PORTIMAO • Alex Albon has two races in which to demonstrate he deserves to stay at Red Bull next year, team boss Christian Horner said yesterday.
Speaking ahead of qualifying at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Horner said the team want the London-born Thai driver to prove they have no need to seek a replacement.
Red Bull plan to raise their challenge next year, the last with Honda as engine suppliers, to challenge Mercedes in the constructors' and drivers' championships.
"He's a popular member of the team, but we need two cars closer together in order to fight the Mercedes," said Horner. "That's what we've got to do, that's our target."
Albon, 24, has struggled for consistency in his second year in Formula One with Red Bull, after a mid-season switch from Toro Rosso last year, his rookie season.
"We want Alex to claim that seat and basically justify that there is no need to look at any other alternative than Alex," added Horner.
"He's had a couple of difficult weekends, so he needs to bounce back here I think and particularly at Imola with a strong weekend from start to finish."
Albon has contributed 64 of the team's total of 211 points this year, with teammate Max Verstappen outdoing him in qualifying and race performances.
Horner said if the team felt his form today and at next week's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was below par, they would look beyond the Red Bull stable for a replacement as sister team AlphaTauri are "pretty settled with their drivers".
In qualifying yesterday, Lewis Hamilton clinched pole for today's race in which he is bidding for a record 92nd win. The Mercedes driver snatched pole in the dying seconds from teammate Valtteri Bottas. It was his ninth pole of the season and the 97th of his career.
He said: "We've got a great car but you have to drive the nuts off of it to pull out a lap. Valtteri's been so quick this weekend, so I've just been digging and digging to find that extra time."
PORTUGUESE GP GRID
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
5 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point
6 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull
7 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren
8 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
9 Pierre Gasly (Fra) AlphaTauri
10 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault
11 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault
12 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point
15 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc are in the second row, while Racing Point's Sergio Perez is fifth, alongside Albon in sixth.
F1 PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX
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