Red Bull Racing has announced its decision to promote Formula 1 rookie Alexander Albon from junior side Scuderia Toro Rosso for the Belgian Grand Prix, with Pierre Gasly going the other direction.
Gasly has struggled against team-mate Max Verstappen in his first year with Red Bull after his own promotion from Toro Rosso at the end of the ’18 season as Daniel Ricciardo‘s successor.
Verstappen has two race wins to his name in ’19, in Austria and Germany, and sits in third place in the Drivers’ Championship on 181 – while Gasly is in sixth on 63 points and is under pressure from the McLaren F1 Team’s Carlos Sainz Jr.
Gasly has failed to score a podium so far, with a best finish of fourth place at the British Grand Prix, and also suffered the ignominy of being lapped by Verstappen in Austria and Hungary.
FIA Formula 2 graduate Albon’s chance at Red Bull is a result of 16 points in his first 12 grands prix with Toro Rosso, contributing to its lofty fifth position in the Constructors’ standings.
Albon was chosen over Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was previously tipped for a return to Red Bull in the wake of an impressive comeback year to full F1 action.
Red Bull said in a statement released on Monday morning that it would use the remaining nine races of the season “to evaluate Alex’s performance in order to make an informed decision as to who will drive alongside Max in 2020.”
The team also explained that it was taking advantage of its “unique position of having four talented F1 drivers under contract”.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner publicly warned Gasly that needed to increase his speed after a lacklustre Hungarian Grand Prix showing if Red Bull is to trouble Scuderia Ferrari for second in the championship.
Horner also said that Mercedes AMG Motorsport may not have had the luxury of being able to pit Lewis Hamilton from second place for fresh tyres at the Hungaroring, a move that ultimately helped him pass Verstappen for the race victory in the closing stages, if Gasly had been on the pace.
“The problem is [Gasly] is not in the mix at all, so it’s not like if Lewis pitted he was going to come out behind him or anything like that,” Horner said, speaking to ESPN.
“Obviously not having two cars running at the front does hurt us, particularly in the Constructors’ Championship where we scored the same amount of points as Ferrari today on a track where we should have taken more out of them.”