Max Verstappen was jubilant after pipping Lewis Hamilton in a tense shootout for the 2021 world title, but the battle took its toll. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko claimed that the showdown was so draining on all involved, the Dutchman’s
F1 career may be cut short due to the physical and emotional demands of fighting it out with the Brit. At just 24-years-old, retirement may be a few years off for Verstappen just yet, But Express Sport looks at four contenders who Red Bull could start to think about if another gruelling contest with Hamilton unfolds in 2022:
Gasly’s F1 ascent was a speedy one, being called up to Red Bull in 2019 after a season with their junior outfit, which was then called Toro Rosso. But he struggled to cope with the step up in expectations, finishing a full lap behind Verstappen on several occasions, before being demoted back to the junior team after less than one full season.
Since then, Toro Rosso has become AlphaTauri, and Gasly has once again left onlookers impressed with his performances. In 2021, the 25-year-old Frenchman significantly outscored team-mate Yuki Tsonada, clinching ninth in the Drivers’ Championship to produce one of the best pound-for-pound outcomes in the whole field.
The young Estonian has been linked with a call-up to F1 for some time. With two race wins and seven podiums from 23 starts in his F2 career to date, Vips finished the 2021 season higher than any other current Red Bull junior driver.
That success came after a Covid-hit 2020 had stunted his rise through the ranks though, with Tsunoda instead jumping the queue and getting the call up to AlphaTauri. In 2021, Vips explained to Autosport: “Obviously Yuki [Tsunoda] had a really good year last year and he got the well-deserved promotion. If anything, I think it has made me stronger.”
Tsunoda may be one step ahead of Vips after his first full F1 season at AlphaTauri, but the Japanese youngster still has plenty to prove. In a shocking contrast, Tsunoda picked up less than one third of the points collected by his team-mate, Gasly, during the 2021 season.
At present, that would presumably leave Gasly ahead of him in the pecking order, but the 21-year-old does have a couple of things working in his favour. For one, Gasly has already tried his luck at Red Bull and it did not end well, and Tsunoda could build on a tremendously strong finish to the 2021 season, which was capped off with a stunning fourth-place in Abu Dhabi.
A fully-fledged Red Bull driver until December 2020, Albon found out late that season that Sergio Perez would step in as his replacement. That left him seat-less, and he was forced to settle for a reserve driver role in 2021. His performances for
Red Bull were fairly respectable though, providing a step up after replacing Gasly in 2019, and finishing the 2020 Drivers’ Championship in seventh. For the coming season, Albon is set to step in as George Russell’s replacement at Williams, where he could show the kind of performances that may convince Red Bull to rethink their choice.