Gasly on the Ropes?
By Drew F. June 29 2019
Less than one year after Formula One driver Pierre Gasly stormed to an impressive 15th place finish for Toro Rosso, the Frenchman is facing the ax at Red Bull. Gasly earned a promotion to Red Bull in August 2018 following his brilliance behind the wheel.
However, his first season at Red Bull has been widely perceived as mediocre with zero podium finishes. Gasly’s fifth-place finish in Monaco was his best this season, but there is no doubt he is struggling as Max Verstappen’s teammate.
Former Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat has been rumored for a return to Red Bull. Although Gasly’s place on the grid with Verstappen may be safe for now, the 2020 season could see Kvyat return to the driver’s cockpit at Red Bull.
The Red Bull team has built a ruthless reputation when it comes to sacking drivers. Kvyat knows all too well just how tough Red Bull can be. The driver was demoted from Red Bull in 2016 after only four races.
What has gone wrong for Gasly this season at Red Bull and why hasn’t he been able to replicate his form from 2018?
A bright start
The 2018 Formula One season was Gasly’s first full year as a driver on the circuit. The Frenchman showed plenty of promise for Toro Rosso throughout the race calendar thanks to five top-10 finishes.
Although Gasly had no podium finishes, his driving was highly impressive. He finished 15th driving Torro Rosso’s Honda-powered car. Gasly’s performances for Torro Rosso may have been made more impressive by teammate Brandon Hartley’s terrible season. Hartley finished 19th with just four points and three top-10 finishes. Gasly did have pace in his car during the 2018 season; something that has eluded him this season in a significantly superior car.
His top-10 finishes have increased, but the promise of Gasly’s rookie season has turned into disappointment for most onlookers.
Gasly’s current sixth-place standing in the Formula One table is misleading. Despite being in the upper half of the standings, Gasly is well off the pace of the top five. Gasly is 50 points off fifth-place Charles Leclerc after eight grand prix races.
The Frenchman is only 11 points ahead of seventh-place McLaren man Carlos Sainz Jr and could end the Austrian Grand Prix with a narrower points difference. Sixty-three points separate Gasly from teammate Verstappen. It is a gap that Red Bull is most likely unhappy with.
On the positive side, Gasly has produced the fastest laps at two races this season. He was the quickest man on the grid at the Chinese and Monaco Grand Prix. Those races saw Gasly achieve his best finishes of the season, sixth and fifth place, respectively.
Qualifying has been difficult for Gasly all season long, however. His teammate has continually outpaced him.
Signs of a slump
Gasly’s performances have been so subpar from the beginning of the race calendar that it was speculated he would be demoted back in April.
He showed signs of his current slump before the Formula One season even started. Red Bull may have had reservations over Gasly’s promotion during winter testing after he crashed twice in three days.
Will Red Bull stick with Gasly?
There is a lot of speculation that Red Bull will replace Gasly before the season ends. As far as most pundits are concerned, he’s on the ropes waiting for that knockout punch. Kyvat was the first man Red Bull axed during the season setting a precedent for all drivers in the future. Dr. Helmut Marko is not afraid to make bold decisions. His move to demote Kyvat in 2016 was harsh, but it unleashed the supreme talent of Verstappen who went on to win his first race for the team.
In May, Nico Hulkenberg was linked to Gasly’s Red Bull seat. However, it’s more likely Red Bull will stick with Gasly for the rest of the season.
There are still a lot of races to go in the 2019 Formula One season. Red Bull should stay the course with Gasly and wait to make a move. By the end of the season, Gasly could finally be comfortable and once again show the potential he did 12 months ago.