Toro Rosso’s team principal Franz Tost cleared some air on few of the names linked to the seat within the team for the 2019 Formula 1 season.
After Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to move to Renault, Red Bull Racing decided to promote Pierre Gasly alongside Max Verstappen for 2019, leaving at least one seat empty in the Red Bull’s junior team for next year.
Last year, in an unusual move, a former Red Bull junior driver and a FIA World Endurance Championship title-holder Brendon Hartley was drafted in the Toro Rosso team and was retained for a full year in 2018.
With Gasly now moving to the senior team, it more or less secures Hartley’s future with the outfit for another season as Red Bull looks to fill the other seat. However, they don’t have a ready driver yet as Dan Ticktum is still to earn the desired superlicense points.
The British races in the FIA European F3 Championship this year and could win the title but still it won’t be enough for him to earn the required 40 points. The added issue is that FIA hasn’t awarded a test license as well for Ticktum to at least drive in young drivers’ tests.
However, Red Bull is trying to find a way still which is what Tost said to the media in Belgium. “First we look within the Red Bull junior family and later if there’s no solution [for Ticktum], then [we] decide [the future course].”
When asked specifically on Lando Norris or even Stoffel Vandoorne especially concerning James Key, Tost was quite certain that it won’t happen. “Don’t think so,” he said. When adding FIA F2 Championship driver Alexander Albon in the mix, he prompted a clear ‘no’.
The Thai driver was once part of the Red Bull programme but was dropped like few other junior drivers. Ahead of the Belgian GP, Albon admitted to be working hard to feature on the shortlist of drivers.
As per Red Bull’s longtime philosophy of fielding own drivers, it seems clear that they have all the intent to carry on with the same ideology. If not directly, they could do a Hartley since it still remains in the family. They do have plenty of options among former drivers.
With its partnership with Honda, there was a chance to field one of its juniors as well but both Nirei Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino haven’t impressed hugely in F2 so far. There is also Nobuharu Matsushita racing in Super Formula but it seems unlikely from his results.
The only other driver to have recently tested with the team is F2’s Sean Gelael but he doesn’t have the superlicense points either. Although he has done a full GP2/F2 season and considerable km in a current-spec F1 car, but his chance is on the unlikely side as well.
Tost though insisted that there are ‘different names’ in discussion for sure and the decision should be made soon. “We will see [for our drivers]. Red Bull is discussing different names and I am convinced in the close future they will come up with a name,” he said.
Before the Belgian GP weekend, Red Bull’s advisor and a key decision maker on the driver line-up, Helmut Marko said that they are looking to fix their line-up by the Italian GP at Monza next weekend.