Alexander Albon is in a victorious car during his rookie season. Will he secure the Red Bull seat for 2020 or find the same fate as Pierre Gasly?
Albon will be in the Red Bull Overall at the Belgian Grand Prix Photo: Motorsport Images  In his sophomore year in Formula 1, Pierre Gasly had only half a season to spare himself to measure at Red Bull. He has missed it for once and, in direct repetition of Daniil Kvyat's experience, but even faster, he is now demoted back to the junior team.
Alex Albon has just finished his rookie season. He promoted and was in a Red Bull, a car that has won two of the last four races and was in pole position for the final race. For a man who barely stood on F1
There would be something with Gasly. His situation became more difficult as the Red Bull RB15 got its updates in France and Austria to become a front-running car. After Max Verstappen fought for the race wins and qualified in the front row, the residue of Gasly was even clearer. It was not just that he left Verstappen's pace behind; He was so far away that he did not even compete in the "Class A" group with the three big teams and therefore could not even be of strategic value in Verstappens race. As the large free space showed, Lewis Hamilton made the race-winning second pit stop in Hungary possible. This is the space that Gasly should have taken that would have denied Mercedes the luxury of throwing the dice – which Verstappen would likely have been able to win.
Albon must deliver to secure the Red Bull seat for 2020 Photo: Motorsport Images
In last year's Toro Rosso, Gasly actually did look very good , His fourth place in Bahrain and his tenacious fifth in Hungary were quality promises. He was good in bike-to-bike fighting and seemed to absorb the pressure well. But was he ready to sit down at the big table after a year? The departure of Daniel Ricciardo left a place there – and Red Bull had the choice of promoting Gasly or loaning Carlos Sainz. The latter – four years in his F1 career and someone not outclassed by Verstappen as Toro Rosso team-mates – seemed a more natural choice. But Gasly got the nod.
The combination of an initially difficult car with Verstappen as acting driver was perhaps the worst he could have dealt with. His self-confidence took a series of punches and never really came back. The Hockenheim weekend has probably sealed his fate. Having suffered a heavy crash in training on Friday, he recovered to some extent in qualifying, but when the rain came on the day of the race, he faded as Verstappen starred (and won) the lead. It did not look good to pass Albon's Toro Rosso. The collision with him after he tried to retaliate looked even worse. But to make matters worse, that was exactly what Albon had shown in wet conditions in his first experience with an F1 car. When people like Leclerc, Hulkenberg and Hamilton found the wall, Albon made no mistake and finished fourth. A podium was in his reach until the final safety car paid off for Kvyat and Lance Stroll.
Gasly's fate was probably sealed in Hockenheim where he crashed in training Photo: Motorsport Images  Was Albon more impressive for Toro Rosso than Gasly last year? Well, yes. The 2019 Toro Rosso is less competitive than last year's car, but there were moments when his brave attacking style brought him much higher than he deserved. He did not always put together the parts of an F1 weekend smoothly, but the flair was always visible in between. If all goes well, he is usually faster than the more experienced Kvyat. He is a driver with immense talent.
But realistically, he will be compared to Max Verstappen with just a half-season F1 experience and will not be in the lead. It is a question of whether he can emerge from it with distinction. A few races in which he can match the competitiveness of the Red Bull, riding the bike with the Mercs and Ferrari's wheel, could allow him an extra time for the experience to take the opportunity. But he might as well drive a Toro Rosso in 2020.
The demands are brutal and only raw performance allows you to outdo them.