It was hardly a surprise that Pierre Gasly was demoted by Red Bull back to Toro Rosso, it was bound to happen amid the Frenchman’s woeful dozen races with the team – to all and sundry it was clear that it was simply a matter of time before Helmut Marko ran out of patience.
However, there were two surprises, the first that they indeed did demote the Frenchman in the wake of denials by both Marko and Christian Horner, the latter insisting not long ago that there was no intention to drop Gasly.
A sentiment that Marko echoed before the guillotine dropped on their French driver.
The other surprise, of course, is that Alex Albon got the nod ahead of Daniil Kvyat to step up to the Blues. But that’s a story for another time.
Here is an interesting timeline of quotes that start last year with Gasly’s promotion within the Red Bull ranks to one of the most coveted seats in the sport through to his dismissal from the team.
20 August 2018: After a solid, if unspectacular, year with Toro Rosso Gasly gets the nod to replace Renault bound Daniel Ricciardo. A year too early some critics predicted at the time.
Red Bull: “Aston Martin Red Bull Racing is delighted to announce that Pierre Gasly will join the Team from the beginning of the 2019 season, to race alongside Max Verstappen.”
Pierre: “As hugely exciting a moment as this is, I am fully aware of the challenge this special opportunity offers me and the expectations that faces any driver at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. I’m looking forward to rewarding the faith that Dietrich Mateschitz, Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko have placed in me.”
24 August 2018: Red Bull announce Gasly to partner Verstappen and fireworks are expected.
Pierre: “My long-term target is to be the best in the sport and if I want to be the best I will have to fight against the best. I think Max is one of the best drivers on the grid at the moment, so I take it as an amazing opportunity to drive next to him.”
24 September: Gasly displays normal racing driver ambitions and cockiness.
Pierre: “I do not wish to destroy him but we are both racing drivers and of course I am going to Red Bull to be the best. I want to be the best Formula 1 driver and that is also what Max wants.
16 January 2019: Beating Verstappen is the preseason goal for Gasly whose intentions are pretty clear.
Pierre: “Max is one of the fastest guys in the paddock, which is super exciting for me because it takes me to a higher level. For sure, I’ll get better over the course of the season. If I have a car I can win with, then I would like to win but if I have a car that is only good enough for the top five, beating Max will be the goal.”
22 January 2019: No favouritism at Red Bull for the start of the season suggesting a level playing field for their drivers.
Marko: “Gasly is not a number two driver, that’s off-limits at Red Bull. Max stepped up his game last season and Daniel Ricciardo felt it. My guess is that he will be closer to Max in qualifying. This is normal for a debutant in a top team.”
1 March 2019: After crashing and reportedly writing off the team’s RB15 test chassis, the rot sets in before the season was even underway.
Pierre: “I made a mistake in Turn 9 and lost the car. It was a pretty big crash, but I’m fine, a little bit shaken, but generally OK. It’s not an ideal way to end the final test, but over the four days we managed to get lots of laps in and that was positive.”
10 March 2019: Horner reveals the extent of the setback caused by Gasly’s test crash while the driver is remorseful but upbeat about what he has at his disposal.
Horner: “The team is very busy, with the first race being on the other side of the world, 10,000 miles away, in Australia. Pierre has kept the team even busier after his incident last week.”
Gasly: “I need to learn from these mistakes. It wasn’t the best end of the two weeks but I will remember the positives and work on the negatives. I think overall, the package, the first feeling with it was great.”
7 June 2019: Pressure mounting as Gasly comprehensively outperformed by Verstappen which in turn triggered the first serious talk of the Frenchman’s demise, reports he scoffed at.
Pierre: “I don’t want to waste time with that kind of bullshit. I have more important things to take care of like my job, my family and my friends. For me, it’s just bad journalism and I don’t want to comment any further.”
28 June 2019: Results are not forthcoming for Gasly while his teammate Verstappen goes from strength to strength.
Pierre: “At the moment clearly no one is happy and I’m the first one not happy with the performance. As a racing driver I feel really far from showing the potential that we have and that’s not pleasant. It’s never easy, but you need to find the solution. At the moment there are a couple of things we can do better, my side as well, that I can do to suit that car better. It’s all about working together.”
05 July 2019: The first warning for Gasly to up his game comes from within the team.
Marko: “Gasly has to improve, especially when overtaking. He has to deliver by the summer break, but I’m sure we’ll get him there.”
9 July 2019: “Bad Cop Marko is being noticeably verbose to the media with regards to their beleaguered driver while Good Cop Horner, also with a great deal to say on the matter at this point, insists there will be no guillotine for their French driver. Will the team boss ever be believed again?
Marko: “Gasly is certainly not where he could be, but there is a small apology for Austria. We broke all the front wings in practice, so he did not run the same front wing as Max, but of course, that does not explain the gap. He has not met our expectations so far. The goal is to support him as much as possible.”
Horner: “We know what Helmut is like, he’s sometimes pretty tough with the drivers but he also helps and cares for them. He knows that Pierre is in a difficult situation and in such a situation we all have to work together to get the most out of him. He has the talent – that’s why he sits in our car! We have no intention of dropping Pierre.”
19 July 2019: Crisis management at Red Bull appeared to have worked for Gasly but, in retrospect, did not.
Pierre: “There were quite a lot of things going on after Austria, a lot of meetings with the team checking the whole weekend and how to improve things. We made a lot of changes and I am pleased that from the first session we could see the big step forward.”
26 July 2019: Things did not get better despite a somewhat improved British Grand Prix weekend. A mistake and crash during FP2 in Germany added to Gasly’s woes.
Pierre: “Fortunately I wasn’t using my race engine or gearbox, but more importantly I’m really sorry for the boys in the garage and I want to apologise to them as the repairs will make for a long night.”
31 July 2019: After the German Grand Prix the writing was on the wall for Gasly.
Marko: “In qualifying, he showed a strong reaction to his accident. His pace in the race wasn’t bad, but Gasly is just too weak when fighting and overtaking. The crash with Albon was completely unnecessary.”
6 August 2019: More ominous noises coming from Good Cop and Bad Cop which was the last comments on the Gasly matter, by his bosses, before the summer break.
Horner: If we want to have a chance in the constructors’ championship against Ferrari, it is essential that we have two competitive cars. The problem for Gasly is that he is not in the top group at all.
Marko: It’s the summer break now, then we’ll see…
12 August 2019: The axe finally falls as predicted by just about everyone, albeit a tad earlier than expected, with Alex Albon the surprise replacement who will be evaluated for the seat alongside Verstappen next year.
Red Bull: “Aston Martin Red Bull Racing will race with a new driver line-up from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards. Alexander Albon is being promoted to drive alongside Max Verstappen, while Pierre Gasly will return to the Red Bull sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso.”