Red Bull Formula 1 boss Christian Horner says Pierre Gasly has driven “exceptionally well” since his mid-season demotion to Toro Rosso.

Gasly was replaced at Red Bull by Alexander Albon at the Belgian Grand Prix after a difficult first half to his maiden campaign with the senior team, with the Frenchman subsequently returning to Toro Rosso.

The Frenchman finished ninth at Spa and has gone on to record a further three points finishes in the last seven races, comfortably outperforming Toro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat in the process. 

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Gasly and Kvyat have been retained by Toro Rosso for 2020, with Albon being confirmed as having earned the sole-remaining seat at Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen for next year.

“Obviously for Pierre it was very tough for him coming into the start of the season off the back off two accidents in pre-season and that I think definitely affected his confidence,” Horner said.

“And of course being the team-mate to Max Verstappen is a very tough job to have, having that reference point. For Pierre, it was a difficult first half of the season for him.

“Obviously we felt that with the pressure building on him, the public pressure, the media scrutiny, it was right to remove him from that and put him into the slightly less pressured environment of Toro Rosso, and since that switch I think he has driven again exceptionally well.

“You can see his confidence is growing. He’s driven some very strong races and his pace is getting better and better. He looks happier in that environment, which is good to see.”

Gasly said the biggest lesson he has taken in the months since returning to Toro Rosso is realising “how much of a team sport F1 is”, adding he is not surprised by how quickly he adapted back to life at the Faenza squad.

“I’ve been fast every single year in my career, so I knew what was not going right during these six first months,” the Frenchman explained.

"When I got the news [of the demotion] I was confident that coming here I would be competitive again.

"To be fair, I wasn't really surprised. Of course you want to be consistent, it's difficult coming with a new car and not knowing what to do and it takes some time to really adapt to it.

"But I think I've been fast since my first season in single-seaters so I wasn't surprised to be competitive in the Toro Rosso again."