In Making the Case, I take an unpopular opinion I have or an improbable scenario, and I try to convince you of my stance; I make the case for it.
This week: Red Bull Racing will have another F1 dynasty.
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 the lack of age won’t be detrimental to their success. In fact, quite the contrary, I think.
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) 20 August 2018
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.
— Sasha Martinengo (@F1sasha) 23 June 2018
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 (apart from heaps of talent), 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.
— Pierre Gasly 🇫🇷 (@PierreGASLY) 29 July 2018
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.
As for Honda themselves, there will definitely be an adjustment period at first. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner doesn’t expect to be competing at the top right away either. The payoff should be massive, though. Red Bull will function like a factory team, and a very powerful one at that. When (and if) Honda hit their stride, all the pieces will be in place to have a dynasty in the making.
Let’s sum it up: The Bulls will have two of the three most talented young drivers on the grid (the third is Charles Leclerc), and one of them has four years of experience and the other one knows the engine supplier inside out. They have Adrian Newey, the best chassis-designer in the game. They have one of the biggest budgets in the paddock. They will have an exclusive engine partner, practically making them a factory team. The outcome of this sum remains to be seen, but the potential is massive.
Red Bull will have a transitional year next season. They’ll be laying a foundation, but show flashes of their potential at times. Ultimately it will be too soon to 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 for many, many years to come. They are set to de-throne Mercedes and become the next dynasty. I rest my case.