Unfortunately for Pierre Gasly, the 2019 Formula One season has been a bit of a nightmare.
Not just for him. It would be untruthful to say that Gasly is the only one that’s been having a bad year in this group of twenty drivers. However, that’s unlikely to make him feel much better.
Performance in Formula One is a tricky thing to evaluate. It’s not just about pure speed and who wins the race. It’s how you finish in comparison to your teammate over a somewhat large sample-size, like, say, the first half of a season. There’s even more to consider – and it’s all different based on the context of an individual factor.
Toro Rosso’s 2019 driver pairing is a complete overhaul from their 2018 duo. With Gasly promoted and Hartley dismissed, Daniil Kvyat (10 points) and Alexander Albon (7) were brought in, and both have been performing well above the modest expectations they were given. Compare that to last year, and it can be seen that they’ve been better than Hartley (4 in a complete season) already. This is a true teammate battle, unlike last season.
It’s unlike another teammate battle – Red Bull’s flagship duo have not been competitive with each other this season. Max Verstappen has been much better, with his 126 points standing behind only the two Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. The aforementioned Gasly only has 43, behind both Ferrari drivers and only thirteen above the seventh-place Carlos Sainz.
The most embarrassing part for the 23-year old French driver was that he was lapped by his teammate in the most recent race in Austria. He finished seventh, only to look up and watch Verstappen take the checkered flag and stand at the top of the podium.
Is it the pressure that’s getting to Gasly?
“We know what he is capable of,” his boss at Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner, told motorsport.com. “And I think that we have just somehow got to go ‘control, alt, delete’ in his head and start again.”
Making an attempt to ease any nerves that the young driver might be facing, he made note that there’s no demotion or dismissal imminent.
“There is no intention to change Pierre. He is our driver, we are going to work with him and try to get the best out of him.”
The support from the team won’t be unlimited, but that should calm the rumours that have started to make their way down the paddock.
In 2016, Daniil Kvyat was demoted mid-season to Toro Rosso by Red Bull. In 2017, he was dropped before the end of the year by the development-focused team. Both moves, especially the former, were considered to have had a major impact on his confidence. Though he’s made his comeback this season in a situation that’s been nothing short of a major success, Kvyat is a talented driver (still only 25-years old) that Red Bull nearly lost because they were too impatient.
Though Gasly has only finished fifth as his highest result this season, it has to be remembered that he finished fourth last year in the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix, in a much weaker car. The speed is clearly there, and Red Bull is trying to be patient this time – they don’t want to shatter his confidence, and they don’t want to lose Gasly.
At least, not yet.
24-year old Lucas Auer is competing in the 2019 Super Formula championship, and a lot of noise was made when Red Bull decided to add Patricio O’Ward to their Junior Team earlier this season.
It’s important to note that O’Ward, who had been competing part-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, is likely going to end up in Formula One at some point, though it probably won’t be in 2019 due to super license issues.
In all likelihood, Gasly will get the rest of this season’s calendar to try and work through the struggles he’s been through. The only move that’s really possible is a swap between him and Kvyat, considering Albon is still very new to the Formula One car.
It’s probably okay for Gasly to take a deep breath and relax just a bit, even in one of the most stressful jobs in sports.