RED BULL ARE WASTING YOUNG DRIVERS
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Red Bull are quickly becoming the Max Verstappen Formula 1 Team. The quicker they learn to stop, the better.
Max Verstappen is considered by many in Formula 1 to be a one-in-a-generation season. Certainly, he seems to be the only driver this season that can get anywhere near the W11's blistering pace. He's 22 and has 8 race wins, so as far as Formula 1 drivers go, he's not the teammate you want to have; only Daniel Ricciardo as of yet has been able to challenge him consistently.
When Ricciardo announced his move to Renault on 3 August 2018, Red Bull were massively embarrassed. Until a week prior, Horner (their Team Principal) was sure that he'd sign with them again. Just over 2 weeks later, Pierre Gasly was announced as his replacement.
Of course, we all know how that ended, but at the time, Red Bull seemed thrilled at the prospect of this young driver. When talking about Gasly time at Red Bull, I always refer to episode 5 of Drive To Survive season 2. Horner and co. seemed to really rate him, but by the next episode, they’re replacing pictures of him with Alex Albon’s face.
I absolutely understand why Red Bull demoted Gasly back down mid-season, but it was still heart-breaking. The way he’s bounced back and been able to provide solid performances for Toro Rosso/Alpha Tauri is impressive. I really feel like he’s a good fit for that team, and I can see why Red Bull made the decision. Yes, there were nicer ways to do it, but it’s Red Bull - what did you expect.
My problem really comes with Alex Albon. For his first season in Formula 1, he performed incredibly well - after his first 7 races, he consistently placed within the top 6, and scored more points that Gasly did in his 12 Red Bull races. He proved that he deserved that seat. It’s also worth noting that Albon was dropped by the Red Bull junior team in 2012, and didn’t know he was even joining Toro Rosso until midway through his F2 season.
Alex Albon performed as well as possible for a talented rookie, but in Red Bull’s head, they’re never going to be enough, especially if they don’t improve in 2020.
The problem with Red Bull is that they have Max Verstappen. Of course, that doesn’t immediately appear to be a negative, but it really affects their expectations for their second driver. Max Verstappen is an incredibly talented, perhaps one-in-generation driver, and he’s always going to please Red Bull. In fact, the only person that‘s similar to Max in terms of age and pace is Leclerc - and Leclerc himself makes life a lot harder for Red Bull’s second driver, because he makes it a lot harder for Albon to achieve P4.
Perhaps it’s fair for Red Bull to expect P4s, even from a young driver in their second season, but as we saw in Styria, they’re not even happy when he provides that. Granted, Albon was massively off the pace in that race, but he still delivered P4 and went mostly unchallenged.
In the same DTS episode as Gasly’s demotion, Christian Horner said that “we’re fine with crashes if he goes for the moves. It’s P7s, 8s, 9s we can’t work with.”
Alex Albon could’ve provided at least a podium in Brazil, and was on for a win in Austria, both of which were ruined by contact that he wasn’t exactly entirely responsible for.
I don’t know what Albon’s future looks like; I think it’s unfair to assume that Red Bull are preparing to drop him next year, or earlier. I do know, however, that he’s not being given the support he needs. His team radios sound like a nagging parent, and in interviews he sounds dispirited and frankly, lonely.
Red Bull need to realise that they’re not going to find another Max Verstappen, not least because it’s now illegal to race as young as he did. They shouldn’t want one, either. Two Max Verstappen‘s would be impossible to manage and even worse to strategize for, and it would probably ending with a season full of crashes. Entertaining viewing, but not conducive to Red Bull’s success.
Alex Albon is an incredible talent and could really help Red Bull, especially in a year where Ferrari look weak. He’s consistent and also aggressive, and he’s definitely not afraid to go for an overtake.
Red Bull need to realise the talent they have, and start nurturing it. If they don’t, they’re going to end up with a revolving door of seconds, too many discarded drivers, and no real results.