Red Bull Racing
The team picture
- Constructors standing: P3, 417 points
Red Bull took a big gamble switching engine providers from Renault to Honda this season, and it could easily have gone horribly wrong. But the Japanese manufacturer really stepped up and delivered far above expectations, contributing to three race wins and a further six podiums over the course of their first year with Red Bull.
The team knows that they have a phenomenon (and surely future world champion?) in Max Verstappen. But elsewhere the famed Red Bull junior driver development programme has struggled to serve up another driver worthy of the second seat, leaving them underperforming in the constructors championship.
Pierre Gasly's faltering form in the first half of the season led to the only driver change on the 2019 grid, but now Alexander Albon seems to have given the team a strong solution to their problem in the final races of the year.
- Max Verstappen: P3, 278 points
- Pierre Gasly: P7, 95 points (63 with team)
- Alexander Albon: P8, 92 points (76 with team)
The change of drivers over the summer break makes our head-to-head analysis a bit more complicated, but only slightly so because clearly Max Verstappen comes out comfortably on top of any comparison.
Verstappen out-qualified Pierre Gasly in 11 out of their 12 races together as team mates (the exception was Canada) and it was the same scoreline in the race results (where the British GP was the contrary outcome). By the time we reached the summer break, Verstappen had won in Austria and Germany, amassing 181 points to Gasly's mere 63. It was undoubtedly this that forced Christian Horner and Helmut Marko to ring in the driver changes.
Verstappen carried on with business as usual when Albon arrived and out-qualified the newbie 7-1 (plus a dead heat in the Q3 times at Suzuka). But it was much closer in race trim, with Verstappen keeping his nose ahead in just five races while Albon was on top in the remaining four. Verstappen clinched 97 points during this phase (and victory in Brazil) compared to Albon's 76 - much tighter than it had been with Gasly, albeit still fairly comprehensive.
Overall Verstappen accounted for 67% of Red Bull's points tally in 2019, compared with 15% for Gasly from 12 races and 18% for Albon in nine outings. So there really is no question which driver is the top dog here, or that Albon is the smarter choice for the second spot.
Looking to the future
With Honda having already confirmed that it is staying in F1 at least into 2021, the ongoing development of the power units can now continue apace. If it improves at the same rate we saw this year then there's every chance it could soon become the best on the grid.
Add that to Adrian Newey overseeing chassis design and such a major talent as Max Verstappen behind the wheel, and there's every indication that Red Bull could prove to be a major player in 2020. It's easy to see them right in the mix for the championship along with Mercedes and Ferrari. It'll be a sight to see, and we can't wait for the fight to start.