Christian Horner says they have more time until end of 2020 F1 season to decide on Alexander Albon as Honda IP remains a priority.
After he has failed to replicate the performances of his teammate Max Verstappen at Red Bull, there have been questions about the security of Albon’s seat at the Milton Keynes-based F1 team, who demoted Pierre Gasly for the same reason back in 2019.
The Frenchman himself was viewed as a candidate to replace Albon, the thought of the two drivers switching seats once more gaining traction especially after the former’s win at the Italian GP. However, Gasly would be confirmed at AlphaTauri in late October.
The confirmation of his re-signing came shortly after the Portuguese GP, which was said to be the first of two races during which Albon would have the opportunity to assure Red Bull of his capabilities. Unfortunately for the London-born Thai driver, he failed to match expectations, and would ultimately come P12 after facing adversity.
The next round at Imola had been considered Albon’s final chance to prove himself, and once more he underperformed here, even spinning in the latter half of the race while running in a competitive position. Ultimately, he would finish this race in P15 – the last of the classified contestants.
It was an underwhelming result, and had seemed to many one that could cost Albon his seat. However, Red Bull boss Horner says the 23-year-old will have further chances to prove himself, as filling seats throughout the grid gives the team more time to make an “informed decision”. At this juncture, Albon only has a fight against outside-programme drivers such as Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
“As I’ve said all along, we want to see Alex lay claim to that seat,” Horner began to media including Motorsport Network, AMuS, Racefans.net, BBC and more. “And I think the difference is that the alternatives that we have, all the seats are full in Formula 1. So that buys us a little bit of time to make the most informed decision that we can.
“And of course give Alex as much time as we possibly can, as much support as we can and see what happens over the remaining the remaining three or four races.” Horner even left open the possibility of a decision coming after the season’s conclusion in Abu Dhabi, as Albon’s contract apparently allows. “We’re not putting any particular timescale on it.
“Alex’s contract allows us to make that decision after the season. Obviously we’re well aware of what the other options are. As I say, all the other seats are committed now and F1 apart from Mercedes –- and I doubt that Lewis will be joining us next season, but you never know,” Horner said, though it bears remembering that Haas still has two open seats.
The future of Albon, though, remains only one element of Red Bull’s future that is uncertain. The other question looming large over the upcoming seasons for the British outfit is that of an engine supplier, with Honda to leave F1 after 2021.
Options for Red Bull are limited, but among them is the possibility of purchasing Honda’s intellectual property, and taking the reigns of their engine program to make an in-house operation. Horner says this is the preferred option, and adds that a decision should be made by the end of this session.
“Our preferred option would be to continue with the power unit which is in the car next year,” said Horner. “Whether rebadged as something else or whatever. If we can make an agreement with Honda regarding the use of the IP or the product, it would be good to see these engines in our car rather than in a warehouse somewhere in Japan.
“It would be good to make an agreement with Honda, subject to what the regulations are, the preferred route would be to continue with those power units. It would just be better to find an agreement with Honda. There are some practical things that need to be decided if we were to take. Engine stuff is quite a lot of work behind the scene. In the end of this month we need to be firming up on our position,” Horner concluded.
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