Perez’s new Red Bull deal poses questions for Gasly and his junior team successors

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It’s not uncommon for a Formula 1 driver’s future to be completely out of their hands. It’s generally the case for drivers who aren’t Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen.

Yet, many do get backed by teams before they reach F1, which brings the expectation they will progress through the rankings to become a senior member of the outfit, if an opportunity arises.

For a driver like Pierre Gasly, that step up came arguably too soon at Red Bull in 2019. He now seems stuck at a crossroads after the team announced Sergio Perez had re-signed to remain alongside Verstappen at the senior team until the end of 2024.

Red Bull’s decision is a rational one. Perez is a driver who has consistently delivered at races to gain important points in their championship fight and has accepted the occasions where he’s had to serve as ‘number two’ to Verstappen with grace.

Perez signed his new Red Bull deal before Monaco win
But the decision to sign Perez does raise obvious questions for Red Bull’s long-running junior programme and the driver who seemingly occupies the leading place within its structure, Gasly.

Last season Franz Tost, team principal of Red Bull’s junior F1 squad AlphaTauri, praised Gasly for his impressive performances and added he would be ready to return to Red Bull in the future if given the chance.

Gasly had a bumpy ride to the top. He was called up to Red Bull from the junior team (then called Toro Rosso) ahead of the 2019 season after just one full year in F1. But his time at the top team was over before it got started. Demoted mid-season, he was replaced by Alexander Albon, another of Red Bull’s many junior drivers.

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Gasly isn’t the only driver to be cast aside by Red Bull as the team struggled to field two competitive drivers over a season. Six years ago Daniil Kvyat was abruptly demoted to bring the young Verstappen into the team.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2019
Gasly’s tenure at Red Bull was brief
Granted, that gamble paid off, as the number ‘1’ on Verstappen’s RB18 shows. But the merry-go-round it set in motion led to Daniel Ricciardo walking out of the team, Gasly and Albon in turn temporarily installed as his replacements, and the latter dropped to make way for Perez who, significantly, was not part of Red Bull’s junior driver programme.

That has left a talent like Gasly on the table with seemingly limited options for his future in Formula 1, despite the impressive job he has done making a case for his place at the sport’s top level.

He reached the podium for the first time before the 2019 season was over, in emotional circumstances following the death of his good friend Anthoine Hubert earlier in the year. He snatched his maiden F1 win in unexpected circumstances at the following year’s Italian Grand Prix.

There was no repeat for Gasly in 2021, but his consistent performance was arguably more impressive. While Verstappen took the title, Gasly finished ninth, out-scoring rookie team mate Yuki Tsunoda by a massive 78 points.

Next year – when his current contract expires – will be Gasly’s fifth full season with his current team. The choice he has to make is whether to stay within the Red Bull fold or look for a gap in the driver market elsewhere.

The easy choice would be to stay at AlphaTauri. But the point of a junior team is to act as a platform for further success. Five years at the same junior team is not what Gasly had planned, and presumably not what Red Bull had either.

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Speaking exclusively to RaceFans before Perez’s new deal was announced, Gasly insisted he was good enough for a second chance in the Red Bull and prove his worth at the team.

Perez deal leaves Gasly “considering all options” for the future
“The driver I am today is way better than the driver I was after one year,” Gasly said. “If they saw at the time I was the right fit for the team after such a short time, then now there are even more reasons to think I’m prepared to get that seat.”

Now he admits he is “considering all options” after learning of about Perez’s new contract after the Monaco Grand Prix. “The impact it has on my career and with the ambitions that I have, it’s obviously affected it,” said Gasly.

“So that’s what we are discussing at the moment with Helmut [Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport consultant] to obviously find what’s best for all of us and how do we go forward from there.”

“Beyond 2023 I consider all options as I don’t have anything beyond that.

“These are things we need to discuss with Helmut. Obviously they want to keep me in the programme but we need to see how to make this work. It’s just normal conversations that are ongoing.”

There are few alternatives for Gasly. Albon now races for Williams but retains sponsorship from Red Bull – perhaps they would make a similar arrangement with Gasly to keep him within their orbit.

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Gasly has indicated he is open to such a plan: “At the moment, I would say yes. I don’t want to elaborate because I don’t want to make headlines about what’s happening.”

Seeing out the final year of his AlphaTauri deal will put Gasly on the market at the same time other vacancies appear. He may have one eye on the under-performing Ricciardo at McLaren, whose contract runs out at the end of 2023. More optimistically, he may even think of Hamilton’s spot at Mercedes, though the Silver Arrows will have the pick of the market if the seven-times world champion chooses not to extend his current deal.

Perez’s new contract also has implications for Red Bull’s junior driver programme. They are not short of talent, recent developments regarding Juri Vips notwithstanding, they have Dennis Hauger, Liam Lawson, Jehan Daruvala and Ayumu Iwasa racing in Formula 2 plus a handful of other young prospects making their way up through the lower ranks.

All will have eyes on the seats at AlphaTauri, knowing the two Red Bull spots are locked up until 2025. What next then for Red Bull’s young drivers hoping to make the step into F1? Seeing one of the places they most covet occupied by a driver who came from outside the programme doesn’t seem likely to inspire those on it.

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Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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27 comments on “Perez’s new Red Bull deal poses questions for Gasly and his junior team successors”

  1. Pierre Gasly’s lack of performance raised questions first.

    1. Take a look through your comment history, when is the last time you said anything positive? Do you need a hug, are you lonely?

      1. He’s not wrong here, though.

      2. Neither Pierre Gasly nor any of the Red Bull juniors are currently performing at a level that would engender praise. (I’d say Alex Albon is closest, but then again, he’s driving a Dorilton with Nicholas Latifi as his teammate.)

        Maybe you should offer one of them a hug?

  2. This is not really an issue isolated to RedBull. F1 has seen a trend towards less and less new seats opening up each year across the board to around 2ish on average now. It’s as low as it has ever been, and with drivers signing contracts for long periods, then there will be a log jam unless there’s a mass of retirements in F1. Obviously the lakc of new teams is a big problem too. Many forget Ricciardo got his debut at HRT… not TR.

    There are multiple issues here, not many solutions. But if F1 constitutes to now allow new teams and drivers are signing long contracts, then that’s that.

    1. * But if F1 continues to not allow or be open to new teams while drivers are also signing long-term contracts, then that’s that.

  3. Gasly is a poor example because Gasly got his shot and blew it. And you can call that unfair and how “he was too young and inexperienced” and whatever, but that’s just deflecting. You either step up and prove yourself or you step up and fail. Gasly failed catastrophically and then, by all accounts, did himself no extra favours by making comments that did not particularly endear him to Red Bull leadership. That’s on him.

    End of day, Gasly has, so far, 6 years in Formula 1 due to being a Red Bull junior, which include a race win and another couple of podiums. Ask De Vries, Piastri, O’Ward, or Illot if they’d like to switch places with poor Pierre and I bet they’d jump at the chance.

    Perez earned that seat at Red Bull due to being better at his job than Gasly (and also Albon) were, he deserves it. They both still have seats in F1 thanks to Red Bull. I’d say being a Red Bull junior isn’t that bad in comparrison to not being a junior (again: De Vries) or a junior at another team (like Ferrari for Illot (no racing at all in 2022) and Renault for Piastri (no racing at all in 2022)).

    At the end of the day, the following current drivers all came into F1 through Red Bull: Gasly, Albon, Verstappen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Sainz, and Tsunoda. That’s 7 out of 20 grid spots filled, if I were a betting junior driver and got my pick of junior programme’s, I’d say my best odds of getting an F1 seat were through Red Bull’s.

    I’d also like to point out that Red Bull has rebranded Toro Rosso and when they did so, named AlphaTauri their second team, instead of a junior team, semantics perhaps, but I don’t think the intention of Toro Rosso is to rotate drivers every one or, at most, two years in search of the next driver for their main team anymore.

  4. I really wish young talents to avoid the RB family altogether (unless they want to spend the best of their career restoring their damaged reputation after being prematurely promoted to a very demanding and unrewarding position)

    1. 35% of the grid came through RedBull in some way or another which makes them the dominant team represented in terms of young driver programs. RedBull get a bad rap because they are the most active team for bringing in drivers, and they have a clear ‘junior’ team with AT. They are unfairly treated.

      Unless you have some serious money or a generational talent (like Max), there really isn’t room to be fussy if the offer is a genuine one.

      1. 35% of the grid came through Red Bull, yet while searching for the ideal partner for their superstar, they almost ruined the career of two drivers who later matured to quite decent levels and finally hired someone from outside of the family. Something is not right here.

  5. Whether Gasly was going to get that Red bull seat in 2023 was never really up to Gasly. He’s shown he’s a capable midfield driver, who can put in consistent performances and the occasional masterclass. He’s also shown that when paired against a strong teammate in a top team, he capable of failing miserably.

    The only way Gasly would have gotten the Red bull seat for a second time is if Perez continued his 2021 form in to 2022. Then Red bull would have nothing to lose by replacing one lack lustre driver with another.

    Gasly should really look at going up against a driver like Lando, Alonso, Bottas or Vettel. The only way he can establish himself as a top talent is by beating one of the measured yardsticks in F1. If he loses to them though.. He’s unlikely to get a top drive ever again.

    1. A very sensible comment I think. He’s developed as a decent driver but as things stand, I don’t see him ever leading a top team. He’s going to be a no.2 to someone better and no more. Or as you have suggested, he might prove himself to be on level terms with a team mate in a less exalted team.

    2. I don’t think beating bottas or vettel nowadays would make a driver big favours tbh.

  6. The answer to this problem is more teams in F1, and I hope Mr Domenicali recognises that this is indeed a pressing concern.

    1. No number of teams is going to fix mediocre drivers not getting top team seats on merit.

      1. I race winner is a mediocre driver?

          1. Olivier Panis won a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

            Johnny Herbert won three Formula 1 Grand Prix.

            Eddie Irvine won four Formula 1 Grand Prix.

          2. Pastor Maldonado won a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

            Jarno Trulli won a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

            Heikki Kovalainen won a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

  7. though the Silver Arrows will have the pick of the market if the seven-times world champion chooses not to extend his current deal.

    Maybe last year…..I can’t see any RBR/Ferrari leaving teams their teams to join Mercedes now.

    Seeing one of the places they most covet occupied by a driver who came from outside the programme doesn’t seem likely to inspire those on it.

    Both seats are occupied by drivers outside of the program.

    1. @asanator

      I could see Leclerc leaving Ferrari for Mercedes. My guess is that by the end of this season Mercedes will be as fast as Ferrari, and everyone knows Mercedes knows how to deliver titles, as compared to Ferrari, that knows how to throw away championships.

  8. And now that Juri Vips will be lucky if he can drive for Haas. Dennis Hauger needs to turn up the wick.

  9. It’s like Alpha Tauri is now more valuable seat than Red Bull.

  10. Gasly is just not that good, I always had this believe that a potential top F1 driver, wins F2 as a rookie or is immediately promoted to F1, all the drivers with more than 1 season in F2 are the mid or low tier of F1 drivers, like Gasly, Albon, Gio, Mick, Latifi and so on, while the 1 season in F2 are people like Leclerc, Russell or Lando clear top tier drivers.

    RB should just put all their hopes on Hauger getting better and winning F2 this year, maybe that one is championship material and can outright replace Gasly at AT and then take Perez’s seat.

    1. Yes, the names you mentioned make it clear that you need to win f2 in 1 season if you want to be the next top driver.

    2. To be fair Giovanazzi scored as many points as Gasly and lost out on countback in his debut season and then went straight to a full time F1 testing / stand in role.

      Giovanazzi spent many years at F3 level… but so did George Russell. If a driver gets to F2 at a lesser team at a young age with only a couple of years in junior series even a driver with great potential could miss out (e.g. Norris or further back Alonso or Webber) but it depends what the competition is.

  11. I don’t like the premise of this story. It presupposes that PER is somehow blocking younger drivers from coming to the big team. But that’s not the case. These supposedly great talents must go to AT before going to RBR. So, it is Gasly and Tsunoda that are taking the seats of the young talents. So, instead of focusing on PER we should focus, if anything, on the AT guys. Gasly is great but he’s not eligible for RBR and Tsunoda has shown very, very little. None of them would realistically be taking over PER’s seat. So PER is not blocking anyone.

    In addition, if the argument is that PER is too old and that he should give way to younger talents, one could say the same of Bottas, and Ricciardo and even if world champions such as Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton, whose best days are gone.

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