new low as the Toro Rosso pair of Alex Albon and Danil Kvyat, the most likely candidates to take his coveted Red Bull seat, both performed to increasingly remarkable heights.​
The aforementioned Albon drove a superb race amidst the chaos to take his highest-ever finish in Formula 1 with sixth, taking into account this was the London-born Thai drivers’ first experience of a Formula 1 car in wet conditions of any kind. ​
Kvyat was the real headline, and arguably the real headache for Gasly. The Russian grabbed an improbable podium for the Faenza based squad as a Russian Roulette style gamble for Pirelli’s slick tyres paid off as he marked his return to Formula 1 with a podium – his first since the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix.​
In spite of the form of the junior teams’ incumbents, Dr. Helmut Marko has remained firm on his position, with Gasly seemingly safe from a ‘Kvyat-Esque’ mid-season swap, but the real issue remains for 2020 and beyond.​
Is Albon ready for a promotion and if they deem so, do they risk allowing him to falter similarly to the beleaguered Frenchman. ​
What about Kvyat returning to the Red Bull team?
The Russian has already received an opportunity at the senior team. One that Red Bull higher-ups deemed he squandered.
While there is no doubt there is a new found confidence in the Russian, his proposed matchup with Verstappen would surely only go one way; and with Verstappen in such fine form, is there a risk at Kvyat suffering another mental capitulation?​
Is the Red Bull system now at an impasse and if so do they look for a replacement outside of the programme? How do they get out of the quagmire that is there 2020 driver line-up plans?​

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