Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso, Yas Marina

Albon almost quit racing after losing Red Bull support

2019 F1 season

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New Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Alexander Albon says Red Bull was his only chance of getting into the sport’s top flight.

Albon, who was a Red Bull Junior Team driver until being dropped in 2012, has been recalled by the team to drive alongside Daniil Kvyat next year.

Losing his place on the programme was “very tough”, said the 22-year-old. “It was a difficult year for me for numerous reasons, not least because of my results, but it made me work that much harder.” Albon’s mother Kankamol was jailed in 2012 and later released.

“I was on the brink of stopping racing all together. Since then, I knew I had to impress every time I drove and fortunately Dr [Helmut] Marko gave me a second chance.”

Albon said he “never gave up” on his dream of reaching F1. “I needed to believe that it could still happen.

“Having said that, I knew that my chance of going to F1 was very slim as I didn’t have a proper budget. In reality, the only way I was going to have the opportunity was through Toro Rosso [and] Red Bull, but as we all know, it is not easy to impress Dr. Marko.”

Red Bull informed Albon he had been given the drive on Monday afternoon following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “I was told that I was now confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver and that the team was ready to make an announcement. I was in the shopping mall buying a pair of trainers so I rushed back to the hotel straight away!”

Albon had signed to drive for Nissan in the 2018-19 Formula E season but the team confirmed on Monday the two had split.

“I can’t say that it came out of the blue, because I have been trying to resolve my situation with Nissan e.dams to allow me to join Toro Rosso for the past few months,” he said. “I still couldn’t believe that it finally happened.

“My mum was the first person I called,” he added, “she was most probably more excited than I was.”

The London-born racer will be the second Thai driver to race in F1. The first, Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, usually referred to as B Bira, was on the starting grid for the first ever round of the world championship in 1950.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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25 comments on “Albon almost quit racing after losing Red Bull support”

  1. I guess one could say ‘see it made him work harder’ but I also think that the fact they had to recall several ex-drop-outs now, indicates maybe there is a need to amend the program, and have a ‘you are being considered for drop’ category, especially earlier in the program when drivers are still growing up and finding themselves. I think that would create much more stable human beings in their driver seat in general.

    1. @bosyber +1 to this. Kvyat, Hartley and Albon are the 3 cases that come to mind, any other cases? It is interesting that the programme in its current form has promoted roughly as many drivers upwards to RBR as it has recalled to TR.

      1. To some extent it shows with Vergne, Buemi too I guess @phylyp, who were dropped form STR and then showed they are/became quite decent drivers in Formula-E (and WEC), to the point where both were not interested in returning to Torro Rosso. I don’t know about Alguesuari (maybe he was too relaxed about becoming a DJ?), but I do believe that could have been handled wiser too. Let’s not forget that Gasly didn’t get into STR before (and was almost dropped from the program!) because Red Bull felt he was maybe not there, until he finally delivered his F2 championship last year.

        1. So, I guess Gasly might be an example of where a slightly different approach (initiated by them by that time being almost out of alternatives), did indeed work well.

        2. @bosyber

          To some extent it shows with Vergne, Buemi too I guess @phylyp, who were dropped form STR and then showed they are/became quite decent drivers in Formula-E

          I agree. Vergne and Buemi getting dropped was harsh. Especially Vergne as matched and bettered Ricciardo on multiple occasions. Now, Red Bull are finding themselves in a bit of a hole as they really don’t have a lot of talent in their program.

          I do like Albon though.. I think he deserves a shot at F1. I actually rate him higher than Norris.

          1. Agreed. Both of them should have had Red Bull shots… no pun intended :P

          2. @todfod
            “Especially Vergne as matched and bettered Ricciardo on multiple occasions”

            Yes he did. As a Dan fan I was obviously happy Daniel got that seat but JEV was treated really bad after he didn’t get that drive- it was very close between JEV, Dan & Kimi. I think he should still be in F1 today.

            Its funny how some drivers want to race F1 no matter what, any team for low money. Others, maybe like JEV have a bad experience, leave to other pastures that others think are lower class, but make a VERY comfortable living, enjoy their racing and never look back to F1. Buemi seems the same- best of luck to them.

          3. @garns

            I’m a fan of Dan now… but before he got the Red Bull drive, I was supporting Vergne in their teammate rivalry. I thought Vergne was the slightly better racer although Dan was a slightly better qualifier. So, I completely agree that JEV should still be in F1. Heck, I would go as far as saying he would probably be as good, if not better a midfield driver than Hulkenberg and Perez.

        3. @bosyber I was also a fan of Antonio Felix da Costa, who stole the show at the end of the FR3.5 season in 2012, when Frijns, Bird, and Bianchi were fighting it out for the title. He looked a shoe-in for a Toro Rosso seat, but they had Vergne and Ricciardo for 2013, and after one slightly lacklustre year in FR3.5, Da Costa was dropped. He’s not so old they could not have recalled him, too. Not to say Albon does not deserve the chance.

          Actually, I would have liked to see both Frijns and Da Costa have a crack at F1, but excepting the very rich, there seems to be a very narrow window in which a driver can make it into F1.

          1. @adrianmorse, yes, da Costa is indeed also a name I thought of; there were a lot of hopefuls booted out of the program in that period.

        4. @bosyber The year before.

          1. Ah, yes @jerejj, indeed, he was stuck in super formula, while there was no place at STR, had to prove himself there too (and did).

      2. They also dropped Sette Camara, who is maybe even better than Albon (more consistent over the year and 2 years younger).

    2. @bosyber you make a good point, but on the other hand, the RBR driver programma was filled to the brim with talent for a long time. They had several exciting prospects for long and they simply can’t support 10 drivers at a time. The cuts they made at the time were always pretty logical.
      But now they find themselves in a situation where they don’t have the greatest talents in the sport tied to them anymore and they’re acting accordingly.

      I don’t think it’s a failure of the programme, nor the programme should be changed. It’s just that times change and you can’t always have a wealth of talent in the junior programme.

      1. @todfod
        JEV was a better racer, at least for the start. I found Dan frustrating in that he qualified well then just sat there………………..
        It wasn’t until 2014 that he was much more aggressive in his overtaking, and probably has been the best in the past few years. That’s good, he will need it next year, I hope Renault develops a rocket ship!!

        Agreed though- if JEV still in F1 I have no doubt he would match Checo or Hulkenburg in equal machinery.

        1. JEV isn’t even better than Buemi or Di Grassi. Besides this year title, he wasn’t anywhere close in the first 3 seasons of FE (even in the first year where all the cars was the same).

  2. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s going to fare against Kvyat aka the Torpedo in equal machinery. His F1 race debut in Melbourne next March will also be my first time of properly seeing him racing.

    1. He’s maybe as fast as Russell, faster than Norris in pure pace I think, but he’s inconsistent and that’s a bigger problem in F1.

  3. “Almost quit racing”

    “Never gave up”

    Which is it, then?

    1. obviously ;)

      Never gave up

    2. PR spin as per usual!
      How many times have you heard “We play each game as a Grand Final” then “We play the Grand Final just like any other game” LOL

      That said, look at your top 6 drivers this year, only Bottas played the PC/PR game- all the others give some great answers – Kimi and Dan reign supreme though!

    3. Both?

      He almost quit racing, but he didn’t. So ultimately he didn’t give up, even if he came close.

  4. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    30th November 2018, 22:23

    The London-born racer will be the second Thai driver to race in F1. The first, Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, usually referred to as B Bira, was on the starting grid for the first ever round of the world championship in 1950.

    So a Thai driver can start both the first race and 1000th race of F1? Pretty cook

    1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
      30th November 2018, 22:24

      Yeah that was a silly mistake

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