Red Bull has confirmed Pierre Gasly will graduate from Toro Rosso next season to replace Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo.

Following Ricciardo’s shock decision to move to Renault, it left Red Bull with an unexpected driver position to fill – after team boss Christian Horner admitted the Australian’s decision came as a surprise.

The key candidates for the Red Bull race seat appeared to be Gasly and Carlos Sainz Jr, who is currently competing for Renault on loan from the Milton Keynes-based team, but with the Spanish driver signing for McLaren for 2019 the French driver became the obvious option.

Gasly will be promoted from Toro Rosso after just over one season in F1, having joined the Italian team for the final third of the 2017 campaign at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but does bring a potentially vital year of experience with Honda ahead of Red Bull’s engine switch.

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The 22-year-old has secured Honda’s best result since returning to the sport with fourth place at this season’s Bahrain Grand Prix – eclipsing the Japanese manufacturer’s results with McLaren – as it prepares to expand its efforts with Red Bull in 2019.

Gasly, who also contested the 2017 Super Formula season with Team Mugen Honda, is thrilled to secure the opportunity to step up to Red Bull…

“To be awarded a drive at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing from 2019 is a dream come true for me, I’m so excited to be joining this top team,” Gasly said. “It has been my goal to race for this team since I joined the Red Bull Junior Driver Programme in 2013, and this incredible opportunity is another step forward in my ambition to win Grands Prix and compete for World Championships.

“Red Bull has always looked to fight for championships or victories and that’s what I want. I’m a really competitive guy and when I do something it’s always to fight for the best and top positions.

“As hugely exciting a moment as this is, I am fully aware of the challenge this special opportunity offers me and the expectations that faces any driver at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. I’m looking forward to rewarding the faith that Dietrich Mateschitz, Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko have placed in me.”

Gasly also thanked Toro Rosso for his ‘golden opportunity’ to make his F1 debut last year and is eager to finish the year on a high at the Italian squad.

“The first phase of that is to keep pushing for ultimate performance and the best results in 2018 that I can achieve for my team, Scuderia Toro Rosso,” he said.

“I wish to thank Franz Tost and everyone at Toro Rosso and the factory in Faenza for giving me the golden opportunity of a drive in F1 and their amazing commitment and support, which I know will continue for the rest of this season. My focus now is to do everything I can to give them a season to celebrate.”

Gasly’s graduation now leaves a hole to fill in the Toro Rosso line-up for 2019, while the French driver’s current teammate Brendon Hartley is expected to be retained as its lead driver for next season.

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