With Daniel Ricciardo having announced his decision to leave the Red Bull Racing family at the end of this season, rumours surrounding the security of position with the team for the remainder of the season have started to gather momentum.
Adding fuel to fire, Red Bull junior team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, yesterday posted images of Red Bull development driver Sébastien Buemi completing a seat fitting with the team, leading many to suggest he may take the place of Pierre Gasly in the coming races. With Red Bull Racing having confirmed Gasly will replace Ricciardo in 2019, there would be a clear logic to promoting him now to maximise his time within a new team environment.
Ciao Seb! 👋
Our reserve driver stopped by earlier today for another seat fit 👌 pic.twitter.com/aSkTpZDYHy
— Toro Rosso (@ToroRosso) September 5, 2018
Red Bull Racing have all but secured third position in the World Constructors Championship with an advantage of more than 160 points over their nearest rival Renault. In fact, with the FIA applying 2019 entry fees based on points scored in 2018, the team from a financial perspective would do well to reduce the number of points scored between now and the end of the season.
Since Daniel Ricciardo’s contract with Red Bull stems from his time as a Red Bull junior, there is likely to be a certain level of flexibility within the agreement to change his status to development driver. Moving him to Toro Rosso would be less than palatable for Honda as he would gain knowledge of their power unit before moving to the works Renault team in 2019. As such bringing Buemi back into the STR fold for the remainder of 2018 and possibly beyond makes strategic sense.
Taking the logic of Red Bull Racing having nothing more to gain in 2018 in terms of constructor’s championship position and subsequent prize funds, a yet more bold move from the Red Bull Empire would be to move Max Verstappen over to Toro Rosso for the remainder of the season.
In so doing Verstappen would have the opportunity to familiarise himself with Honda power ahead of 2019, and as Red Bull’s leading driver best equip the team in their challenge constructors battle with Racing Point Force India (who in only 2 races have amassed a points tally greater than Toro Rosso has over the entire season)
Alongside the talk of resting Ricciardo, and bringing back Buemi, another increasingly likely piece of the Red Bull 2019 jigsaw is Daniil Kyvat. After a year spent with the Scuderia in a development driver capacity, Red Bull look likely to welcome the Russian back into the fold with open arms. From Honda’s perspective, the sooner he returns with any knowledge of Ferrari’s trick power unit, the sooner they can interrogate him for their 2019 plans.
The Singapore Grand Prix on paper represents Red Bull Racing’s last opportunity to win a race in 2018. The sporting side of Red Bull will likely leave the line-up unchanged until after this race. The business & strategic planning side should then kick in and make the following changes for the remainder of the season:
Red Bull Racing –
Scuderia Toro Rosso –
From a personal perspective, I am a huge fan of Ricciardo and what he brings to Formula One, but Red Bull have little to gain from keeping him in his seat for the remainder of this season. There is an opportunity to take a competitive advantage with the suggested driver changes. A team looking to challenge for championships in the next 24 months must take every opportunity presented to them.
Be Bold Red Bull! Be Bold!