Twelve months ago, Alex Albon had never sat in a Formula 1 car. This week, he was confirmed in one of F1’s top six cockpits for the full 2020 season.
This time last year Albon sat third in the F2 Championship, behind George Russell and Lando Norris, whose F1 futures were secure. He had no affiliation with a GP team. He thought his F1 boat had sailed.
Albon was relieved to ink a deal with Nissan for Formula E. Then came a phone call from Red Bull’s Helmut Marko. Previously a Red Bull karting golden boy, Albon was dropped from the programme in 2012.
But, like Brendon Hartley, who he would replace, Albon got a second Red Bull chance. Alongside Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso.
And gone were the days of endless testing. When Jacques Villeneuve made the move to F1 in the nineties, and when Lewis Hamilton arrived just over a decade later, both went to their first race with more than 10,000kms of practise.
Albon’s recruitment came too late even for last year’s Abu Dhabi test. He first drove the Toro Rosso pre-season in Barcelona. And spun on his very first ‘out’ lap….
“It was 4 degrees, there was an issue with the steering, I could barely keep the car in a straight line, the tyres were cold and I had the slowest, stupidest spin ever,” Albon recalled. “The recovery vehicle came, I got back to the pits and there were 100 photographers waiting…”
Welcome to the big time! It was sink or swim. And Albon most definitely swam. He went up another level when Marko told him he would be replacing Pierre Gasly in the senior team after the summer break.
Since then, he has been commendably close to Max Verstappen’s pace and points.
“There’s plenty of potential still to unlock,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner on confirming Albon’s 2020 drive. “Seven top six finishes speaks for itself, in tandem with a growing reputation as a tenacious, fiercely committed racer. He fully deserves to continue.”