Red Bull explain thinking behind Alex Albon-Pierre Gasly change
Horner on why they changed Gasly when they did, why Albon got the nod over Kvyat, and what it all means for 2020
By James Galloway at Spa-Francorchamps
Last Updated: 31/08/19 8:37am
Christian Horner has explained the reasoning behind Red Bull's Alex Albon-Pierre Gasly swap - and says they intend to still employ one of their own young drivers alongside Max Verstappen in 2020.
Red Bull made the big headlines of the F1 summer by replacing Gasly with Albon for the final nine races of the season, with the former returning to junior team Toro Rosso after a disappointing 12-race stint at the senior team.
Speaking at the Belgian GP about the decision for the first time, Horner said: "Hungary was frustrating, the week prior [in Germany] had been frustrating and when you look at the points table it just felt like Ferrari, we've got a car capable of taking the fight to them in the Constructors' Championship and we're not able to capitalise on that.
"The pressure was inevitably building on Pierre from you guys [the media] as well and Red Bull is on a unique position with the four cockpits that it has and we are able to move the deck.
"It felt for Pierre actually to continue his development it would be better in a less pressured environment of Toro Rosso.
Horner told Sky Sports F1 in an earlier interview: "He was obviously struggling with that pressure and the situation was getting worse and worse and compounding itself.
"[This is] to give him time to rebuild himself at Toro Rosso."
Why Albon and not Kvyat?
Acknowledging Red Bull had two options to replace Gasly - Albon and Daniil Kvyat - Horner explained why it was the younger Toro Rosso driver who got the nod to step up.
"We considered Daniil, he's doing a very good job with Toro Rosso this year," said Horner.
"We felt a few things: one, that it would be perhaps hurting Toro Rosso too much by taking their most experienced driver away. We also felt we have a pretty good understanding of Daniil.
"He has been in the programme for some time, he has driven for Red Bull Racing previously, and we were quite keen to have a look at Albon based on his emerging ability during that first 12-race period."
Horner added: "There's never going to be a good time for this, but it [the summer break] was as good a time as you could take. So that's why we decided 'you know what, we may as well get on with it'."
Who will get the drive for 2020?
As the man now in possession of one of F1's most coveted seats, Albon has a big chance to cement his place alongside Verstappen full-time into next season. The 23-year-old made a promising start to his new career on his debut in the RB15 at Spa on Friday, with Horner pleased with Albon's initial performance in practice.
"We want to see progression during these remaining nine races and then let's see where we are in Abu Dhabi when we'll have a much clearer picture," said Horner.
The Red Bull chief said that Verstappen's team-mate was most likely to be one of Albon, Kvyat and Gasly.
"That's the pool we're looking at," Horner told Sky F1. "Obviously it depends what happens in the next few races but ideally we're going to be looking at that pool of three."
Red Bull have been loosely linked with drivers not currently on their books - Nico Hulkenberg, who is leaving Renault, and even former driver Sebastian Vettel - over recent months.
"If we feel that none of the drivers within the pool can get the job done, of course we will look external to that. But I'm confident the talent we have within the group will be sufficient," insisted Horner.
And asked specifically about speculation linking Vettel with a sensational return to the team he won his four world titles with, Horner replied: "He's not available next year.
"He is a Ferrari driver and contracted to the end of 2020."