It’s still swings and roundabouts in the F1 paddock prior to the restart of the season at this weekend’s Belgian GP. Red Bull leads the charge with Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly being named as Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull replacement.
The 22 year old Frenchmen will partner Max Verstappen in 2019, making the total age of the Red Bull drivers less than forty five years. Gasly started his career with the group in 2017 at the Malaysian F1 GP round.
It’s no real surprise that Gasly has been promoted; he’s driven very well as a virtual rookie driver and has claimed three podium finishes this year already. Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said of Gasly: “His stellar performances this year at the Honda-powered team, in only his first full season in Formula 1, have only enhanced his reputation as one of the most exciting young drivers in motorsport and we look forward to Pierre bringing his speed, skill and attitude to the team in 2019.”
Gasly himself delightedly added: “It has been my goal to race for this team since I joined the Red Bull Junior Driver Programme in 2013, and this incredible opportunity is another step forward in my ambition to win Grands Prix and compete for World Championships. Red Bull has always looked to fight for championships or victories and that’s what I want. I’m a really competitive guy and when I do something it’s always to fight for the best and top positions.”
This weekend will see the top level debut of 18 year old British driver Lando Norris. Bristol born Norris will step up from being a reserve driver for McLaren and will test at Spa in the Fernando Alonso car. He also tested after the Hungarian Grand Prix. Although McLaren are yet to declare who will fill the much respected Alonso’s seat the fact the F2 driver has been tapped on the shoulder again must be seen as a vote of confidence. It is confirmed that Carlos Sainz will be one of the McLaren team’s drivers however Stoffel Vandoorne is still not yet confirmed either way for 2019.
Ferrari too have yet to nail down a second driver to partner Sebastian Vettel. Kimi Raikonnen has been consistent in 2018 and with eight podiums the laid back Finnish driver is still a hot property. A name being talked about is Charles Leclerc. Another talent on the rise, he’s impressed in the season so far and should negotiations with Raikonnen collapse it seems Leclerc is the choice.
With Gasly moving to Red Bull it leaves a vacancy in Toro Rosso. Here it seems that a test driver by the name of Dan Ticktum could be on the side of a helmet next year. Although part of Red Bull’s development team an incident that saw him banned for two years after a MSA Formula crash in 2015.
This weekend sees the historic Spa-Francorchamps host the Johnnie Walker Belgian Grand Prix. At 7.004 kilometres, 19 corners, and an elevation change of over 100 metres, it’s regarded as one of the trickier circuits on the F1 calendar. The largely curvaceous nature of Spa also means that DRS zones are minimal, with just two available and one of just a few hundred metres, meaning any overtaking move must be well planned and executed.
There will be a race distance of 44 laps for a race distance of 308 kilometres. The lap record is currently held by Sebastian Vettel, set in 2017 with a time of 1:46.577.
Practice starts at 11:00am local time on Friday, August 24.