Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon had a dream debut in F1 Belgian GP, scoring a Top 5 finish after a late move on Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.

Albon, who got promoted from Toro Ross to Red Bull during the summer break, put up a great show on his debut in F1 Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps as he claimed his career-best fifth place result.

A strategic change from Honda had Albon on the backfoot at the start of the weekend with a new engine fitted on his car, which forced him to start the Belgian GP from the back of the grid.

Having concentrated on race pace and adaptability during the practice sessions, Albon showed he was ready for the challenge. He started 17th with penalties around and had a good getaway.

“I started off the weekend very nervous and if you had told me I’d finish the race fifth I’d be very happy, but I’m a bit more relaxed now,” said Albon. “It was actually a difficult race, and in the first stint, I struggled with the grip in the dirty air and couldn’t overtake anymore.”

With teammate Max Verstappen retiring due to a first-lap contact, Albon had to take charge and score for Red Bull. He pitted on Lap 24 for a fresh set of soft tyres, which is when he made the real movement.

It included pass on Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and also the last lap grass-filled overtake on Perez, which sealed a Top 5 finish. “Once we pitted for soft tyres, the car came alive, and I was like – now we can do something.

“The last lap was really good; I had a good fight with Sergio where we were both on the grass, and it made for some good racing. I didn’t really feel too much pressure coming into the weekend, I think the media thought I was going to, but I’ve enjoyed my week with the team,” he said.

Despite the good show, Albon admits that he still needs much to learn and with Monza being another power-dependent circuit, it will be another challenge. “There are some areas I need to improve on, and over the next few days, I’ll get my head down, do some homework and address them for Monza,” he said.

“I will sit down with the team and understand why I struggled at the start. I am still finding out the car’s little tricks and adapting to it.” Meanwhile, his move on Perez came under fire as stewards summoned the two.

However, they were cleared with no trouble and Perez, who registered a sixth place for Racing Point, conceded that Albon was too quick to be stopped as the aggressive strategy left him with nothing towards the end.

“I went into attack mode with lots of overtaking, and P5 looked possible – but at the end, Albon was very strong, and we had no chance to keep him behind,” he said. “Our strategy was quite aggressive, so we paid the price at the end of the race.

“It always hurts to lose a position on the final lap, but we did all we could”. However, he reflected that he was happy about the overall performance of the team as Spa is one circuit that suits the Racing Point car the best.”

Here’s how the F1 Belgian GP panned out

Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen on their Lap 1 clash

McLaren duo left frustrated after Belgian GP DNF

Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly on friend Anthoine Hubert

The story was written by Venkatesh P Koushik and edited by Darshan Chokhani