Max Verstappen, Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2019

Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Verstappen vs Albon

2019 F1 season review

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First Daniel Ricciardo left, then Pierre Gasly was ejected. Occupying a seat alongside Max Verstappen is starting to look like the toughest gig in Formula 1.

Alexander Albon arrived in Gasly’s place at mid-season. Within seven races he’d done enough to earned himself another year at the team in 2020, so he obviously impressed more than Gasly did.

In terms of raw lap time there was little to suggest Gasly’s replacement is any closer to Verstappen’s level than his predecessor. There was one exception, at Suzuka, where the pair produced identical lap times to within a thousandth of a second. Otherwise Albon averaged around half a second away – a huge gap, one he will need to slash next year when he no longer has the explanation of being unfamiliar with the car.

A few uneven races by Verstappen after the summer break, and consistent performances from Albon on Sundays, meant his race results compared much more favourably. And Albon would have scored his first podium in Brazil if it hadn’t been for an ill-advised lunge by Lewis Hamilton, which took him out of contention.

Indeed, over their first few races Albon managed to out-score Verstappen, which undoubtedly helped make it an easier decision for Red Bull to keep him. After all, the team cited Gasly’s points shortfall as a reason for cutting him loose.

Clearly Albon still has significant room for improvement. He hadn’t even driven an F1 car before February this year. He was still getting used to the RB15 as the season came to an end.

However his ability to get close to the pace that Verstappen showed earned him a full-time Red Bull seat for next year. That will offer some welcome stability, though no respite from the pressure of being measured against one of the best – perhaps the best – in the business.

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Max Verstappen vs Alexander Albon: Key stats

Max Verstappen vs Alexander Albon: Who finished ahead at each round

Max Verstappen Q
Alexander Albon Q

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Max Verstappen vs Alexander Albon: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time. Negative indicates Max Verstappen was faster, positive means Alexander Albon was faster

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...
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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42 comments on “Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Verstappen vs Albon”

  1. Nothing much to say here. Max simply didn’t had a teammate that could match him.

  2. Albon could be a star. Hope redbull don’t screw this up because of their fascination with max…

  3. And still people say Albon was beating Max…. I think they were watching something else.

    1. He outscored him for a number of races due to penalties and stuff, nobody said he was ‘beating Max’ think you added 2+2 and got 5 there @macleod

      1. There certainly were a few around here who conveniently chose to ignore Max’s post-summer break woes from an engine penalty and from being taken out by Leclerc, and from his racing incident with LH, and decided to try to sell us that AA is the more consistent points getter and that Max ‘still hasn’t learned.’

        1. Yeah they certainly did… Totally ignoring the total lack of pace Albon had.. Red Bull once even let Albon qualify on soft tires. I think because of that lack of pace.

  4. I really don’t buy into the hype so far around Albon. I’m yet to see a single performance in the Red Bull that I’ve been overly impressed with. In fact, his only real stand-out performance this year was Germany in my opinion, where he was one of the best in the field. He’s been more aggressive and decisive than Gasly, but has still achieved only the bare minimum (to finish in the top 6 at almost every race).

    I think he’s an exciting prospect and I’m looking forward to watching him next year after a year of experience. I still expect him to fall short against Max, but perhaps that’s all Red Bull needs. Even Ricciardo was struggling massively towards the end of his time there.

    1. To add to your point: Even outside the racetrack, I think Alex has been more engaging than Gasly. Some of the Red Bull YouTube stuff is pretty cringe-worthy, but Alex has a charming nervous excitement. Not quite a Danny Ric, but who is?

    2. Ricciardo was struggling because his Renault engine kept on failing, causing him to retire from races, race with reduced power and take grid penalties – all to the amusement of Christian Horner.

      1. Alex Roy if you think that was to the amusement of CH you should adjust your way of thinking wrt RBR and F1. The reality is they considered DR family and did everything they could to keep him. The certainly would not have been happy with his issues from the standpoint of the team as well as for DR himself, even after he had announced his leaving for Renault.

        1. @robbie you keep saying that RB did everything they could to keep Ricciardo, you know that to be untrue. They offered him less money and NO2 status. That means he would not have been afforded the same level of support and would be subject to team orders to allow Verstappen to finnish in front. RB take team orders to the highest level and enforce them.
          That meant he would never be a WDC contender if he stayed. This will be the same for any of Verstappens teammates he has while at RB.
          You constantly say RB considered Ricciardo family I agree, I’m thinking like Cinderella.

          1. That was not what Daniel said (about the money) that was to be around Max level. But the No2 status i am certain Daniel didn’t told anyone that so how did you came up with that? What you suspect is not the same as fact.

            What Ricciardo said was more about a change as he found himself stuck and he had not so much faith in the engine switch. ( he said a year backwards before getting better in these words)

            note: I thought it was also getting hard this year with honda.

          2. But the No2 status i am certain Daniel didn’t told anyone that so how did you came up with that? What you suspect is not the same as fact.

            Sorry @macleod but it’s hardly a secret that RB play favourites, they do not try to hide it. They have a definite structure of hierarchy within the team as do the others but RB are more rigid about it.

          3. @johnrkh No I don’t know that to be true, and nor do you. Offered him number 2 status? You are joking. I think you have bought into the childish anti-RBR or anti-Horner or anti-Marko rhetoric around here.

            Nobody is denying that RBR love Max, as what team wouldn’t love to have him. But plenty around here love to point out to me how DR beat Max two seasons to one. How is that possible if they only cared about Max?

            Personally I have no reason to doubt that they agreed to everything DR asked for in order to retain him. The fact is they were convinced he was going to stay up until even just a few days before he announced his Renault move. Now if it has now come out that Renault offered him a whack load more money, that certainly was not made obvious back last year when all this was going down. And if it is a fact that DR was offered huge money, I don’t see why RBR would have to counter and offer him way way more than he was paid before as well as than Max. Not when Max was so soundly beating him on pure performance on the track.

            I remain firmly of the belief that RBR gives all their drivers an equal opportunity, and that when they do see one shining more than the other they behave no differently than any other team in nurturing that shining while supporting their other driver to reach the same plateau. In other words if RBR favours Max it is because all the hype early on about him has come to fruition and he is indeed special and has earned it. But they have no need nor reason to shade his teammate in order to favour him. Max is just going to do what he’s going to do, which is to absolutely fly and likely always dominate his teammates throughout his career. They don’t need to help him excel by preventing his teammate from taking points away from him, so they have no need to fear him having a competitive teammate. The opposite, they need as strong a teammate as they can get, and that is why they tried to retain DR.

          4. @robbie

            “I remain firmly of the belief that RBR gives all their drivers an equal opportunity”

            You obviously did not watch the 2009 or 2010 or 2011 season. I think that is understandable. For those who lack intellect in f1 strategy, they cannot see the way the No.2 driver is subtly disadvantaged.

    3. It is because he hasn’t learned the tyres with the RB15 car. Once he turns on the tyres he is actually quite close to Max. See Suzuka. This is what the team sees in him.

  5. Real question is not who can drive along Verstappen, but who can replace him.

    So far things are settled for 2020, but the shaking up is going to be interesting after that. Should VER leave RBR, there’s no one of his caliber ready in the pipeline.

    That means they may be back to the old game of hiring an experienced (and expensive) top driver.

    Unless Albon suddenly stretch his wings and shows that his odd path to F1 meant he has something more.

    By the way, we’ll know only a hundred days from now… Can’t they just have “normal” 30 days holidays? I guess we’ll have to do watching back to back episodes of 2019 Drive to Survive when available… This time with “Toto Smash” live action.

  6. I really don’t think RBR want another Max. What they want is someone that consistently comes second if Max is leading.

    Whether Albon is that person or not remains to be seen – he was coming second in the race Max won until he got knocked of the track, but he certainly seems to be the best option RBR currently have. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll be good for their marketing either.

    1. Agreed.

      What speaks for Albon, is that he can actually overtake. MV lost the victory in Hungary because Gasly couldn’t overtake. If a RB was driving within a pitstop window of MV in Hungary, Lewis wouldn’t have stopped again, being afraid to get stuck behind that RB and losing a place. So if Albon can stay in that window, RB will be happy to have him as second driver.

      1. I don’t think there is another Max on the grid, so I don’t think RBR thinks of this as a competition they have to be careful about wrt who is beside Max. They want the highest level driver they can get in order to maximize their team points, and do not need to protect Max with some number one status as Max can look after himself. So if Albon can get close to Max that will be huge for them as we know Max is going to wring everything out the car that it has to offer. And if AA were to develop such that at times he even headed Max? Wow what a ‘problem’ to have if you’re RBR.

  7. If Max moved to a different team before the season started, RedBull (and Honda’s) season would have been seen as much, much worse even though the car was the same.

    With Gasly and Albon as drivers, the 2019 Redbull car would have been running closer to the midfield than the top teams. Both Gasly and Albon were half a second or more behind Max in qualy, who was around 2 tenths behind pole time most of the season. Also, Gasly or Albon haven’t been able to score a podium in a RBR, let alone win a race (something which Max did 3 times this season, with one more in Hungary slipping through his fingers in the last laps).

    RedBull does have a big problem on their hands if Max leaves and their young drivers don’t make massive leaps.

  8. Red Bull really f ‘d up by dropping Sainz for no good reason, end of story. 2nd in the WCC was entirely achievable with a VER / SAI lineup and the rubbish about them being deadly rivals is so overblown. They are often seen chatting and joking on the driver parade, they never had any real flashpoints at Toro Rosso and were both ROOKIES desparate to prove themselves.

    It certainly wouldnt be as acromonious a pairing as Ferrari have right now despite what they say.

    Helmut Marko has fully lost his management edge.

    1. Dr. Marko seems like a prickly guy, for sure, but from what I’ve read, it sounds like Sainz’s dad also had something to do with the contract split?

      I think Mr. Smooth ended up in a good spot, but I agree; It would have been great to see him driving the RB.

    2. Ouch! Marko had many rights in the past, and some wrongs too.
      Promoting Vettel = right
      Letting Vettel Go = right
      Promoting Ricciardo = right
      Letting Ricciardo go = wrong ($ issue)
      Promoting Kvyat = wrong (too soon)
      Demoting Kvyat = right (to open space for Verstappen)
      Bringing Kvyat back = right
      Not giving Kvyat RBR seat in 2020 = wrong (IMO)
      Promoting Gasly = wrong
      Demoting Gasly = right
      Letting Sainz go = wrong, wrong, wrong
      Promoting Albon = he did not really have any options, we shall see.

      1. @onlyfacts
        Letting Ricciardo go = wrong ($ issue)
        Nonsense, they offered DR everything he asked for, yet he choose to flee.

        Letting Sainz go = wrong, wrong, wrong
        Letting Sainz go = right, right, right.
        Carlos was no match for Verstappen at TR (bar the first half of the season in quali), and he wouldn’t have done much better than Gasly or Albon besides ruining his own reputation.

        1. Oconomo “Nonsense, they offered DR everything he asked for, yet he choose to flee.”
          No they didn’t he was offered less many then Verstappen and it was clear he was considered as the wingman. Ricciardo had no choice but to leave.

          1. @johnrkh Nonsense, he was not considered the wingman and had every opportunity on the team to prove otherwise, as evidenced by his performances and his wins. He could have stayed and tried to beat Max as there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, even by rumour or anecdote, that DR had lesser equipment and opportunity than Max. If DR was to be a wingman that would strictly only be out if his own inability to keep up.

      2. Playing a major part in the strategy calls between Vettel and Webber = wrong. Cost Webber the 2010 title. With a bit more support and reliability from Red Bull, Webber could have been the 2009, 2010 and 2012 world champion.

        Imagine if Ferrari had the strongest car this season, like Red Bull often did from 2009-2013. Vettel would have won the title in a canter because Ferrari were making poor strategy calls for Leclerc to favour Vettel. Exactly like Red Bull had done from 2009-2013, and Ferrari from 2015-2018 with Kimi Raikkonen. All to give priority to Vettel.

        1. @Alex Roy Excelent point there regarding WEB/VET. I missed it!

          Then there was the VET/RAI situation. Ferrari did the same in the first part of this year with Leclerc. I think it may be more a Vettel demand (direct or implied), team principal calculating that “if we don’t do this he’s going to crack”.

          And I think Marko knew that better than anyone.

    3. Totally agree with this. Sainz and Verstappen were evenly matched at STR, yet RB didn’t seem to realise Sainz’ talent

      1. @3dom

        “Sainz and Verstappen were evenly matched at STR”

        Hahahaha, in fantasyland maybe, but in the real world Carlos was no match whatsoever for Max, bar the first half of the season in quali. (Due to his lack of experience compared to Carlos.)

        1. Nonsense. 2015 was too close to call, and 7 dnf’s for Sainz compared to 2 for Verstappen. Short memories there…

          1. VER had 4 DNF and Sainz 7
            VER had 49 points Sainz 19
            Best position: VER 4th Sainz 7th.

            Sainz only got the seat because Kvyatt went to RBR.
            TR expected to start with Kvyatt and VER.

            But still, Sainz is doing very good and one of the better midfield drivers at the moment.

  9. I’ve been giving Albon the benefit of the doubt because he came in to RB so late that it was always gonna be a tall order. It puts Verstappen’s performance when he joined RB into perspective. Straight on the pace, won his first race (even tho he had the better strategy, he still had to be in the mix). He still has a decent amount to learn (which 22 year old doesn’t?), but it’s easy to see that he’s a special talent.

    1. I agree. Max’s Spanish performance was a major wake-up call for Ricciardo. Can’t think of a like example for Alex.

      Still, as a personality Alex is my new favourite in F1. So I’m rooting for him.

    2. It puts Verstappen’s performance when he joined RB into perspective.

      Crashing in Practice, Qualifying and the Race in Monaco? Yeah it does. He won in Spain but only through incredible good fortune, in reality he was battling with Raikkonen to not be slowest of the top 6th. Had that been Albon’s first RB race you’d fancy him to win it too.

      People living in bizarroland if they expect Albon to be matching Verstappen after 9 races for Rebull.

      1. @martin
        Hahaha, if it makes you feel any better son, sure.

        But the reality, shared by everyone working in the paddock, is that Verstappen was faster in his first race than Daniel….and in his third, his fourth, his fifth and on and on and on

        Albon, like Pierre/Carlos/Daniel, is completely lost and everyone who believes he will get close to Max next season…..hmmmm, bizarroland sounds almost right, but cluelessville is more accurate!

        1. Yeah.. but Max had already spent a season and a half in F1 before he jumped in that Red Bull seat. Albon was only half a season down.

          I agree that Albon didn’t have the same kind of impact in his first race, but some drivers just have a different learning curve. I’d expect to see a much more accurate picture of Albon’s form post Spain next season. I don’t think he’ll ever match Max, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finishing races just behind Max on most occasions.

  10. @onlyfacts
    Letting Ricciardo go = wrong ($ issue)
    Nonsense, they offered DR everything he asked for, yet he choose to flee.

    Letting Sainz go = wrong, wrong, wrong
    Letting Sainz go = right, right, right.
    Carlos was no match for Verstappen at TR (bar the first half of the season in quali), and he wouldn’t have done much better than Gasly or Albon besides ruining his own reputation.

    1. @Oconomo Reality check regarding Ricciardo deal. It came up due to a legal settlement between him and his former management that his Renault deal was way higher than anyone could’ve imagined. Almost double of what everybody assumed.

      Horner played it down saying that they offered him the same and he was afraid of Verstappen and so on.

      But when the real amount came up about two months ago, everybody understood better what Abiteboul said when he mentioned that the investment in Ricciardo showed how serious Renault was.

      Aside the huge amount for the two year deal, there is a hefty additional bonuses for points, classification, etc.

      1. Well DR was at a top 3 team, and by his own wording it was the hardest decision he’s ever made, to leave, so perhaps Renault HAD to use money to lure him away, knowing that it might be a while (obviously they’re hoping otherwise) before they themselves have a top 3 car for DR. Hard to imagine, for me at least, after seeing what Honda is doing, that Renault will be top 3 any time soon. Including what McLaren is doing, although at least that is with a Renault unit for now.

  11. Ugh…. Dutchies are soooo antagonistic.

    Yes VER is great, nobody can touch him and all other drivers are losers compared to him. Happy now? Good, now go bully someone else in your sandbox and let the grownups talk amongst each other.

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