Christian Horner says Pierre Gasly is still seen as a future Red Bull driver despite being demoted to Toro Rosso this year, following his podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Gasly was promoted to Red Bull after just one year in Formula 1, replacing Daniel Ricciardo for this season after the Australian left for Renault. However, after a difficult first part of the year he was dropped in favor of Alex Albon over the summer break, and since then has impressed back at Toro Rosso. Last Sunday at Interlagos, Gasly (pictured at right, above, with winner Max Verstappen) secured the first podium of his career with a stunning second place, and Horner says the Frenchman could return to Red Bull in the future.
“If we didn’t believe he was a candidate for us we would have released him from the contract,” Horner said. “But obviously we still believe in his talent and that’s why we retained him within the group.”
Horner says Gasly responded well to the demotion during this season, focusing on the positive aspect of being retained as part of the Red Bull family.
“He had two choices: He could either get depressed about it or be grateful for the fact he was still involved in F1 and Red Bull still believed in him, and I think he embraced it rather than got dejected by it.
“I think there was almost a slight relief as well, because the pressure only mounts. He came into the season after two crashes and there were some really tough races for him. I think it was the right thing to remove him from that pressure and it’s been good to see him really find his confidence at Toro Rosso.”
With Albon — who was running ahead of Gasly when he was hit by Lewis Hamilton in Brazil — already confirmed for next season, Horner says it should not be overlooked that the Toro Rosso drivers were also retained.
“I think he’s doing a very good job. I think removing him from the pressured environment here and putting him back into the slightly-less pressured environment at Toro Rosso, perhaps in a car that is slightly easier to drive, his confidence has been recovering and he’s put in some great performances. That’s why we took up the option on him again for 2020.
“It’s great to see him get his first podium, so it’s a fantastic day for Red Bull. Hopefully that confidence will only continue to grow.”