Christian Horner’s sign of regret with Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon’s Red Bull promotions

Jamie Woodhouse
Christian Horner pensive, hand to face. Austin October 2022

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner pensive, hand to face. Austin October 2022

Red Bull boss Christian Horner seemed to suggest that in hindsight, both Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon were promoted to the team too early.

It was Gasly’s move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull in time for the start of the 2019 F1 season which marked the dawn of a tricky time for Red Bull, where they were struggling to find a team-mate to Max Verstappen who could get anywhere near him.

After half a season where Gasly struggled to meet expectations, the Frenchman having raced for a season and a bit with Toro Rosso previously, he was demoted back there, with Albon coming the other way as he got his opportunity as team-mate to Verstappen.

Albon too though largely struggled to keep up with the Dutchman, and was dropped to test and reserve driver at the end of the 2020 campaign, Red Bull then opting for experience as Sergio Perez came into the team.

Perez has in general been able to produce performances closer to what Red Bull need, and this leads Horner to the conclusion that the team were a little “unfair” perhaps on “the previous two guys”, otherwise known as Gasly and Albon, by giving them call-ups too soon.

“I think the key thing in the appointment of Checo was his experience,” said Horner. “And it had been unfair, perhaps, on the previous two guys [Gasly and Albon] to bring them in so soon.

“I think Checo with that experience, he’s been through some of the hard knocks and so on with his career to that point, and I think what he’s brought to us is… he’s a very rounded guy, he’s a great team player.

“He’s got a good outlook on the development of the car and he’s very easy to work with, so that’s all the reasons for taking him in the first place, and he’s delivering on that.”

While Perez narrowly missed out on the runner-up spot to 2022 World Champion Verstappen, the Mexican racer did make a promising start to F1 2023, only a tenth down on Verstappen’s pole time in Bahrain, while Verstappen’s margin of victory over Perez in the race came in at just under 12 seconds.

And if he is to somehow topple Verstappen, then Horner says Perez is going to need to bring his “A game” against perhaps the highest benchmark that Formula 1 has to offer.

But it is not only Verstappen who he needs to unleash this top form against.

Asked what Perez must change in order to challenge Verstappen across a season, Horner, with a smile, replied: “His lap time.

“Look, Max is a hell of a competitor and he’s a tough… probably the highest benchmark in F1. But Checo is now in his third year in the team, he’s confident, he’s comfortable and he’s got to be on his A-game – not just with Max.

“[Ferrari’s] drivers are pushing each other hard, Mercedes’ drivers are [pushing each other] hard, we’ve got what looks like a pretty motivated veteran [Fernando Alonso] in a green car as well, so it’s going to be a really exciting year.” recommends

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Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon flourished after Red Bull

It is safe to say that both drivers had a very tough time of things early in their respective Formula 1 careers, but their experiences at Red Bull certainly did not do them much harm in the long-term.

Gasly went on to impress as the established team leader at AlphaTauri, Red Bull having rebranded their AlphaTauri team, and is now settling into life at Alpine as he revels in the possibilities now that he is with the factory team.

As for Albon, after a year on the Red Bull sidelines, he got his shot at redemption with Williams in 2022 and took full advantage, impressing to earn a new multi-year contract with the team.

So, while Verstappen has earned the reputation of a ‘team-mate killer’, he at least is no career killer, as Gasly and Albon have proven.