Tost impressed by Albon 'even before start of 2019'

AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost says that he spotted the potential of Alexander Albon even before the start of the 2019 season.

Albon was the last driver signed up for last season’s campaign, after it took protracted negotiations to free him from an existing Formula E contract. He started his rookie season with the least F1 experience of anyone on the grid.

But Tost says that the London-born Thai driver’s talent was immediately apparent to him, from the moment he took to the track in pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

“When he started testing it was his first time in a Formula 1 car and he did a really good test in Barcelona, where he showed his potential,” Tost told RACER magazine.

“I said in Barcelona that he could become the surprise of the year of the young drivers,” he added. “I said from the beginning onwards during the testing in Barcelona that he really showed a good performance.

“Alex performed fantastically from the very beginning onwards,” Tost continued. “He came to Australia – which is not an easy race – and didn’t score points. But in the second race in Bahrain he finished in ninth position and scored two points.

“This showed his potential,” Tost said, explaining that from this point the 23-year-old was firmly on the radar of the Red Bull squad.

He added that he had been part of the discussion throughout with team principal Christian Horner and motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko about Albon’s future.

“We are always talking together – Helmut, Christian and myself – discussing different drivers,” he confirmed.

Alexander Albon (THA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR14. 19.02.2019

Albon was subsequently promoted to the senior squad over the summer break, with Gasly being swapped back to the junior team. It proved to be the best call for both drivers, with Gasly quickly rediscovering his form at Toro Rosso and Albon acquitting himself well enough at Red Bull to retain his plum race seat for 2020.

Tost said he hoped that Albon would now be given the time to improve himself against his highly rated team mate Max Verstappen, who expects to be contending for the world championship in 2020.

“If you then have a driver alongside you like Max Verstappen, it’s on one hand very positive,” commented Tost. “You can see where you gain time and where you lose time.

“But on the other hand, if he’s so fast it could be quite frustrating sometimes if you cannot match him.

“Alex should just concentrate on himself,” Tost advised. “He should learn, and then he will do it his way.

“He’s in his second season, and I always say that it takes three seasons minimum until a driver understands Formula 1,.”

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Albon: Max knows how to get the best from Red Bull

Teaming up with Max Verstappen midway through this year’s championship, Alexander Albon concedes he has a lot to learn but what better person to learn from than the Dutchman.

Albon joined Red Bull after the summer break, replacing the beleaguered Pierre Gasly.

Such was the Thai-British racer’s performances that Red Bull opted to keep him at the team for 2020.

Albon is relishing the challenge of taking on Verstappen.

“Everyone knows Max is quick and who he is,” he said in his post-season Red Bull review.

“What better way to learn and to prepare myself than to have a team-mate who’s one of the fastest on the grid?

“It’s a good thing and a goal to chase.

“He has had a lot of years within the team and knows how to extrapolate the best from it, for me, it’s still a learning process.”

Albon finished the season as Formula 1’s top rookie, eighth overall in the Drivers’ standings.

Looking ahead to next season, he reckons a more “normal” season will help him improve on that.

“I’m feeling that next year will be a bit more normal,” he said.

“This year was my first year and it definitely wasn’t normal.

“It was also my first year with Honda and the relationship is incredible.

“The work rate and chemistry between everyone just shows the passion that we all have.”

He added: “The gap is shrinking and it’s looking positive for next year.

“We’ve got a good platform to work with, which is really important in terms of developing the car and we want to take the next step.

“It’s all going in the right direction, I want to mix it at the front next year!”

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Horner remains impressed by Albon despite missed podium

Alexander Albon might have missed out on his first F1 podium on Sunday, but the Red Bull driver can still hold his head up high according to team boss Christian Horner.

Albon started the Brazilian Grand Prix from fifth place on the grid and benefitted from the retirements of Valtteri Bottas and both Ferraris. He was running in second place behind team mate Max Verstappen when the race restarted following a late safety car.

Lewis Hamilton had stopped for fresh tyres under the caution and was much faster than those around him when racing resumed – but in his haste to catch the race leader, he clumsily made contact with Albon who was sent spinning.

The incident meant that Albon ended up in 15th place, while Hamilton lost a podium finish after being penalised for spinning Albon.

Hamilton immediately apologised to the rookie driver after the race, and Horner absolved him of any blame and praised him for an outstanding drive.

“It was a huge shame for him to lose that podium on the penultimate lap,” Horner told Crash.net after the race.

“Unfortunately on the last lap, Lewis went for a gap that was rapidly diminishing and contact was made. That was a 1-2 finish for the team and second place for Alex taken away.

“Lewis has obviously put his hand up and apologised but unfortunately it doesn’t get Alex’s podium back,” he continued. “But he can leave here with his head held high.

“He looked really comfortable racing world champions,” Horner added. “He’s now racing wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and Ferraris and he’s making great progress.

“Okay he didn’t get the trophy, but he’s impressed the whole team with his performance.”

Albon arrives at Brazil secure in the knowledge that he would remain at Red Bull in 2020. This time last year he was a very late signing for Toro Rosso, and was only promoted to the senior Red Bull team over the summer.

“It’s an encouraging signal for next year,” Horner pointed out. “He’s impressed his whole team with his race craft.”

Alexander Albon (THA) Red Bull Racing RB15 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W10 battle for position.

Albon said he wouldn’t bear any grudges against Hamilton for the clash and that it had just been one of those racing incidents in the heat of the moment.

“Of course I’m frustrated but I’m not angry, I’m just upset,” he said. I wanted that podium and we deserved it as it was on merit.

“Obviously Lewis had good grip once he pitted and I think he would’ve got me eventually into turn 1, but I thought worst case scenario we had P3.

“I had a good gap to Lewis and I wasn’t worrying about him. I went into the corner deep just to cover him so he didn’t get any ideas, and then there’s a blind spot and obviously we made contact.

“Of course he didn’t do it on purpose, it’s just one of those things,”he shrugged. “It’s done now and we’ll focus on the positives before the next race.”

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‘Albon still off the pace in the ‘A’ race’

Alexander Albon has impressed in race conditions since being promoted, but he is probably “not quite progressing as well as Red Bull would have hoped for”, according to Jolyon Palmer.

The 23-year-old came agonisingly close to securing his maiden podium in F1 at the Brazilian Grand Prix over the weekend as he was running P2 during the final few laps.

However, that first podium disappeared in the blink of an eye as Lewis Hamilton made contact with him and he ended up finishing down in P14.

Despite missing out at Interlagos, Albon has still done well since making the step up to Red Bull as he finished sixth, sixth, fifth, fourth, fifth and fifth in his six races to date.

Former Renault driver Palmer, though, feels he is still some way off the front-runners.

“Albon has undoubtedly been stronger in the Red Bull than Gasly and would have been on the podium in Brazil had it not been for Hamilton’s overzealous passing attempt into Bico de Pato on the penultimate lap. But his qualifying deficit to Verstappen is 0.42secs – more than twice that of Ricciardo,” he wrote in his BBC Sport column.

“Albon has been impressive in race conditions, to an extent. His race-craft has been particularly strong since he joined Red Bull, often charging from the back of the grid after a penalty to finish on the back of the main race, and he has made some sumptuous overtakes – including around the outside of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Brazil.

“But at the moment he still seems unable to make any inroads into the ‘A’ race. While [Max] Verstappen took pole position and was heading to victory in Brazil, Albon qualified sixth and was heading for a finish there until Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes engine expired and mixed up the race.

“All the while Albon has been doing OK – but perhaps not quite progressing as well as Red Bull would have hoped after a strong opener in Belgium – [Pierre] Gasly has been sensational back in the Toro Rosso.”

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Red Bull confirm Albon; Gasly, Kvyat remain at STR

Red Bull has officially announced that Alex Albon will be Max Verstappen’s team-mate in 2020 with Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly staying at Toro Rosso.

Albon was given the call-up to the senior team during the summer break as the underperforming Gasly made his way back to Toro Rosso.

The British-Thai driver has responded in impressive style and has outscored Verstappen since becoming his team-mate at Red Bull.

“Alex has performed extremely well since his debut with the team in Belgium and his results – seven finishes in the top-six – speak for themselves,” said team principal Christian Horner in an official statement.

“It’s extremely hard to deny that level of consistency and in tandem with a growing reputation as a tenacious, fiercely committed racer, Alex has proved that he fully deserves to continue his progress with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.

“There is plenty of potential still to unlock and we look forward to seeing Alex alongside Max in 2020.”

Albon, meanwhile, thanked Red Bull for their continued trust in him and his driving abilities.

“I am really excited to be partnering Max again for next year and I know how fortunate I am to be given this opportunity,” said Albon.

“I’m hugely thankful that Red Bull have put their trust in me and believed in my results since I joined the team and for them to keep me in the car next year is a big deal.

“This year has been an incredible year for me and getting the call up to Red Bull mid-season was already a big step, so now I will use the learnings from this season and use the experience to improve and fight at the front in 2020.”

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost expressed his delight with being able to keep hold of both Gasly and Kvyat for 2020.

“I’m delighted to retain Pierre and Daniil for next season,” Tost said.

“Both drivers have shown really good performances this season and they have proven in their years in F1 to be very competitive, able to exploit the car’s potential and give valuable feedback to make improvements.

“This young but experienced duo, combined with hopefully a competitive car, will be the best factors to achieve a very successful season in 2020 and I’m looking forward to this extended cooperation.”

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Albon on Hamilton praise, 2020 and pressure

It is not every day that a driver gets a pat on the back from a six-time champion with Alexander Albon saying it was “very nice” to receive praise from Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton recently gave Albon is seal of approval for the vacant 2020 Red Bull drive as he feels Albon has a “bright future ahead of him’.

The Mercedes driver urged Red Bull not to “spit” him out.

“I hope Red Bull give him the support over the years,” Hamilton said.

“It’s very, very important because they often spit drivers out pretty quick if they don’t always do the job. I hope they’re good to him.”

Asked about Hamilton’s comments, the 23-year-old told Sky Sports F1: “It was very kind of him.

“He is someone, I think, that all of us, especially people my age, have looked up to when we were going through our ranks so for Lewis to say that was very nice.”

But while Hamilton is set to compete in his 14th season in F1 next season, Albon has yet to be confirmed for a second season.

Although he is expected to remain within the Red Bull family no matter what, the team has yet to inform him of whether he’ll be a Red Bull or Toro Rosso driver.

“Of course it would be nice to have an answer but I’m not too worried about it.

“I’m still feeling comfortable enough to know that I will still be in F1 next year so we’ll see how it goes.”

So far Albon is doing everything right in the race to partner Max Verstappen next year.

The Thai racer has outscored the much-praised Dutchman in their seven races together and admits the only real pressure on his shoulders if what he puts there.

“The pressure comes from myself,” he explained.

“To be up against one of the quickest, if not the quickest driver in Formula 1 right now, it’s never easy. The way I see it, it’s more of an opportunity.

“I’ve been given a chance this year and, at the same time, I’ve got a very good team-mate to learn from.

“I’m trying to enjoy the process, my life here, as I know it won’t last forever.”

And it almost didn’t happen.

Albon, dropped by Red Bull years earlier, had given up on Formula 1 and had signed with Nissan e.dams for the Formula E series.

They agreed to release him from his contract when Red Bull came calling. Albon was the very last driver confirmed for the 2019 F1 season.

“I think even 12 months ago, just how crazy it is to be here.

“Getting the call-up [to the senior team] from Toro Rosso was quite daunting actually because I do know the history of Red Bull and know they are a championship winning team, winning races already this year.

“In that first year you feel like you don’t have much pressure but when you do get that call-up you are like ‘ok here we go’.

“It has been a really good year so far, even with Red Bull, but I do feel like I’m improving every time I’m in the car.

“The consistency is there. I know the team wanted that and of course I do want to mix it a bit more with big boys. That’s what the team want and that’s what I want as well.

“Mexico was a good step in that direction. I think that was a race where I had the pace with them and was following them around.

“It’s also just about bringing my qualy and race together. Mexico my race was very strong but Japan my qualy was very strong.

“There have been glimpses of speed but it’s just bringing it all together in one weekend. Then consistently for the rest of this year and hopefully next year.”

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‘Cold crack’ led to Albon’s three-stop strategy

Alexander Albon was forced into a three-stop strategy in Austin after Pirelli discovered a “cold crack” on his set of hard tyres and banned him from using them.

Albon was the only driver inside the top ten to run a three-stop strategy at the Circuit of the Americas.

However, it wasn’t planned.

While his rivals for the points ran one- or two-stoppers, most of them doing a stint on the hard tyres, Albon worked his way into the points on a three-stop strategy.

That meant the Red Bull driver was forced to overtaking many of the others drivers two if not three times, earning him Drivers of the Day by the fans’ votes.

Horner explained the reasoning behind his strategy.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t use the hard tyre with Alex because on an install lap on Saturday, it got what they call a ‘cold crack’,” he said.

“So Pirelli wouldn’t allow the use of that tyre and because it had done an install lap it couldn’t be replaced.

“So that wasn’t a strategic option available to him anyway.”

Horner added the crack was a “little bit strange, you only see it when you’ve run the tyre, and I think it was a circumstance of the cold weather.”

Although impressed by Albon’s “very strong job”, Horner refused to say whether Albon had done enough to secure the second Red Bull seat for 2020.

“We are very excited about his development. Another positive day for him,” he said.

“We’ll take our time. He’s doing a good job, and I don’t think we’ll have to make any hasty decisions.”

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Sainz: Lap one is lap one, there’s always contact

Carlos Sainz chose not to complain about Alexander Albon’s driving on the opening lap of the US GP as it was lap 1 and there is “always contact”.

Starting sixth and seventh at the Circuit of the Americas with the Red Bull ahead of the McLaren, Sainz made a flying start.

The Spaniard looked to have overtaken Albon around the outside of Turn 1 at the top of the hill only for Albon to fight back, resulting in a hefty whack for Sainz.

Albon came off second best as he was forced to pit for new tyres.

Although the stewards looked at the incident, they declared no investigation was necessary.

Sainz agrees with that call.

“Lap one is lap one, there’s always contact,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t complain on the radio.

“That had a big impact on my race.

“But as always I tried something in corner 1, and this time it didn’t work out.”

As for Albon, he says his misread Charles Leclerc’s actions and found himself in the middle of a sandwich that he could not escape.

“Coming into Turn 1, on the exit, I saw Charles on the inside, basically I tried to put myself as close to Charles as I could because I knew I was going to get better drive coming out of the corner.

“I was expecting Charles to go – the [Valtteri] Bottas line – out-and-in, he didn’t.

“I think I got sandwiched. No one’s fault, really, one of those things, we took some front wing damage, some floor damage.

“I was like ‘here we go, it’s going to be a long day’.”

Albon recovered to fifth while Sainz was eighth.

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Verstappen optimistic after ‘positive day’

Max Verstappen was optimistic about his team’s pace after Friday running and believes they are not as far behind Mercedes as the time-sheet may suggest.

The Red Bull driver topped FP1 before going on to finish P3 in FP2, three tenths down on Lewis Hamilton.

“Overall it’s been a pretty positive day. I think that the pace of the car in the short run is not bad,” Verstappen said.

“Lewis had a tow on the back straight so it’s not really [representative], the lap time. I think [the gap] is smaller.”

Verstappen believes that his team can improve further on Sunday, but pointed out that tyre management will be key.

“The long runs I think I was not entirely happy, we can still do a little bit better,” he added.

“But this track is very aggressive on tyres as well, so I think if we can keep the tyres under the control then suddenly everything looks a lot better.

“But overall a good start to the weekend.”

His team-mate Alex Albon, who has out-scored him since replacing Pierre Gasly at Red Bull, finished FP2 in P6, narrowly behind Valtteri Bottas and believes there is still room for improvement on his part.

“It was OK, I enjoyed it,” he said.

“It’s quite technical. There’s a lot of track, so you don’t know where to put the car.

“The first session was pretty good, the second session not as good, but I kind of know what direction we want to go for tomorrow.”

Red Bull have won only once on American soil courtesy of Sebastian Vettel in 2013, and Verstappen will be hoping to add to that tally this weekend to overtake the German in the Drivers’ Championship.

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Hamilton hopes Red Bull are ‘good’ to Albon

Lewis Hamilton hopes Red Bull treat Alexander Albon right as he feels the Thai racer is doing a really good job going up against Max Verstappen.

Albon was promoted to Red Bull after the summer break, replacing the under-fire Pierre Gasly.

The team billed it as an opportunity to evaluate their crop of drivers before making a decision for 2020, however, of late they have made it known that are leaning towards Albon.

The 23-year-old has scored in all six of his races for Red Bull with a best result of P4 at the Japanese GP.

And although one race later he blotted his copybook with a crash in FP2 in Mexico, he raced his way to fifth place on the day, even jumping ahead of Hamilton in the opening laps.

The Brit says he’s been impressed with Albon.

“I don’t really remember a lot,” Hamilton recalled in the FIA press conference about Albon being in the mix early on in Mexico.

“He was obviously just in front of me for a while and then he pitted, right? He was driving really well, not making any, or too many mistakes.

“I think this year has been… it’s a real challenge to go up against a driver that’s been spoken so highly of by so many people and built up onto a pedestal.

“And to come in so young, and with all the difficulties he’s had in his life as well, his life story is quite an interesting one, against all adversity.

“It was quite cool to just sit and view him for a second. He pitted very early, I’m not quite exactly sure why but they obviously then went onto the two-stop strategy and I didn’t really see him again after that.

“But he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

He added: “I hope Red Bull give him the support over the years. It’s very, very important because they often spit drivers out pretty quick if they don’t always do the job. I hope they’re good to him.”

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