In his post-Suzuka D.R.E (Dre’s Regular Editorial), Dre talks about the AlphaTauri singing news and the bigger problem in Red Bull’s recruitment habits. Hint, it involves Checo…
First of all, given the subject matter, let me get this out of the way – Congratulations to Red Bull on back-to-back Constructors’ titles. It’s a combination of the most ruthlessly dominant single-season likely ever from Max Verstappen, just outstanding operational all-round excellence, from reliability to strategy, to their incredible pit crew. (Seriously, the fastest pitstop eight times out of 16 this season?) It wouldn’t surprise me if the Singapore set-up error will be the only thing that stops them from a perfect season.
And yet… the driver line-up situation between them and sister team AlphaTauri still leaves major question marks, even when it was supposed to clear things up.
Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo have been tied down through 2024, in what was quickly becoming a 3-into-2 situation, with Liam Lawson so good since coming in as an emergency stand-in that he forced himself into the conversation via consistently impressive performances. In the four weekends since his debut, Lawson:
- Came in on a day’s notice in Zandvoort, brought the car home a competitive 13th safely despite treacherous conditions
- Finished 11th in Monza and was less than 0.2 behind Tsunoda in qualifying
- Made Q3 in Singapore and finished ninth, AlphaTauri’s best result of 2023
- Raced Tsunoda hard in Japan on the opening lap, beating him straight up to 11th
For a rookie chucked in at the 11th hour in very difficult circumstances, I don’t think you could have asked for a better set of results. I think he’s good enough for the 2024 grid… and yet, AlphaTauri’s decided to keep him as a reserve. And with Logan Saregant’s Williams the only seat left on the table for next season, there’ll be pressure on Red Bull to loan Lawson out, depending on how much faith James Vowles has in Sargeant.
It only makes the last year of Red Bull driver management look confusing at best. You hired Nyck De Vries last season off the back of one stand-in drive in favourable conditions, and yet Lawson comes in and drives four great weekends on the bounce and that wasn’t enough to poach a job in an erratic hiring environment. Weird huh?
To a degree, I get it. Tsunoda doesn’t deserve to be dragged down by his bosses’ poor decision-making and has largely improved this season into a more consistent driver. But he increasingly feels like a stopgap heading into year four of his career with little sign he’s good enough for the main Red Bull team. That role has been floated more towards Daniel Ricciardo, who Red Bull blew the team up for in the first place. Christian Horner has been more than candid about the Honey Badger making a play for Red Bull’s seat in 2025. And even with the broken metacarpal, you kind of have to see the experiment through.
To which I say… why are we waiting around here for a year to see how this plays out? I think it’s time Red Bull and Sergio Perez part ways. And I don’t mean at the end of his contract next year. I mean at the end of this season.
Japan might have been Sergio Perez’s worst race since… Monaco this season. Ah. At least back then he had the excuse of Monaco’s near unpassable traffic. But being out-qualified by Max by three-quarters of a second before a second straight weekend with shocking racecraft to take out Kevin Magnussen is an alarming sign that Checo is just not going to ever fully master this car.
Red Bull has completely dominated this season, but it hasn’t been like the Mercedes era where Rosberg and Hamilton spent most weekends joined at the hip. Perez has six podiums in 16 races in one of the strongest cars in history. In a more competitive field, he exposes a massive weakness in the whole team.
So why wait a year to see the lay of the land? Ricciardo’s been outside of Red Bull for half a decade now but he’s probably the only competitive teammate Verstappen’s had since his ascension. Move him back to his old home, and promote Lawson now. Give him a full off-season and see how he properly stacks up against an experienced, safe yardstick in Tsunoda while you see how your academy develops beneath you. (Hadjer, Hauger, etc.)
Red Bull’s dominance won’t last forever. It never does in F1. They have a free pass right now to potentially set themselves up for the future, and instead, it feels like AlphaTauri’s 2024 lineup has them spinning their wheels for another year.
I don’t get it. The problem is, I’m not sure Dr. Marko does either.
What would you do with Red Bull’s current umbrella of drivers? Let us know in the comments and see you in a fortnight for another D.R.E!