Alex Albon: Is his seat at Red Bull secure?
Looking back at the young Thai driver's season so far...
Alex Albon's journey in F1 so far has been a rollercoaster. His plan to drive for Nissan e.dams for the 2018-19 Formula E season originally was cancelled just before the start of the season when he was released, unexpectedly securing the Toro Rosso seat that was empty due to Pierre Gasly who was to be promoted to Red Bull for the 2019 Formula 1 season to fill Daniel Ricciardo's position in the team. When Gasly was not performing to Red Bull's high standards, the team decided to drop the Frenchman and promote one of the two drivers from their junior team, Toro Rosso. When teammate Daniil Kyvat had left Red Bull on bad terms, rookie Alex Albon was the top choice to replace Pierre Gasly halfway through the 2019 season. The next nine races were to be the answer to Red Bull's question on who would drive alongside Max Verstappen in the 2020 season, Albon was continually under evaluation. His debut season finished him in eighth place in the standings, driving consistently in the points and finishing top six in several races. Red Bull decided to keep him for the 2020 season.
However, the young Thai driver cannot seem to shake off the "under-evaluation" state his driving is constantly in. His seat never seems to be secure and rumours of being dropped after one bad race spring out at every corner. With Red Bull's team principal Christian Horner confirming his desire to keep him for next season and Helmut Marko stating that Red Bull can't have "one leg" in the title fight, Alex Albon's seat at Red Bull for 2021 is unsure. The names of Nico Hulkenburg and Sergio Perez have both been linked to the seat if the young Red Bull driver were to be replaced. As well, he has received several criticisms including from Daniil Kyvat and Nico Rosberg after the Eifel GP at which he retired from as a result of mechanical failures.
Nevertheless, Albon is running in seventh in the drivers championship, only four points separating him from fifth place and having retired from two races. Without the DNF's, I wouldn't be surprised if he was close behind Daniel Ricciardo in fourth. Out of the eleven races so far this season, Albon has finished in the top six for six of them and has only been out of the points once in the races he has finished. Qualifying is proved to be Albon's weakness, starting on the grid outside the top ten three times this season, however, he seems to make up for bad qualifying results during the race, exercising his strength: overtaking.
Albon's podium finish at the Tuscany GP.
We also (finally) saw Albon take his first podium at the Tuscany GP in Italy a few races ago, a moment many have been waiting for as well as the man himself having been on the path to the podium twice before but, on both occasions, a collision with Lewis Hamilton (who was awarded a penalty on both cases) halted his chances of champagne. However, since the podium, the two races that followed were not as successful but Christian Horner reported that the Red Bull driver had been "walking taller" as a result of the confidence-boosting, long-awaited podium.
Although Albon seems to prefer alternating between good and bad races at the moment, there will come a time, I believe, - if he is to stay at Red Bull - where the Thai driver will become much more confident and consistent with brilliant drives and where finishes outside the top 6 are rare. It could largely be a case of still settling in - and the pressure of driving beside Max Verstappen at Red Bull is not light. We will just have to wait and see, it is hard to compliment a driver with so much criticism tagged to the name. Alex Albon, future champion - you heard it here first.