In his debut season as Max Verstappen’s teammate back in 2019, Pierre Gasly was severely struggling, costing Red Bull valuable points. He was not given a lot of time to learn and adjust to the car, which is known to be particularly hard to drive, and he was downgraded mid-season to the at-the-time Toro Rosso.
Gasly was substituted by the rookie Alex Albon, who contrary to the Frenchman, made a pretty impressive early-impact on the series. However, the swap with the Thai-British driver Albon proved to be the best decision for the Frenchman’s performance.
Back in Mid-December 2020, the Milton Keynes-based team announced its decision of parting ways with Alex Albon, who will still remain part of the team with a reserve and test driver’s role.
At that point, many (including Gasly himself, probably) questioned whether Red Bull would have given Gasly a second chance, but he’s better off where he is anyway.
While no driver would willingly decide to run with a mid-field team rather than a top-tier one, staying at AlphaTauri is likely to be the optimal move for Gasly and his future.
Why is it the case?
On the one hand, it is clear why going back to Red Bull would be highly appealing. He’d be in a much faster car thus having higher chances to be battling for podiums and wins. Nevertheless, he already experienced that. He has already been there, would going back really change anything? Probably not.
The cause is pretty clear – Red Bull is not looking for a potential World Champion, they already got one, and they’re doing anything to provide Max Verstappen everything he needs to bring back the long-desired World Title. What Milton Keynes is looking for, is a loyal second-driver, no matter who that is.
While we cannot deny Gasly’s outstanding performances during the 2020 season – including his first victory during the Italian GP, consistent points scoring and impressive races in Portugal, Bahrain and Spa – his growth and the unrestrained support that AlphaTauri has given him is what really made the difference.
Pierre Gasly is way better off staying with the Faenza-based team. For now, at least.
With Daniil Kvyat’s departure from AlphaTauri and the on-boarding of the promising rookie Yuki Tsunoda, it is reasonable to assume that Gasly will be the lead driver of the team.
Even if they start the season with equal status, Gasly will have the chance to become the first choice – hence being the first when it comes to strategies, the first to receive upgrades. At Red Bull, he wouldn’t get such a chance.
As Christian Horner claimed, when asked about a possible second Gasly-Albon switch for 2021, “if we were to swap them back, why would it be any different?”.
Granted that the Frenchmen has gained in experience and has improved massively in his last campaign, the Red Bull is no easier to drive, and with regulations staying the same, the car won’t be any different next season either.
While Gasly seemed to never be ‘in tune’ with the Red Bull, he appears to be perfectly fitted for the AlphaTauri and this is of massive importance. Moreover, the whole environment in Faenza is helping the 25-years-old French driver to thrive – knowing the entire team has his back, led his confidence to sky-rocket – and, of course, this resulted in Gasly being able to battle consistently for points and more.
“He’s always been quick but he’s driving fantastically well,” AlphaTauri technical director Jody Egginton told The Race late last year.
“When he’s got the car how he wants, he’s fantastically consistent. He’s in a really good place at the moment and he’s still getting better.
Staying at a midfield team isn’t ideal for a driver with as much talent as Gasly, but, neither is being seen as number two in a car that doesn’t work for him. There’s no reason to believe that he can’t repeat the amazing performances of last year if he stays with AlphaTauri.
Moreover, he appears to have positively impressed everyone in the paddock, especially Renault’s (now, Alpine) management. Another equally good season would give him the chance of earning a seat in the French-based team or strive for something even more.
On the contrary, if he went back to Red Bull, he would risk not being able to repeat the same good appearances, thus risking to endanger his position in the 2022 drivers’ market.
While Gasly’s supporters might feel that leaving him in a mid-field team is unfair and that he should have been given a second chance, remaining at AlphaTauri could be the best thing for him. This will allow the 25-year-old to continue to excel and grow as a driver.
Just look at Carlos Sainz – if the Spaniard didn’t leave the Red Bull stable, he wouldn’t have become number one driver at McLaren, battling for podiums and even victories. And, almost certainly, he wouldn’t have been able to impress Ferrari – that albeit struggling, is still the top-notch of the sport.
Even if Gasly might not be thinking that far ahead in the future, with Formula 1 new regulations approaching in 2022, next season might be determining for his career. In a few years, he might be grateful that he didn’t go back.