Toro Rosso will feature an all-new line-up in the 2019 F1 season with Alexander Albon joining Daniil Kvyat in the second seat.
Following the confirmation from Nissan earlier in the day that Albon will not compete in the FIA Formula E Championship for the Japanese manufacturer, it has now been announced that the Thai-British racer will join Toro Rosso for his F1 debut in 2019.
“It’s such an amazing feeling to know that I’m in Formula 1 next year,” said the 22-year-old. “Throughout my single seater career, I went through a few ups and downs. I was dropped by Red Bull in 2012, so from then I knew my road to Formula 1 was going to be a lot harder.
“I worked really hard and tried to impress every time I got in the car, and I have to say a big thank you to Red Bull and Dr Marko for believing in me and giving me a second chance. I’ve always been motorsport mad and since I first got in a car it’s been my dream to be in Formula 1. To be given this opportunity is just incredible.”
Team principal Franz Tost added: “Alexander had an impressive Formula 2 season in 2018. He won four races and finished the Championship third. The way he is able to overtake many of his rivals in the races shows that he is ready and matured to race in Formula 1.
“Scuderia Toro Rosso is very much looking forward to 2019, as with Daniil and Alex we have two young, very strong and competitive drivers.” This ends a traumatic few months for Albon who has had to convince Nissan to release him from his contract.
At one stage it was certain that Albon will not get into F1 with Red Bull saying against him as well. However, with Dan Ticktum unable to race in F1, it became clearer that they wanted to replace Brendon Hartley as well after Pierre Gasly’s graduation.
With no other drivers from their academy available, Albon was back in frame as Red Bull never goes for anyone outside their programme – whether current or past. After months of negotiations, it was finally sorted with Nissan which paved his way to Toro Rosso.
This also ends the brief spell for Hartley who made his F1 debut in 2017 in a similar way, to be be called back into the programme after being dropped earlier on. It remains to be seen if the Kiwi remains part of the team as a simulator driver.
Albon will race under the Thai license which makes him the first from the country since the 1950s. His first chance in a F1 car will only come in the winter testing as Sean Gelael and Kvyat are supposed to test the car in the two-day Pirelli tyre test at Yas Marina.