Time running out at Red Bull for struggling Pierre Gasly

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It’s not easy for anyone’s confidence when their future is called into question barely three months into their new job.

For most people it takes time to adapt to a new team environment, build confidence slowly and then thrive.

However, for Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly, rumours of a potential mid-season demotion have begun to emanate since the second round of the championship.

Although whispers calmed after promising displays in Barcelona and Monaco, his disappointing performance at the French Grand Prix on Sunday has cast his Red Bull future into question again.

Following his 10th-placed finish, rumours circulated around the paddock that the Milton Keynes outfit were looking at Daniil Kvyat or Alexander Albon to replace Gasly sooner rather than later, but Red Bull boss Christian Horner was quick to dismiss the speculation.

But, whether the team claim truth to the rumours or not, the temperature is increasing in Gasly’s sizzling hot seat.

It doesn’t take a motorsport fan to see he is struggling.

The 24-year-old has been out-qualified in seven of the eight races by team-mate Max Verstappen, and has yet to finish ahead of the Dutchman this campaign.

Verstappen is clearly a better driver, but for two men in the exact same car, one would expect closer results rather than staggering differences.

If we’re to look at qualifying this season, Gasly has an average start of 10.5 on the grid, making it through to Q3 on five occasions. On race day, he has recorded an average finish of 8.9, with his best result coming in the form of P5 in Monaco.

If he was in a Toro Rosso, we’d be nodding in approval at his formidable displays, but in a championship-contending car like the Red Bull, he should be on the fringes of top-five finishes most weeks instead of being beaten by McLaren, Haas or even Renault drivers.

In contrast, Verstappen has been impressive, crossing the chequered flag in an average position of 3.9 and starting race day in an average position of 4.8. He has also been on the podium twice. Certainly signs of a man who is getting the most out of the car.

For the third best team behind Mercedes and Ferrari, these results cannot continue and Gasly either needs to step up fast this weekend in Austria or risk being demoted.

Assuming Red Bull promote another driver to be Verstappen’s new team-mate, who would it be?

Albon looks the preferred option between him and Kvyat. The Great Britain-born Thai has taken almost the opposite path to Gasly in his maiden season, but the one perhaps he would have wished for.

Albon (l) and Gasly (r).

To compare his first eight races at Toro Rosso to Gasly’s in 2018, Albon has had a more impressive start – averaging a qualifying position of 12.6 in contrast to the Frenchman’s 14.2. On race day, he averaged a 12.1 place finish in comparison to Gasly’s 13.6 average.

Gasly though did record a stunning P4 in Baku last year, while Albon’s best to date was P8 in Monaco.

The Rouen native is not a basket case by any means, but for whatever the reason may be, things are not clicking for him at Red Bull, and perhaps a demotion could be a good thing for his career and confidence.

It might sound crazy but if he can reset away from spotlight, the pressure of racing alongside Verstappen and the pressure of expecting significant results, then maybe he can rediscover who he actually is and what he wants to achieve going forward as a driver.

A season or two back at Toro Rosso, with improved results, will also put him in the shop window for a switch across to another team in future seasons.

Either way it doesn’t look like he will be a Red Bull driver next season.

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Next F1 chief should be someone neutral from outside the sport, says Lewis Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton has called for Formula One’s next chief to come from outside of the sport, ruling his own boss out from taking the job for potentially being “biased” towards Mercedes.

Hamilton was deeply critical of how the sport is being run, describing it as a “mess” following his latest victory in a drab French Grand Prix.

The futures of Liberty Media’s American duo – F1 chief executive Chase Carey, and the sport’s commercial boss Sean Bratches – are unclear. Jean Todt, who rejuvenated Ferrari and oversaw Michael Schumacher’s run of dominance at the turn of the century, is serving what could be his final term as FIA president.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is thought to be under consideration by Liberty to lead F1 from 2021. The Austrian is this year on course to take the all-conquering Silver Arrows to an unprecedented sixth straight drivers’ and constructors’ double.

But Hamilton, who has credited Wolff for much of his recent success, said: “While I don’t believe there is a better manager than Toto within the whole of Formula One, we as humans can be biased.

“You have got Jean Todt. I know Jean is level but he was with the red team for so long. Surely, when he wakes up and there is a red shirt or a silver shirt, he probably goes for the red one.

“Just like when I see the number six [Nico Rosberg’s former race number], or the number 44, [Hamilton’s race number] I go for 44.

“Toto has been Mercedes through and through for such a long period of time.

“It would be best to get someone from outside who is neutral and doesn’t know about Ferrari for instance.”

Hamilton’s remarks arrived against the backdrop of a fans’ backlash following Sunday’s race which the Briton dominated from start to finish. The world champion has won six of the eight rounds this year. His Mercedes team are unbeaten.

The 34-year-old was in Paris last week for an emergency summit among the sport’s stakeholders. The meeting was called to determine how F1 will look when the current Concorde Agreement expires in 18 months.

It was decided that the terms of the new arrangement will be delayed until October with the 10 teams failing to reach consensus.

But Hamilton believes both F1 and the FIA, motor sport’s governing body, should take the decision-making process out of the teams’ hands.

“The way it is set up, just from watching when I was there in Paris, is not good,” added Hamilton. “It is really not good, and they will not like me saying that.

“The FIA are the governing body and they need to be making all the decisions. The teams shouldn’t be involved in that.

“The teams all want something for themselves. It would be the same in football – they would push and pull for their own benefit.

“But if you have a central group of people, like the FIA, their sole job with Liberty is to make the sport great again. They should just have the power, and they should make the decisions.”

However, Hamilton has raised doubts over the 2021 proposals. He said the cars should be lighter and more nimble, ensuring drivers can push to the limit.

The Briton added: “They are talking about the cars being heavier and that baffles me. The cars are already 130 kilograms heavier than when I first got into the sport.

“That would be worse for the brakes and the car. We would have to save more fuel.

“I have got to realise the position and responsibility I have as the (current) driver who has won the most world championships.

“I have been here a long time and for my legacy I would love to look back and say I was a part of helping that positive change for the fans who are watching Formula One.

“I don’t want to be a driver who just won titles, but one who actually cared about the sport.”

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Lewis Hamilton cruises to French Grand Prix victory and other talking points

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Lewis Hamilton dominated the French Grand Prix to continue his best ever start to a Formula One season.

Hamilton crossed the line a crushing 18 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes following an emphatic performance at the Circuit Paul Ricard. On a perfect afternoon, the five-time world champion extended his lead over Bottas, his closest title challenger, to 36 points.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ran Bottas close in the final stages, but stayed in third ahead of the Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

Here’s our key talking points from France.

BLISTERING HAMILTON 

In extreme heat in the south of France, Hamilton continued his scintillating form in 2019, clinching his sixth win in eight races.

Fastest all weekend, he got the cleanest start on Sunday and led every lap of the race to extend his championship lead to 36 points. Although he had seat issues early in the race, the 34-year-old put the issues behind to him to finish a stunning 18 seconds ahead of Bottas.

He drove imperiously around Circuit Paul Ricard, and judging by his sizzling form of late, it looks hard to see him not retain his world championship crown and become a six-time champion – an achievement bettered only by Michael Schumacher, who holds a record seven titles.

Next up is the Austrian GP – a track Hamilton has only won at once in 2016.

WHERE IS BOTTAS 2.0?

Starting second on the grid, the Finn was unable to challenge Hamilton and crossed the line in second – his seventh podium of the season.

It’s fair to say that Bottas has surpassed expectations to claim three poles of his own this year, but to finish so far behind Hamilton in France shows the gulf between both drivers.

As it stands the title battle will come down between Hamilton and Bottas. But for how long?

Hamilton is utterly dominant and looks to only be getting better, while Bottas is slowly waning of that totemic pace we witnessed in Melbourne and Baku.

Dauntingly, Hamilton is entering the midway point of the year where he traditionally raises his intensity even higher, so Bottas needs to step up in Austria if this is to be a genuine battle.

Still, it’s a positive start to the season for Bottas but he needs to challenge better and bring back some of that old needle if he has to have any hope of pushing Hamilton until the end of the season.

FERRARI OFF PACE

Charles Leclerc started a formidable third – some distance behind the Mercedes in qualifying – and it’s fair to say he needed that result after a difficult run of qualifying sessions where he had only finished faster than Sebastian Vettel once.

Finally, for the first since Bahrain, he delivered on his full potential and crossed the line in third for his third podium of the season. The key though will be doing it again at the next race and again after.

Vettel unfortunately endured another frustrating weekend. He looked off the pace of Leclerc all weekend and was only seventh fastest in qualifying.

On race day, the German did his best to soar through the field, finishing fifth and taking the fastest lap.

HEARTBREAK FOR NORRIS

Having delivered the team’s best qualifying result since Italy 2014, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz started from fifth and sixth on the grid and looked high on confidence.

Sainz went on to secure sixth place, a joint season’s best finish for the Spaniard after finishing in the same position in Monaco.

But for his team-mate Norris, it was a heartbreaking afternoon. The British rookie was on course for sixth place until a hydraulics issue affected his pace and balance with ten laps remaining.

Struggling in seventh on the last lap, he was eventually passed by Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg, and could only manage 10th. But with Ricciardo given two time penalties after the race, Norris was promoted to ninth.

DISAPPOINTING HOME FORTUNES

Leclerc may have taken a third podium, but for Frenchman Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly it was largely disappointing.

Grosjean looked disappointing all weekend, bowing out in Q1 on Saturday, and then being forced to retire with five laps remaining, when sitting 16th.

Gasly, meanwhile, benefited from Ricciardo’s late penalty and finished 10th.

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