Albon impresses on Red Bull debut spin

Alexander Albon is cheered on by Red Bull team members as he finishes fifth in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Thai driver's first race since his promotion from Toro Rosso. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Alexander Albon is cheered on by Red Bull team members as he finishes fifth in the Belgian Grand Prix, the Thai driver’s first race since his promotion from Toro Rosso. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Thai driver among the points at Spa after new teammate Verstappen crashed out

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Talk about leaving a good impression on your new boss.

Not only did Red Bull debutant Alexander Albon master his nerves to overcome an engine-upgrade grid penalty and finish fifth in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, it also came as teammate Max Verstappen crashed out on the opening lap.

The Formula One team's boss Christian Horner said of the Thai: "I've been very impressed with Alex's performance all weekend and he put in a great recovery drive from 17th on the grid to finish fifth in his first race with us.

"He was pretty cautious during the first half of the race as he felt his way into the Grand Prix, but things started to come alive for him on the softer compound tyre and he put in some great overtakes."

The 23-year-old was promoted in the summer break from Toro Rosso, the junior Red Bull side, in a swop with the underperforming Pierre Gasly, who finished ninth.

Albon, whose previous best was sixth at last month's rain-affected German GP, said: "I didn't really feel too much pressure coming into the weekend. The media thought I was going to but I've enjoyed my week. It's been a good experience and a different way of working."

Some had questioned if he was being moved up too early, especially with Gasly struggling under the pressure of competing with Verstappen and the demands of scoring big points for a team fighting Ferrari for second in the constructors standings.

In 12 races, the Frenchman's best finish was fourth in Britain, with an average of seven, and he had one retirement in Azerbaijan.

 AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CAME INTO HIS OWN

He was pretty cautious during the first half of the race as he felt his way into the Grand Prix, but things started to come alive for him on the softer compound tyre and he put in some great overtakes.

CHRISTIAN HORNER, Red Bull team leader, on Alexander Albon's (above) debut drive for his team.

Verstappen, 21, is the sport's youngest race winner. He has won twice this year, scoring more points than even Mercedes' F1 leader Lewis Hamilton since the Austrian GP at the end of June.

British-born and educated with a Thai mother and English father, Albon, who was racing in F2 last year, proved up to the task. Armed with a superior car, the rookie passed the Racing Point of Sergio Perez on the grass in a battle that drew the attention of race stewards who decided against taking any action.

There are eight races left this term, with the Italian GP this Sunday, and he knows he has a limited window to audition for a permanent seat at Red Bull next year.

He said: "There are definitely some areas I need to improve on. Over the next few days I'll get my head down, do some homework and address them for Monza."

Separately, an investigation into the crash on Saturday that killed F2 driver Anthoine Hubert, 22, had already begun, International Motoring Federation (FIA) race director Michael Masi said yesterday.

"Once different technologies become available, different materials become available - safety is an ever-evolving process. For me, it is something that will never end.

"Safety is one of the core pillars of the FIA, part of why it exists."

Hubert's death was the first from an accident at a grand prix for five years. American driver Juan-Manuel Correa, who suffered broken legs and a spinal injury in the crash, remained in intensive care on Sunday, but was reported to be in a stable condition.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2019, with the headline 'Albon impresses on Red Bull debut spin'. Print Edition | Subscribe