Column: Will Red Bull Racing be too young to succeed?

22-08-2018 12:17
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
Column
Column: Will Red Bull Racing be too young to succeed?

With the signing of Pierre Gasly, Red Bull will have the second youngest line-up on the grid in 2019 as it stands with a combined age of 44, but will the lack of age be detrimental to their success?

The fact that Williams currently have the youngest line-up certainly isn't an encouraging sign for the Bulls. Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll are 22 and 19 years old respectively, and, coincidence or not, Williams have made a massive nose-dive in performance this season. From finishing in the top five in the constructors' championship in the last four years, the Grove-based outfit are dead-last in the standings at the moment. Their only points-finish came from Stroll in Azerbaijan, where he finished in P8.

However, I don't think their situation is entirely comparable to Red Bull's in 2019.

Max Verstappen, who will still only be 21 years old at the start of next season, will be starting his fifth season in F1. That means he has experience, he knows what to expect on and off the track, especially with the amount of media coverage he got in his first year at Red Bull in 2016. His experience also means he has a better understanding of the cars themselves, which means better feedback, which means better adjustments. This can't be said for Stroll, who doesn't even know how to turn on the rain lights.

Not to be harsh, but Gasly and Verstappen also just have way more talent than either Williams driver, who are mainly there because of their immense financial backing rather than their raw talent. However, Williams' problem shouldn't be pinned on either Stroll or Sirotkin. The problem at Grove is institutional, but that's a topic for another day.

Verstappen will likely be the clear number one at the team now, at least in the first year while Gasly is still adapting. I think this could be key. It will give him a certain confidence, a sense of security. Right now, he's fighting to be top dog at Red Bull with Daniel Ricciardo on a weekly basis, which gives both of them a chip on the shoulder, a need to show everyone they're better than the other. Especially for Verstappen, at his very young age, this can be dangerous at times, as he can get too eager and make one dive-bomb too many.

I expect Verstappen to have a very big year in 2019. He'll still be very aggressive, no doubt, but in a good way. He has shown in the past how good he is at adapting to new situations (look at his first race at Red Bull), and I believe he'll fully realize that 2019 is the year for him to step up. The year to stop being the talent, and start being the winner.

As for Gasly, there will likely be teething problems at first. Red Bull know this, Dr Helmut Marko has acknowledged this, so there's no problem there. What Gasly does bring to the table, however, is his long relationship with Honda. Even before F1, Gasly worked with the Japanese engine manufacturers ever since his days in the Super Formula. This year, he's proven that he and Honda are a good combination, with his P4-finish in Bahrain and P6-finish in Hungary in the Toro Rosso.

Gasly's understanding of Honda will help the team as a whole, especially in the first stages of the partnership. This could prove very handy.

The combination of Verstappen's experience, Gasly's relationship with Honda, Red Bull being the exclusive customer of Honda and overall just the immense level of talent of both Red Bull drivers should prove to be no problem at all. Age is just a number, right?

All in all, I think Red Bull will have a transitional year next season. They'll be laying a foundation, but show flashes of brilliance at times. Ultimately it will be too soon to immediately start challenging for a title, but, as I said, Verstappen will take the extra step in 2019. Once Gasly and Honda will be settled in at Red Bull, they'll be a legit contender for both titles, unlike these past four years, but it's too soon to be expecting that already next year.

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