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Perez’s new Red Bull contract raises questions for Gasly and his junior successors RaceFans

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

Still, many are backed by teams before reaching F1, which suggests they will move up the rankings to become a senior member of the team, should the opportunity arise.

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

Red Bull’s decision is rational. Perez is a driver who has consistently performed well in races to earn important points in their championship fight and has accepted the occasions when he has had to serve as ‘number two’ for Verstappen with grace.

Perez signed his new contract with Red Bull ahead of Monaco victory

But the decision to sign Perez raises obvious questions for Red Bull’s long-running junior program and the driver who apparently occupies the top spot within its structure, Gasly.

Last season, Franz Tost, manager of Red Bull’s junior F1 team AlphaTauri, praised Gasly for his impressive performance and added that he would be open to returning to Red Bull in the future if he had any. the occasion.

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 in the top team was over before he started. Demoted mid-season, he was replaced by Alexander Albon, another of Red Bull’s many junior drivers.

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Gasly is not the only driver to be dropped by Red Bull as the team struggled to field two competitive drivers in one season. Six years ago, Daniil Kvyat was abruptly demoted to bring young Verstappen into the team.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2019
Gasly’s tenure at Red Bull was brief

Certainly, this bet paid off, as shown by the number “1” on Verstappen’s RB18. But the ride he set in motion led to Daniel Ricciardo leaving the team, with Gasly and Albon in turn temporarily installed as his replacements, and the latter dropping out to make way for Perez who, significantly, didn’t was not part of Bull’s Red Junior Drivers Programme.

It 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 to defend his place at the sport’s top level.

He stepped onto the podium for the first time before the end of the 2019 season, in emotional circumstances following the death of his good friend Anthoine Hubert earlier in the year. He snatched his first F1 victory under 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. As Verstappen took the title, Gasly finished ninth, edging rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda by 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 elsewhere for a niche in the driver market.

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

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

Perez deal leaves Gasly ‘considering all options’ for future

“The driver I am today is much better than the driver I was after a year,” Gasly said. “If they saw back then that I was the right fit for the team after such a short time, then now there’s even more reason to think I’m ready to get that seat.”

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

“So that’s what we’re discussing right now with Helmut [Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport consultant] to obviously figure out what’s best for all of us and how to move forward from there.

“Beyond 2023, I am considering all options because I have nothing beyond that.

“These are things we need to discuss with Helmut. Obviously they want to keep me in the program, but we have to figure out how to make it work. It’s just normal conversations going on.

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

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Gasly indicated that he was open to such a plan: “For the moment, I would say yes. I don’t want to elaborate because I don’t want to make headlines about what’s going on. »

F3 champion Hauger is Red Bull’s top scorer in F2

Seeing the final year of his AlphaTauri contract will put Gasly on the market at the same time other vacancies appear. He may have his eye on underachieving Ricciardo at McLaren, whose contract expires at the end of 2023. More optimistic, he may even think of Hamilton’s place at Mercedes, although the Silver Arrows will have the choice of the market if the sevenfold world champion chooses not to extend his current contract.

Perez’s new contract also has implications for Red Bull’s junior driver programme. They’re not lacking in talent, despite recent developments regarding Juri Vips: Dennis Hauger and Liam Lawson currently occupy the top 10 spots in Formula 2 and a handful of other young hopefuls are progressing through the lower ranks.

All will have their eyes glued to the seats of AlphaTauri, knowing that the two Red Bull places are locked until 2025. And then, for young Red Bull drivers hoping to make the move to F1? Seeing one of their most coveted spots occupied by a driver from outside the program does not seem likely to inspire those who are enrolled in it.

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