Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso, Hockenheimring, 2019

2019 F1 driver rankings #12: Alexander Albon

2019 F1 season review

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From his unexpected hiring by Toro Rosso at the end of last year, to his shock promotion to Red Bull at mid-season, nothing about Alexander Albon’s arrival in Formula 1 has been conventional.

Judged against his limited experience on reaching the top flight – he had never tested an F1 car until February this year – Albon’s performance has been more impressive than 12th in the rankings deserves. But drivers’ experience doesn’t enter into this assessment; we are solely concerned with how he performed over his 12 races at Toro Rosso and nine at Red Bull.

There were many creditable performances during that time, plus a few hints of great potential which no doubt tempted Red Bull to give him a crack in the RB15. He got to grips with the Toro Rosso quickly, scored points in his second race and impressed at his third, racing from the back of the grid to score again.

Of course, the reason he started at the back was that he’d had a huge crash in practice. He did much the same in qualifying at Sochi, following his promotion to Red Bull, and again rebounded superbly, bringing the car home fifth where it belonged. That stood in stark contrast to Gasly’s performances with the same equipment, and spoke volumes about Albon’s coolness under pressure.

Albon was performing increasingly well against Kvyat at the point he was called up by Red Bull. Max Verstappen was always going to be a much tougher benchmark, however, and in this respect Albon is yet to demonstrate he is significantly better than Gasly. Given the difficulty of adjusting to a new car mid-season when testing is so heavily restricted, this is partly to be expected.

How far was it the quality of Albon’s first dozen races for Toro Rosso, or Gasly’s failure to make an impression at Red Bull during the same time, which earned Albon his promotion into his stable-mate’s place? Whatever, he responded well to the challenge, bringing the RB15 home consistently among the top six finishers in a way Gasly too often failed to.

Alexander Albon

Beat team mate in qualifying6/18
Beat team mate in race5/16
Races finished20/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate481/1130
Qualifying margin (to Verstappen)+0.51s

Albon demonstrated this capacity immediately after his promotion to Red Bull, racing through the field at Spa after an engine penalty, taking advantage of his hardware upgrade to perform some excellent passes. He tended to stay out of trouble in the races, though he was a bit lucky his lunge at Lando Norris at Suzuka happened to coincide with the McLaren driver suffering brake failure, and didn’t put both of them out.

However that fortune stood in stark comparison to what happened in Brazil. Having kept his nose clean all race and risen to second, Albon was turfed off by Lewis Hamilton, as he made an ill-judged dive for the inside at a hairpin. A seemingly sure-fire podium was gone.

By that time Red Bull had already given him a vote of confidence and handed him a drive for the 2020 F1 season. But having proved he can at least bring the car home within range of the front-runners, next year he will have to prove he can race with them as well.

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Over to you

What’s your verdict on Alexander Albon’s 2019 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

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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16 comments on “2019 F1 driver rankings #12: Alexander Albon”

  1. oooh, controversial from Keith… last of the rookies and behind the veteran? Interesting, I would have thought Albon would make it to “Q3”

    1. Spot on this ranking IMO (if Kimi is next).
      If there are no credits for rookies, and we look at the whole season, then there is no driver in the top 10 who should be below Albon.
      And even when only looking at the newbies, then Norris and Russel performed better over 21 races than Albon.

      1. @coldfly Kimi and Russel are very hard to judge because they had no real oposition from their teammates and we don’t know if the car was really pushed to the maximum in their hands. The Alfa Romeo was probably better than we thought for most of the season, who knows how high a really solid midfielder like Sainz or Perez would have taken it to? Albon, on the other hand, needed to rise twice to the challenge and ultimately had to measure against Max, probably the most fearsome teammate in F1 (outside of Lewis maybe).

        Kimi did OK this season but he was in a team where there was no real challenge, less pressure and a good enough car, he was bound to do well by just keeping it clean. Again, hard to judge, but I would have put Kimi behind Albon just because of what it takes mentally and phisically to come from no-where and suddenly fight the big boys.

    2. Me too, especially because of the mid season change, the way he managed to actually overtake, unlike gasly and the fact his teammate is max verstappen, not kubica and not sainz jr, the guy that beat kvyat and a rookie in his entire career.

  2. Weird – Autosport did a survey of team bosses and they had Albon way up there in 6th:

    1. Lewis Hamilton 169 –
    2. Max Verstappen 146 –
    3. Charles Leclerc 124 Up 3
    4. Valtteri Bottas 68 Up 4
    5. Sebastian Vettel 58 Down 2
    6. Alex Albon 57 New entry
    7. Carlos Sainz Jr 55 New entry
    8. Daniel Ricciardo 49 Down 3
    9. George Russell 41 New entry
    10. Lando Norris 38 New entry

  3. That qualifying stat of 6/18 is not looking very pretty.

    But, he is an instinctive racer and overtaken, as well as being level headed (20/21 races finished).

    I also think he, and the two other rookies, are a breath of fresh air in the sport- not afraid to be themselves. That 2019 rookie of the year video on the F1 website is charming

    1. *Overtaker

  4. As Mark Webber always used to say, F1 is not a finishing school.

    Albon did ok at Torro Rosso, but no better than at least a dozen other drivers could easily have done. And at Red Bull he didn’t once out-qualify or out-race another top 6 driver on merit. He still has a lot to prove.

  5. He is still gapped the same as Gasly. Around 0,5s in Q and up to 1s/lap in race. He is a more confident overtaker though, Gasly was very akward in the overtaking section.

  6. But drivers’ experience doesn’t enter into this assessment; we are solely concerned with how he performed over his 12 races at Toro Rosso and nine at Red Bull.

    Waiting to see where Sebastian is ranked.

  7. It is tricky to place the rookies, you could find whatever reasons to place them in one or another order, different combinations and equally as fair

    Albon in my opinion had the toughest challenge though, from a contract to drive in FE, to never ever driven an F1 car, and had to adapt not only to the difficulties of the sport, have a first go at a wet race, and if that was not enough he had to adapt to another car mid season

    Excellent overtaker, made amazing moves, I remember to watch in loco his overtake on Ricciardo at Spa

  8. An article about how #12 was significantly better than #13 but only one rank higher because of some ‘ill-judged dive’ to some ‘undisputed #1 driver’. Even if everyone knew it’s not his fault.

  9. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    17th December 2019, 12:59

    So how is Albon ranked below Russell? Albon made several outstanding drives and overtakes something which can’t be said for Russell.

    “Albon is yet to demonstrate he is significantly better than Gasly.”
    Seriously – Albon drove much better than Gasly, managed to overtake where Gasly often failed and Albon finished in the places he should without being lapped by his teammate unlike Gasly. Certainly Albon was a more solid (distant) number 2 than Gasly was and with a much greater potential given his limited F1 experience.

    1. Albon was also beaten by kvyat. The kid is a stop gap measure and I’d be surprised if he is in f1 in 2021 if red bull can find new drivers to replace gasly, albon and kvyat. Which they may not.

  10. Hope Albon can stick to Verstappen next year. Although I can see Max obliterating him fairly easily

  11. I hope we get an article about gasly vs albon both at toro rosso and red bull. While they never raced in the same team they both had 2 same team mates in kvyat and verstappen. Which was better.

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