Red Bull Racing, one of F1’s top three teams, has confirmed F1’s worst kept secret; that Pierre Gasly will replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo next season.
The news follows another Red Bull stable driver, Carlos Sainz, moving to McLaren. Gasly will partner Max Verstappen.
When he won the 2016 GP2 championship, Gasly may have been forgiven for thinking that promotion to Red Bull’s junior Toro Rosso team would inevitably follow.
But Red Bull Racing director Helmut Marko had other ideas, feeling that the Frenchman had not done enough to impress in his GP2 season to dislodge Daniil Kvyat.
He was dispatched to Japanese Super Formula, which he almost won and then came back to Toro Rosso later in the season, finally to replace Kvyat.
This season he has had some exceptional races; fourth in Bahrain, seventh in Monaco and sixth in Hungary the standouts. With Ricciardo feeling that his time at Red Bull had come to an end, Gasly has more than done enough to earn his chance.
His experience of Honda engines this season with Toro Rosso is another aspect in his favour, as Red Bull will switch to the Japanese engines next year.
“This incredible opportunity is another step forward in my ambition to win grands prix and compete for world championships,” said Gasly.
“Red Bull has always looked to fight for championships or victories and that’s what I want.”
What next for Toro Rosso?
The promotion of Gasly means that Toro Rosso are looking for a replacement. Red Bull has invested tens of millions in young drivers over the last decade, but its options for 2019 are not straight forward and with Brendon Hartley seemingly falling out of form and favour, the team could well be looking for two replacements.
The Toro Rosso is a solid points-capable car but next cab off the rank, Dan Ticktum, looks unlikely to get a superlicence under the new FIA requirements.
They already sounded out McLaren about giving Lando Norris an outing, but McLaren look like they are shaping up to pair him with Sainz. So they may go outside their stable to find a replacement. There are a few very good drivers looking for a way into F1 including George Russell, while one of Sergio Perez or Esteban Ocon will not have a berth at Force India.
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