SINGAPORE - Alexander Albon has admitted that it will be "hard work" trying to catch his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen and is aiming to finish fourth in this Formula One season, which would be an improvement from eighth last season.
The Thai is currently sixth with 40 points in the drivers' standings, level with fifth-placed Lance Stroll of Racing Point, and five behind fourth-placed Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.
Verstappen is second with 95 points, sandwiched between the Mercedes duo of six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton (132 points) and Valtteri Bottas (89 points).
"It's going to be hard work to close the gap. There's no secret to closing gaps. We can only focus on improving areas of weakness and the results will come naturally," he said.
"It's more about individual goals and my improvement as a driver. There's still a lot of experience I can learn and gain but it takes time and I'm on the right track."
One area he aims to improve is his performance in qualifying, which determines where he starts each race. His highest starting position this season was fifth in the season opener in Austria last month.
"The main area for improvement now is to improve performance on Saturdays. On Sundays, we're usually strong and get good results but Saturdays aren't what we want them to be," said the 24-year-old in a video conference call with The Straits Times from Belgium, where he will race this weekend.
"So now it's more about working on short run pace with low fuel and grippy tyres and being comfortable on limit."
He feels his best and worst race was the season opener, where he was on track for a podium position when a collision with Hamilton towards the end of the race saw him fail to finish.
He said: "That was the biggest disappointment because the win was there for the taking but instead, we finished last. But we took positives from the race ... like how we were in the position to fight because of the hard work we did behind the scenes."
But he bounced back from that disappointment the week after to finish fourth at the Styrian Grand Prix on the same circuit, his best result of the season so far.
The London-born Albonwas born to a British father and Thai mother and is the second Thai driver, after Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh in the 1950s, to race in Formula One.
Explaining his decision to race under the Thai flag, he said: "I love the Thai people and being Thai is a part of my blood. I feel proud I can drive around representing the Thai flag.
"I'm representing not just Thailand but South-east Asia too. There aren't many Asians in motor sport, especially in car racing, but I feel like that's improving so hopefully in the future, there will be more Asian drivers."
Given his affinity for South-east Asia, he was disappointed that the Singapore Grand Prix this year was cancelled because of the coronavirus.
"It's a big shame because we had special hats and helmets designed for that race but of course the reason is for safety," he said. "Hopefully next year, we can bounce back and put on a good show."