Christian Horner explained the reason for picking Alexander Albon for Red Bull Racing for 2020 F1 season, while also praising Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz.
One of the question marks during the 2019 F1 season was the endless speculation regarding Red Bull’s 2020 seat. Unconfirmed reports pointed towards Nico Hulkenberg along with the usual and more confirmed names of Gasly and Albon.
In the end, it was the Thai racer in the hot seat after an experimental period with Red Bull this year, having made his F1 debut with Toro Rosso. Even though Gasly picked up pace in the last few races, Red Bull took Albon in to partner Max Verstappen.
“Alex has done a very good job in his first year in F1,” said Horner. “He started the year at Toro Rosso and we then took the opportunity at the summer break to promote him into the senior team. The reason was to have a look at him within our own environment.
“And since stepping into that seat he’s finished in the top six at every grand prix, sometimes having to start from the back of the grid or even the pit lane. So, he’s driven exceptionally well. He’s given great feedback; his pace is improving and improving.
“That too at many circuits at which he’s never been to before or countries he’s never been in, like also Brazil. He’s earned the seat on merit. We’re excited about his potential for the future. It was a relatively straightforward decision to come to.”
Elaborating more on the journey taken by Albon from almost being a Formula E racer to F1 at the start of the 2019 F1 season, Horner was impressed by his ‘tenacity’ and also his ‘attitude’. “What it demonstrates from Alex’s side is great tenacity,” he said.
“Originally he was part of the Red Bull junior programme, he was released from that early on in his career and he really had to fight to retain a career in motorsport and rely on his talent, tenacity and never-give-up attitude.
“The way he applied himself, driving for Fred’s team in F3, he pushed Leclerc hard. He graduated to F2 and he had a strong career there. He was off to another discipline and ironically, trigged by the events created by Daniel’s decision created this opportunity.
“Then very quickly you could see that he had a decent talent and great race craft and that’s continued and grown. And then the opportunity came for us to have a look at him within Red Bull. It just shows that if you have the right commitment, the right attitude then things can turn around and talent does always rise to the top.”
While praising Albon, Horner also explained why Gasly’s name was scribbled out of the running, citing several accidents and lack of confidence as reasons. But with the Frenchman getting his feet back, the Red Bull chief was quite supportive of him.
“I think that obviously for Pierre it was very tough for him coming into the start of the season off the back off two accidents in pre-season and that I think definitely affected his confidence and of course being the team-mate to Max Verstappen is a very tough job to have, having that reference point,” said Horner.
“For Pierre, it was a difficult first half of the season for him. Obviously we felt that with the pressure building on him, the public pressure, the media scrutiny, it was right to remove him from that and put him into the slightly less pressured environment of Toro Rosso.
“And since that switch I think he has driven again exceptionally well. You can see his confidence is growing. He’s driven some very strong races and his pace is getting better and better. He looks happier in that environment, which is good to see.”
Amid all this, the chain reaction from Ricciardo also saw the end of Sainz’s journey with Red Bull after he opted to join McLaren. With how they had to take in Albon and Gasly’s bad run, it looked like a missed chance with Sainz, seeing his performances.
“I think it’s been good to see Carlos get into a good car this year and he has done a very good job,” said Horner. “He has done a very good job. He has driven well. He has very much been the best of the rest after the group of the top three teams.
“He’s driven some very strong races this year. We elected to go our different ways but we are still proud that we gave him the opportunity to come into F1 and that he’s managed to use that opportunity to carve himself our a career, albeit now with another team.”
Christian Horner on F1 2020 fight
The story was written by Duncan Leahy and edited by Darshan Chokhani