Alexander Albon won the official Austin driver of the day poll and yet the Red Bull driver tells “Ziggo” that he doesn’t really deserve this award.
Albon did indeed clinch fifth place after catching up after dropping back to the end of the field right at the start. Overall, however, he is not so satisfied with his weekend.
He never really showed his pace in Austin. “In qualifying I made a mistake in my Q3 lap. I think I was actually much closer than it looked,” reveals Albon, who was almost half a second behind his team-mate Max Verstappen in qualifying. In the race, hopes of a better result than P5 were over after a few metres.
“I tried to overtake a few cars on the outside. I think a car lost control and touched me,” reports Carlos Sainz, who was referring to Albon.
The Red Bull driver was trapped in corner 1 between Sainz (outside) and Charles Leclerc (inside). “I don’t think anyone was to blame,” reflects Albon
“It just felt like everyone had collided. But I don’t know what it looked like on TV,” said the rookie, who apologised to the team for the incident by radio after the race. “To be honest, I expected Carlos to drive around the curb on the outside,” he explains. That’s why it came into contact and Albon’s car was damaged.
“He needed a new front wing and came out far behind the field,” reports team boss Christian Horner at ‘Sky’. In addition, he had “quite a lot of damage to the underbody”, Albon himself adds.
There was no penalty for any of the three drivers involved. Sainz thinks that’s the right thing to do. “Lap one is lap one, there’s always contact,”
“That’s why I didn’t complain on the radio,” says the McLaren driver, who also lost several places during the action. “That had a big impact on my race. But as always I tried something in corner 1, and this time it didn’t work out,” he shrugs his shoulders. There was always a risk in the first corner, and “mostly” it worked this season at other races. Not in Austin.
Afterwards his steering was a bit misaligned, but overall there were “no big problems” at the car. He finished eighth in the end and it was clear to Albon that only damage limitation would be possible after the incident.
“Of course we had some fun [catching up], but I didn’t want to make it as hard as it was,” admits the 23-year-old.
Albon thinks he could have fought Leclerc for fourth place without the incident. But this was no longer possible after the early stop. But at least he was “satisfied” with his race to catch up. And all in all, Red Bull is also heading in the “right direction” for him. But he still needs “more laps in the car and with the team,” explains the rookie.
Horner is clearly more satisfied and confirms that Albon did “an excellent job” in Austin.
“He was unlucky in the first corner when he was taken into the pincers,” says Horner, who believes that Albon could not avoid the incident.
“He was the fastest car on the track for a few laps [after the early stop],” he praises and adds, “His comeback on a three-stop strategy was gigantic.”
“I think he overtook Carlos Sainz three times in this race. He showed 15 or 16 overtaking manoeuvres. It was a strong race to catch up,” says the Red Bull team boss
Albon’s overtaking manoeuvres were “determined” and he came through the field “efficiently”. “He’s learning, and it’s easy to forget that he’s in his first season,” recalls Horner.
“We are very excited about his development. Another positive day for him,” says Horner. It has not yet been officially confirmed that Albon will also be driving for Red Bull in 2020 and that won’t change for the time being. “We’ll take our time,” Horner announces, adding, “He’s doing a good job, and I don’t think we’ll have to make any hasty decisions.”
Albon’s strategy was also interesting on Sunday. He was the only driver to come to the garage three times. He started on Soft, then changed twice to Medium and at the end once again to Soft. He was the only driver who didn’t use the hard tyre.
Horner explains saying: “Unfortunately we couldn’t use the hard tyre with Alex today because on an install lap yesterday, it got what they call a ‘cold crack’. So Pirelli wouldn’t allow the use of that tyre and because it had done an install lap it couldn’t be replaced. So that wasn’t a strategic option available to him anyway today.”
Horner added the fault was “a little bit strange, you only see it when you’ve run the tyre, and I think it was a circumstance of the cold weather.”