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.
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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