Red Bull may be forced to promote Pierre Gasly back to the senior team if they don’t want to lose him after the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Before the 2022 Formula 1 season began, Red Bull signed reigning world champion Max Verstappen to a five-year contract extension worth roughly $55 million per year, keeping the 24-year-old Dutchman with the team through the 2028 season.
However, the second Red Bull seat remains a key topic of discussion, just as it has been since the departure of Daniel Ricciardo following the 2018 season.
Pierre Gasly, who had just one full season to his name after 2018, was promoted to the seat from Red Bull sister team AlphaTauri, then known as Toro Rosso. But a disappointing run of results alongside Verstappen led to the team demoting him back to AlphaTauri during the 2019 season, with rookie Alex Albon taking his place.
Albon retained that seat for 2020, but underwhelming results in the second car led the team to replace him with Sergio Perez.
As the 2021 season progressed, Perez proved to be a solid number two driver for the Austrian team, perhaps most notably during the season finale in Abu Dhabi when his defense of Lewis Hamilton prevented the seven-time world champion from having the ability for a free pit stop later in the event, thus keeping Verstappen’s chances of winning the title alive.
But in the meantime, Gasly begun staking his claim for a second chance at Red Bull. Since making his return to Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri, he has taken a huge step forward, despite having had a somewhat slow start to 2022. He secured a runner-up finish at Interlagos in 2019 before going on to secure his first win at Monza in 2020. He added another podium in Baku in 2021.
Perhaps most notably, Gasly finished in ninth place in last year’s driver standings. The drivers in the top eight all competed for one of the top four teams in the constructor standings. Meanwhile, AlphaTauri finished in sixth, not fifth.
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko knows that Gasly is going to want a second chance with Red Bull once his current contract with the organization expires in 2023.
But will the team be able to give it to him, or will they stick with Perez, who continues to prove his worth and has adjusted quite well to the new car in 2022?
Marko knows that if the team cannot offer the 26-year-old Frenchman a promotion for 2024, they will likely lose him to a rival organization. Here is what he had to say about the matter earlier in the 2022 season.
"“With Gasly we still have a contract until 2023, and it’s already clear that if this contract expires and we can’t offer him a chance to move up, we will most likely lose him, and we don’t want that.”"
Gasly has already been rumored as a possible driver for a number of rival teams, including but not limited to Mercedes and McLaren. In fact, his name was even mentioned as a possibility for the Silver Arrows when there were doubts about Hamilton returning for the 2022 season.
Will the team opt to retain the 32-year-old Perez instead of bringing back Gasly? Fortunately, they still have some time to decide, but all signs point to this becoming quite a challenging decision once it finally needs to be made.
With Perez currently only under contract through 2022, however, it should be an easy decision to at least bring him back for 2023, rather than go in an entirely new direction.