Albon replaces Gasly at Red Bull

Thailand's Alexander Albon has impressed in his debut season in F1, scoring 16 points for Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso. Peter Fox/Getty Images

Alex Albon will take Pierre Gasly's drive at Red Bull for the second half of the 2019 season, with Gasly moving back to Toro Rosso.

Gasly joined Red Bull from Toro Rosso at the start of the year but has struggled for performance, scoring just 63 points to teammate Max Verstappen's 181. Meanwhile, Albon has impressed in his debut season in F1, scoring 16 points for Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso.

In a statement on Monday, Red Bull confirmed the two drivers would swap teams.

"Red Bull are in the unique position of having four talented Formula One drivers under contract who can be rotated between Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso," the statement said. "The team will use the next nine races to evaluate Alex's performance in order to make an informed decision as to who will drive alongside Max in 2020."

Red Bull made a similar change in 2016 when it dropped Daniil Kvyat from its senior team in order to promote Verstappen, who won his first race after the switch in Spain. Expectations will be kept in check with Albon, however, as the 2019 season is his first in F1 and he was only drafted into Toro Rosso at relatively late notice over the winter.

Albon's Toro Rosso teammate, Kvyat, had been tipped as the more logical choice to replace Gasly as he has more experience and drove for the senior Red Bull team in 2015 and early 2016. However, the trust the team has put in Albon underlines its belief in the Thai driver, who finished third in the F2 championship last year.

Albon was brought back into the Red Bull fold at the end of 2018 after Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull for Renault and Gasly was promoted to the senior team to take the Australian's place. The Thai driver, who was dropped from Red Bull's young driver programme in 2012, was signed to Nissan to compete in Formula E at the time, but was able to negotiate a release from his contract to make his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in March.

Albon has performed well in his debut year and was 6-6 in his qualifying head-to-head with teammate Kvyat after the first 12 races. His best result came at the wet German Grand Prix when he finished sixth, but the drive was somewhat overshadowed by Kvyat scoring a podium thanks to a well-timed switch from intermediate to slick tyres.

Albon's strong performances ahead of the summer break coincided with two disappointing results for Gasly, who collided with Albon in Germany before retiring from the race and finished a distant sixth in Hungary on a day when teammate Verstappen won the race.

Speaking after the Hungarian Grand Prix just over a week ago, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it was the team's "intention" to stick with Gasly, underlining how quickly the decision to switch drivers came about. In the same press conference, Horner conceded that Gasly's performances had left Red Bull "one-legged" in too many races this year and that it needed its second driver to score more points in order to challenge Ferrari for second place in the constructors' championship.

Albon will make his Red Bull debut at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on September 1.