Red Bull move felt like a step back for Albon

Alex Albon says that, having learnt the ropes at Toro Rosso, he felt like moving to Red Bull mid-season took him back to square one. 

The Thai driver was called up to Red Bull to replace Pierre Gasly halfway through 2019 and drove well enough to keep the seat for 2020, which he is hoping will be a more stable season.

“I’m familiar now with Formula 1. The environment at least, and it will be a bit more normal,” Albon told Motorsport.com

“Even this year wasn’t that normal. It was almost like I felt like I learned a good chunk of Formula 1 with the Toro Rosso, and how it was working.

“And then it changed. It was almost like starting back at square one a little bit. But at least now we have a real solid foundation, where it will be a more secure working towards Melbourne.”

Despite doing better than Gasly, Albon still struggled to match Max Verstappen. However, he believes that having a full pre-season at the team will improve his performances.

“You can’t change that much [in a race weekend] because you can’t risk just going crazy with it, but I think already, the team really understand kind of what I want in the car,” he added.

“That’s really where we can really start to focus. At testing the atmosphere is obviously a little bit different. You have better comparisons, not like in FP1 and FP2 when you’ve got four hours in between a session and things like that.

“So it will be really good time [on track]. It’s a very important time where you have to really focus on your time, on your scheduling and making sure you’re getting the most out of it.

“Because even if we say it’s time to learn and time to experiment, we’ve only got three days for testing before we get to Melbourne.”

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P3 is good, but Verstappen wants more

Max Verstappen is pleased to have secured P3 in the Drivers’ Championship, but for him the true goal is fighting for the title next season.

The Red Bull driver took P3 by 14 points over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after finishing second in Abu Dhabi, capping off a strong first year for the Red Bull/Honda partnership and giving Verstappen his highest finishing position in an F1 Championship.

But while that’s a nice achievement, Verstappen made it clear that the true goal is to deny Mercedes a seventh Constructors’ and Drivers’ double in a row.

“I think overall the pace was good. There was not so much more we could have done,” Verstappen told reporters when speaking about the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

“The strategy was good from the team, and I passed the Ferrari on the track and we could do our own race. Of course very happy to finish the season like this.

“Austria. I think also the first victory for Honda in the V6 era, that was very emotional. And as a team on-track, I think with so many Dutch fans as well, that will be the highlight.

“As a team we want to move forward, so next year we want to fight for the title of course.

“To be in front of the Ferraris in the championship for me I think was a good achievement. We had good wins, a few poles, but for next year, we of course want to fight for the title, so we have to step it up. But I think as a team we can be pleased with the improvement we made through the season.”

Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon ended the race in P6 having been passed by Sebastian Vettel late on – he put his struggles down to pitting too early and not having DRS.

“We tried to overcut him [Vettel] to begin with, and to be honest I just think we pitted a bit too early,” he admitted.

“The DRS wasn’t working and we just got stuck behind Nico – I think there was a train of us – so we lost a lot of time.

“The tyres did go, but actually I think the pace was pretty good, and then Seb pitted right in front of me and came back at me. ”

The Thai driver was beaten to P6 in the Driver’s Championship by Carlos Sainz, but says he doesn’t mind.

“No, it’s fine. I’m not too worried,” he concluded.

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Hamilton DM’d Albon a second apology after Brazil

Alex Albon has confirmed that Lewis Hamilton sent him a message to apologise again for their collision at the Brazilian GP.

The Red Bull driver was running P2 behind team-mate Max Verstappen at Interlagos and on target for his first podium, that was until Hamilton launched a move on the youngster on the final lap and sent him spinning down the order.

Hamilton was given a five-second time penalty, demoting him from P3 to P7, as well as two points on his superlicence – all of which he accepted after saying the incident was his fault and apologising to Albon.

The Anglo-Thai driver has said that Hamilton would then send him a direct message to apologise again, something he appreciated, but Albon also thinks it isn’t fair for Hamilton to be seen at the villain and that he himself was partly to blame.

“Lewis was really good about it, he sent me a message on DMs so he was very apologetic,” Albon is quoted by ESPN.

“But I don’t blame Lewis wholly, there are ways I could have avoided the crash, you could say.

“I was surprised to begin with, but I think it was just one of those things. Just the way it happens and the way the corner is and things like that, it’s more just about waiting really.

“It wasn’t always going to happen but there was a good chance it was going to happen very soon after that corner, into Turn 1 or whatever. So I think it was just the initial rush to overtake, it’s one of those things and it’s all gone now.”

While the crash hurt, Albon takes plenty of positives from Brazil after fighting the top guys for the first time.

“It was really the first time I could mix it with the top guys,” he said.

“There were a lot of positives there, with the negative being the crash but really on the global outlook of the situation it was a good weekend. It hurts but there will be plenty more chances in the future.”

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Albon building ‘good foundation’ for 2020

Alex Albon says his main aim since arriving at Red Bull has been to build a “good foundation” for 2020.

The Anglo-Thai driver made his F1 debut at the start of the 2019 season with junior team Toro Rosso, but a string of poor performances from Pierre Gasly at Red Bull opened the door for Albon’s early promotion.

Since then Albon has been more competitive in Red Bull colours than Gasly managed and was cruelly denied a podium in Brazil after he was wiped out by Lewis Hamilton.

But the youngster still has work to do to reach the overall level of team-mate Max Verstappen, and he hopes that 2019 will serve as a “good foundation” to really kick on in 2020.

“It’s more just carrying on what I’ve done. I haven’t done any changes in terms of my thought process until the end of the year,” Albon told reporters in Sao Paulo.

“In the back of my head it’s still all about keep developing and getting ready for next year.

“Next year I’ll know the tracks more and I’ll be more experienced, so it’s making sure I have a good foundation ready for 2020.”

Albon was set to drive in Formula E with Nissan before the call came from Toro Rosso, and the fact that he was then promoted to Red Bull, all the while uncertain on his 2020 future, has created lots of instability for the youngster.

But, he knows now that he will remain at Red Bull for 2020, and as his comfort with the team grows, his “lap times” should improve with it.

“You are never going to feel completely settled until you drive a car for the first time. I don’t think that exists actually,” he said.

“But of course the more you feel comfortable with the team the more the lap time comes and it’s only normal when you first jump in the car to feel that way.

“Once you get to know the team and the car, that’s really where the performance comes from when you can really start to push the car and the team in the direction that you want to go.”

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Hamilton ‘massively apologises’ to Albon

Lewis Hamilton has issued a “massive” apology to Alex Albon for wiping him out of a podium position at the Brazilian GP.

The collision between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, prompting the second Safety Car of the afternoon, saw Albon running P2 behind his team-mate Max Verstappen with two laps to go as Hamilton chased him down.

But the six-time World Champion would take a lunge on the Red Bull driver, sending him into a spin and ultimately a P15 finish.

Hamilton would cross the line P3 behind Pierre Gasly, though the Briton would be handed a five-second time penalty for his troubles, meaning Carlos Sainz would end up going from starting P20 to earning his first podium in F1 with third.

And it seems Hamilton could be resigned to his fate after suggesting that the crash was his fault before offering a “massive apology” to Albon who was set for his maiden podium.

“I massively apologise to Albon,” he said when speaking to Sky Sports.

“I went for a move, the gap was kind of there, but obviously it closed at the end and completely my fault.

“But still a great race Max did a fantastic job today and they just outclassed us in terms of overall performance and we couldn’t keep up with them on the straights.

“But I raced my heart out, I gave it everything, I put everything on the table and I took a lot of risks today. We threw everything and the sink at it. I don’t think there’s anything we could do.”

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Albon: ‘Hamilton would have passed anyway’

Alex Albon feels he deserved to finish P2 in the Brazilian Grand Prix after it was taken from him with two laps to go – but feels Lewis Hamilton would have passed him anyway.

The Red Bull driver was set to take his maiden podium when he was then taken out by Lewis Hamilton, who was given a five-second penalty for the incident.

“I need to look back at it, to be honest,” Albon told Sky Sports about the collision.

“I felt like I came out of Turn 9 and I had some gap to Lewis, and I thought okay, we’re okay where we are.

“I thought I’d go a little bit hot into Turn 10 just to cover him and make sure he doesn’t get any ideas, and of course you see it, you see the crossing once you dive there’s a blind spot and you don’t know how far alongside you he is.

“I thought okay he’s far enough back that I’ll give him some space, but I didn’t expect it really. It’s that thing where you’re just waiting for it and then it goes, yeah slow motion.

“It’s a shame because I think he would have overtaken me anyway into Turn 1 because he obviously had the fresher tyres and he was looking racy.”

The Thai driver had got himself up to P2 by passing Sebastian Vettel at the restart and felt that he was there on merit rather than luck.

“It was kind of on credit as well, it wasn’t like we lucked into it too much,” he added.

“We had the Safety Car but the battle with the Ferraris was good fun and I felt like we deserved to be there.

“But it wasn’t meant to be so, [on to the] next race.”

Albon is now P8 in the Championship, 11 points behind Pierre Gasly with one race to go.

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Verstappen can’t judge Red Bull’s pace from ‘messy’ day

Max Verstappen said he “can’t really tell” where he and his team are in terms of pace due to Friday’s constantly changing conditions.

The Red Bull driver didn’t set a time in a wet FP1 before finishing FP2 in P3 as conditions dried up, behind the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

“It was a bit of a messy day with the weather and I think it’s not really representative with the temperatures,” Verstappen said after the session.

“I think we just have to look at the positives that the car is working well. Of course, there are always things you can improve but it’s a positive start.”

The Dutchman is hoping that he and the team will be able to make the most of a completely dry FP3 to figure out where they stand.

“We’ll start over again tomorrow because the weather will be different,” he added.

“I can’t really tell where we are exactly but also I don’t really think it matters a lot because tomorrow will be different.”

Alex Albon meanwhile had a mixed day, topping FP1 but also retiring from it after crashing, and he put his mistake down to the conditions.

“Just a cold track obviously and you just tip-toe around and lose brake temperature, so that’s pretty much what happened,” Albon said of the incident.

“I went to brake but there was nothing there. If you do it again it’s like you almost have to push harder, it’s not easy to tell yourself but it’s one of those things and it happened on the worst part of the track.”

The Thai driver’s crew managed to repair his car in time for FP2 and he finished it in P9, just under a second slower than Verstappen.

“It’s okay – I haven’t done a really clear run,” Albon added.

“I had a flat spot straight away on the option tyres and that was that really, so we’ll have a look and we’ll try and get a good idea for tomorrow.”

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Horner: Albon’s crash was Red Bull’s fault

Red Bull principal Christian Horner has cleared Alex Albon of blame after his FP1 crash in Brazil, saying the team had been too “optimistic”.

Friday running began on a very wet note at Interlagos, but with the track drying Albon put himself P1 on the intermediates, the position he would hold on to for the rest of the session.

But with minutes to go Albon was one of several drivers who attempted a run on the slick tyres. It would lead to multiple spins, including an off for team-mate Max Verstappen, but Albon’s luck was out when he went onto the grass at the final turn and ended up in the wall.

Though Horner joked that it was “quite an expensive session” for the team, the boss was happy with Albon’s first outing in F1 around Interlagos.

“It started good, Alex, first time in Brazil, first time on the track, went fastest on the intermediates,” he told reporters in Sao Paulo.

“And then the circuit looked like it was starting to get dry. I think there were 10 cars that went out on slicks.

“Max went off at Turn 2. Alex, unfortunately, with cold brakes, he locked up in the last turn and put a bit of damage.

“So it’s dented the mechanics lunch break, to get the car ready for the next session.”

Albon has been signed to stay at Red Bull for 2020, though this wasn’t his first big shunt of the season. But on this occasion Horner pinned the blame on Red Bull for perhaps being too “optimistic” by sending him out on the dry tyres.

“I think today you can’t put on Alex’s account,” he told Autosport.com.

“Maybe we were a little bit too optimistic getting out there trying to get him laps in on a track that was still pretty damp in the middle sector.

“And Max he had a moment at Turn 1 and Turn 2, there were other cars as well running wide.

“I don’t think today’s [accident], we can blame that on on Alex.

“He’s had a few little incidents this year, thankfully they’ve all been on Fridays and Saturday mornings, and when it’s come to it in qualifying and the race he’s absolutely delivered.”

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Horner: Albon’s Development is Very Impressive

Red Bull’s Christian Horner has reiterated the team intends to “take our time” before confirming who will partner Max Verstappen in 2020, while heavily hinting it will be incumbent Alex Albon.

“After his accident and the front wing change, he was the fastest driver on the track,” Horner told Auto Motor und Sport, referring to the US GP in Austin.

“The way he fought his way through the field was phenomenal.”

Albon is now sixth in the drivers’ world championship, “even though he has only done seven races for us”, Horner added.

“His development is very impressive. I don’t think it will take much longer before he can drive right at the front.”

But for now, Red Bull says Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly are technically in the running to be promoted for 2020.

“We will not make any hasty decisions,” Horner said. “All the drivers are under contract, so we can take our time.”

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz, a former Verstappen teammate, says he doesn’t regret leaving the Red Bull programme and therefore his chance of securing the seat.

“It doesn’t matter who will be next to Verstappen next season, as he will remain the first driver,” the Spaniard told Sky Italia. “So it doesn’t affect me at all.”


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Albon hoping for 'a lot less noise' at Monza

Red Bull’s Alex Albon is expecting a “quieter” race weekend at Monza, with the media’s interest and scrutiny subsiding after Spa.

Albon’s maiden race with Red Bull Racing yielded a fifth-place finish that drew praise from team boss Christian Horner, who admitted having been “impressed” all weekend by the British-Thai racer’s performance.

However, the Milton Keynes-based outfit’s RB15 won’t be on its most friendly terrain at Monza, and neither will Albon actually.

“It’s actually not one that I love driving-wise,” he acknowledged in Red Bull’s Italian Grand Prix preview.

“There’s just something about it but I still managed to fight for third there in F2 last year and I was a tenth off pole, so it’s not a disaster!”

Contrary to Spa, where a grid penalty rendered qualifying a futile exercise, Albon will have an opportunity to push for a performance on Saturday afternoon, and hopefully pick up on race day where he left off in Belgium.

“Monza will really be a continuation of the work we did in Spa and I’ll keep on learning as much as I can,” he added.

“I think it’s a good thing Spa and Monza are back-to-back races as after the race on Sunday, I jump in the sim on Wednesday and keep everything fresh in my mind ahead of the weekend.

“That way I don’t need time to re-understand the car.

“I think on my side we’re going to focus more on qualifying runs which is fun, whereas in Spa we looked more at race runs because of the penalty.”

Finally, the 23-year-old is expecting the media’s attention to ease at Monza after last weekend’s initial buzz and scrutiny.

“Last week was a bit of a blur and there was so much to take in, maybe that’s partly why I looked so chilled!” he said.

“I’m guessing, and hoping, there will be a lot less noise and attention on Thursday so that it’s a bit quieter for me!”

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