Alexander Albon’s recovery drive from last to fifth in the USA has cemented his claim to the last available 2020 seat in F1’s ‘big three’ teams. 

The 23-year-old Anglo-Thai has done an impressive job in his rookie F1 year. Promoted from Toro Rosso to the Red Bull senior team mid-season to replace Frenchman Pierre Gasly, he has scored in every race and outpointed Max Verstappen 68-54 over seven races.

Two non-finishes for Verstappen skew that stat slightly. But both Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull boss Christian Horner are among those singing Albon’s praises.

“He’s got a bright future,” Hamilton said. “I hope Red Bull gives him the support. It’s very, very important because they often spit out drivers pretty quick. I hope they’re good to him.”

Horner praised Albon’s US recovery after needing an extra pit stop for a first corner contact with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

“He did another very strong job,” Horner said. “At the first corner he was a victim of circumstance, pincered between the two. He needed a front wing change, came out well behind and was the quickest car on the circuit. His passing of traffic was phenomenal.”

Being pitched into a head-to-head with Verstappen was the ultimate test for Albon. Points consistency apart, he raised eyebrows when he equalled the Dutchman’s qualifying time to the last thousandth of a second on his first visit to the challenging Suzuka.

“The pressure comes from myself,” Albon said. “To be up against one of the quickest, if not THE quickest driver in F1 right now, is never easy. But I see it as an opportunity.”

Albon is hoping his continued tenure of the second Red Bull is confirmed sooner rather than later.