Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Daniel Ricciardo shocked the world of Formula 1 by leaving the second Red Bull seat in 2018, to join Renault (now Alpine) for the 2019 season. Not a single driver has felt comfortable in that second seat and it has caused massive controversy and media frenzy with every driver that has sat in it since then. Which leads us to think, is the second seat at Red Bull really cursed? It is almost like asking how long a piece of string is. Nobody knows the answer, but everyone still talks about it and attempts to find out the real answer. So today at Dive Bomb, we’re going to give you a rundown of what has happened in that second Red Bull seat since Daniel Ricciardo left.
Written by Meghan Teahan, Edited by Harshi Vashee
Red Bull were slightly blind sighted by Daniel Ricciardo choosing to leave Red Bull for a fresh start in the Renault team. It left them with a big decision of who could challenge Max Verstappen and help Red Bull win the world and constructor’s title. Red Bull decided to promote then Torro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly after a hugely successful season with the then barely midfield sister team. He managed to finish in the points five times. Gasly was off to a bad start with Red Bull by crashing in Winter testing and being lapped in 11th place at the opening Australian race with teammate Verstappen finishing on the podium in 3rd.
From there, Gasly’s season never really took off with Red Bull. Despite finishing in the points nine out of the twelve races he drove for Red Bull, he never scored a podium and Red Bull felt that he could not handle the pressure he was under against teammate Max Verstappen and the media that surrounded him in that seat. During the summer break the decision was made to demote Gasly back to Torro Rosso for the Belgian grand prix and promote the then rookie in Formula 1, Alex Albon, to Red Bull. This decision caused a media frenzy and massive controversy for Red Bull and Pierre Gasly.
This must have been a hard pill for Gasly to swallow after spending his career chasing a winning seat in F1. To make matters even worse, days later a close friend of his, Anthoine Hubert, lost his life during a Formula 2 race at the Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps. Pierre Gasly showed his worth to Red Bull in the Brazilian grand prix by finishing on the podium in 2nd place. With Alex Albon finishing for Red Bull in P14 after an incident with Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the race. This is when the questions began: Had Red Bull been too quick to demote Pierre Gasly after only twelve races or was that second seat really cursed?
The 2020 season began with the Red Bull line up of Max Verstappen starting his fifth consecutive season with the team. Alex Albon was retained for his second season with Red Bull. Albon was given a chance at redemption with Red Bull, would he be able to challenge Verstappen during only his second season in Formula 1? The answer was unfortunately no. Albon managed to finish in the points ten out of sixteen races, while finishing on the podium once.
These results were not consistent enough for Red Bull who were looking like they could finally take on the challenge of the championship to Mercedes, but they could not do this with only one driver finishing consistently on the podium and in points. The season ended with Max Verstappen finishing in P3 with 214 points and only nine points behind Valterri Bottas in P2. Alex Albon finished in P7 with 105 points. Red Bull managed to score P2 in the championship.
Silly season 2020 was most likely the silliest we had seen in years. Rumors flew around that Vettel would move to Racing Point who would be rebranded to Aston Martin for 2021 and this would leave Perez without a seat. Lance Stroll, whose father Lawerance Stroll, bought the team. Lance was guaranteed a seat and the team had no intention of keeping Perez. It was announced late in the 2020 season that Serigo Perez would be without a seat for 2021 with Racing Point (Aston Martin) announcing their driver line up as Sebastain Vettel and Lance Stroll.
In the media it was made very clear, Alex Albon had not performed as well as Red Bull thought he would, after rumors flying during the summer break of 2020 that Red Bull would once again do a driver swap with Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly however, this did not happen. Alex Albon retained his seat until the season ended in 2020 with Red Bull deciding to drop him for 2021 and shock the media by taking on Serigo Perez, who was not a driver for any form of the Red Bull driving academy.
This was the first time Red Bull had hired an “outsider” for their top team since 2007. To explain what is meant by a Red Bull “outsider”, Red Bull usually only promotes drivers up from their own academy. They usually do not take on a “free agent” driver such as Serigo Perez. The question arose: Why did Red Bull take on Serigo Perez when they had a driving academy full of drivers desperate to be in that second Red Bull seat? Nobody knows the answer to this question apart from Red Bull but we are entitled to guess the answer.
Serigo Perez was a well experienced driver in Formula 1, and it was clear that Red Bull rookies could not live up to the standard that was set by Max Verstappen. Therefore, Red Bull had no other choice than to shop outside the academy. Serigo Perez had a pretty good career in Formula 1 behind him with a few podiums and some amazing overtakes on track. All media reports that surrounded Perez were good and Red Bull needed consistency for the 2021 season as they finally felt they would have the car to challenge Mercedes. Ultimately what caught the eye of Red Bull was Perez finishing on the top step of the podium in the season finale at Abu Dubai earning his first ever race win in Formula 1. It was the icing on the cake Red Bull needed to sign Perez for 2021 and they did.
Serigo Perez started the opening race of the season in Bahrain finishing in P5 which is a great result in his first race for Red Bull. It appears he had already adapted to the Red Bull car rather quickly, and maybe after all that second seat was in fact not cursed. It just had yet to find the right driver, right? Wrong. In the next round at Emilia, Perez finished in P12 after a disastrous race in wet conditions, seeing him earn a 10 second time penalty and spinning off the track on lap 38. From there Perez finished in the top five for the next seven races. Everyone began to think there was never really a curse on the second seat at Red Bull, the seat just did not have the driver it needed. The last two rounds in Britain and Hungary saw Perez finishing out of the points in a disappointing P16 and P17.
Then the silly season rumors began, would Red Bull keep Serigo Perez for the rest of the season or would they swap him out for Pierre Gasly who has so far had an extremely impressive season in his Alpha Turai car. Not to mention his shocking win in Monza 2020. Gasly has managed to finish in the points in eight races so far this season, even earning himself a podium place of P3. It appears it is only a matter of time before Serigo Perez is officially announced as Max Verstappen’s partner at Red Bull for 2022. Red Bull seems to be extremely happy with how the Mexican driver has been performing with Dr. Helmet Marko saying, “He integrates very well in the team – he’s a very good team player.” Dr. Helmet Marko is never one to compliment his second seat driver(s) at Red Bull so this is a strong indication that Red Bull will re-sign Perez.
It is a well-known fact that Pierre Gasly is desperate to have that second seat at Red Bull back. Gasly is tied to the Red Bull driver academy until the end of 2022 then, he becomes a free agent and with new regulations for the 2022 season seeing teams being closer than ever. Are Red Bull really going to let a top team such as Mercedes or the best of the rest, team McLauren, sign Pierre Gasly? Gasly has been rumored for many teams this year such as McLauren due to poor drives from Daniel Ricciardo. Gasly has put in nothing but impressive drives all season driving his Alpha Tuari that is barely a midfield team car. Gasly deserves a top team but is that team Red Bull with the second driver curse still in action? Let us know what you think below. Is the second seat at Red Bull cursed? Do you think Pierre Gasly should stay with the Red Bull drivers academy beyond 2022?