Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020

Gap between Albon and Verstappen is “exaggerated” by car – Horner

2020 F1 season

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the RB16’s behaviour in low-fuel trim during qualifying is exaggerating the difference between its drivers.

Alexander Albon has been consistently in the region of half a second slower than Max Verstappen in qualifying this year. But Horner said Albon has proved his potential with his strong race performances and the role he plays in developing the car.

“Alex’s feedback is actually very, very strong,” said Horner in an exclusive interview for RaceFans. “His work ethic is very high and he’s talking about all the stuff the Max is.”

Albon is “affected” more by variations in the car’s handling, “particularly in low-fuel runs”, according to Horner.

“So I think as we improve the car for Alex it will naturally improve for Max as well. The car is actually very difficult to drive particularly on low fuel at the moment. And that’s where the difference is exaggerated between the two drivers.

“On race pace obviously Alex is quite a bit closer and he’s driven some great races this year. So I think hopefully as we improve the car the drivers will also converge.”

Albon’s growing experience will also reduce the gap between the pair, Horner added.

“You’ve got to remember Alex has only done a year and a half of Formula 1 racing, not even that,” he said. “So I’m confident that there’s a lot more to come from him.”

Red Bull Junior Team member Yuki Tsunoda is due to test for AlphaTauri at the end of the year. Horner said the driver, who won last weekend’s Formula 2 feature race, is making a case for a promotion to Formula 1.

“He’s doing a great job,” said Horner. “He’s driving well, he races very well.

“So he’s an exciting young talent regardless of his nationality or that he’s a Honda youngster or a Red Bull youngster. He’s doing all the is he should do to deserve a seat in Formula 1.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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48 comments on “Gap between Albon and Verstappen is “exaggerated” by car – Horner”

  1. Yeah, nothing really new there. Verstappen manages to drive “around” the cars shortcomings better than Albon. Both from more skill and more experience. Pretty much like the top of the top always have been ahead of their rivals by being that slight bit better about feeling the car to make it do things others just cannot quite manage.

    1. @bascb And the good news for AA is that he has time and the support of the team. RBR are sitting in a solid 2nd in the WCC. Nobody is touching Merc, and before long RBR will have triple the points of their closest rival. They’ll keep plugging away, for what else can they do. But at least AA doesn’t have pressure of needing to help them win more money in the WCC, for that’s set for the season for RBR.

      1. Good point yeah @robbie. Albon can just work away at learning and finding his feet to first qualify within the top 5 consistantly and then to be 4th on track more often than not. Since next year is unlikely to be much different, with the car only slightly developing, that should also help.

        I doubt the team would put Gasly back in, they know how he ended up last time while under pressure (same goes for Kvyat who will probably end up being replaced by Tsunoda anyway), and that combined with the advantage of the Thai backing to keep the Dokter from sudden moves, should provide Albon the room to get into it for 2022

  2. Whe Ricciardo left I said RB would miss his experience in helping developing cars, some people scoffed at that. Now look at the improvements to the Renault handling since Ricciardo arrived.
    The 2020 RB was developed with Verstappen as the main input of drivability he was their reference point.That’s why he can ‘drive around’ the problems, it was set up to his style based on his evaluation. Albon had little if any input during developments is it any wonder why he struggles in it.

    1. @johnrkh Well maybe Albon can finally help get the car developed in the right direction again, seeing how Horner praises him specifically for his “strong feedback”.

      1. @f1osaurus Yes you would think that would be the aim.

    2. RBR have these issues every season, drivers don’t develop car’s they give feedback on how it reacts.
      Dan often copied Max’ set-up admitting he was better and quicker at it, RBR/Max are the 2nd car on the grid…. can’t be much wrong with that…

      1. This is not about setup though.

  3. His work ethic is very high and he’s talking about all the stuff the Max is.

    What an honour for Max to be elevatad to the select group of stars who are referred to with ‘The …’, e.g. The Rock ;)

    1. HAHAH! I thought the same thing!

    2. @coldfly not to forget ‘The Michael’

  4. Albon’s mother must be bribing someone . She’s good at fraud too.

    1. That’s the definition of a low blow.

    2. Is this really necessary on this forum?

      1. Dude, EVERYTHING is politicised, especially these days. This wouldn’t and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
        When you’re dealing with millions of dollars, nothing is done squeaky clean

      2. There’s been worse here lately. I suppose it’s a matter of more user interaction being good financially, no matter how trash it is.

  5. Yes it was designed for peak downforce wasn’t it, but now by the sound of it they are using good feedback from Alex to refine it and make it more consistent.

  6. Max has always been able to get the most out of a car that slides out from under him, just look at his performances in the wet. Horner’s strategy for manging Albon seems to be the exact same as it was for Gasly, boost his confidence as much as possible, and hope, somehow, that he manages to adapt and lift…

    Not much else they can do because it’s Max’s car, end of. If Albon continues to underperform they’ll just keep rotating through the drivers until they find a capable second that can get a handle of it… He won’t say that because the unsaid pressure on Albon is enough as is.

  7. Just place Kvyat for the second half of the season against Verstappen. So then it will be clear who is who.

    1. @regs Not really worth it. Better to let Albon be in the team until at least the end of this season.

      1. Both Albon and Gasly tried against Verstappen. Kvyat didn’t. Red Bull has nothing to lose. Albon is not doing well. Giving seat to Kvyat for the rest of the season will make a full picture, so they can decide who to stay where for next year and who to leave a seat for Tsunoda.

  8. Why is anyone claiming albon is much closer in the races? From what I see he’s always dropping well behind until they have to coast. He will constantly be 30s+ slower in the races if there’s no safety cars and they can push

    1. @theessence Well last two races they gave him the most daft strategy. Plus he’s clearly a few position behind which hinders his race pace.

      Still, just takes his pace in Styria. Albon was keeping Perez behind and he was faster than Verstappen (trying to stay ahead of Bottas and failing at it). So that’s all of them going at maximum pace

      1. @f1osaurus but it was only when Perez began pushing Albon that Albon showed any sort of reasonable pace at all – up until then, he’d been barely any faster than the midfield pack.

        Furthermore, if you look closely at Albon’s times in that race, his times varied quite a bit more than those around him. If you look at how his lap times evolved, he started setting low 1m08s lap times and held those times from lap 37 to lap 42. His times then progressively worsened until, by lap 47, he was setting high 1m08s lap times, seeing his times worsen by the best part of 0.7-0.8s compared to the start of his stint. He stays in that bracket for a few laps, then slowly starts bringing his times back down to the low 1m08s bracket by lap 53, then starts going back to mid 1m08s lap times by lap 55.

        It is only when Perez is pretty much on Albon’s gearbox on lap 58 that he suddenly starts putting in those faster lap times – until then, his pace had meandered back and forth between the high and low 1m08s bracket. When you look at those drivers in front, all of them pitted earlier than Albon did – Verstappen, for example, pitted 11 laps earlier than Albon – but Bottas and Hamilton maintained pretty consistent lap times until the end of the race, with Verstappen being reasonably consistent until lap 57, when his times started noticeably worsening.

        With that in mind, I’d say that Albon’s pace in that race was not especially impressive – yes, he started setting faster times when pressured by Perez, but until then his pace had been inconsistent compared to those in front and his times weren’t that fast either.

        I do agree that Albon has been given very poor strategies for the past two races though. The decision to put him on the hard tyres in Barcelona made no sense, given that everybody said that was a poor race tyre, whilst in Spa the decision to put him on the mediums didn’t seem smart either given that the mediums had a fairly negligible performance advantage and the hards had a wear advantage over the medium tyres.

        1. Yes so? He was faster than Verstappen. Plus he managed to keep Perez behind (who was faster than Bottas)

          1. @f1osaurus so it doesn’t matter to you that Albon’s pace was been poor and erratic for most of the race, or that Albon’s pace advantage in those closing laps was only really due to a significant tyre lift advantage over everybody else he was racing?

            To turn the question back to you, so what about Albon’s pace over a handful of cherry picked laps in a single race when he was over half a minute behind the next nearest car and under threat from most of the midfield pack during that race?

            You’re stripping those events out of their context and selectively choosing a very small number of laps within a single race – you’re ignoring Albon’s performance over more than 80% of the race distance to focus in on barely 15% of the race.

            Your comments are about as meaningful as going “Magnussen was the fastest driver on track in the closing laps of the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, therefore he is a great driver” – which was indeed the case, thanks to certain advantages he had in terms of tyre compound and life in those specific laps.

  9. I think it’s good Horner is supporting and defending Albon. They seems to have learned from how badly they managed Gasly. Too bad though that Horner is too proud to own it publicly. He is still pushing Gasly under the bus… What was that « Gasly is on front of Albon in the AT because his car is easier to drive » ? If the goal is to keep burying Galsy to cover up his mess, let him go.

  10. With Honda power and Yuki Tsunoda “making a case for a promotion to Formula 1” I would say that Kvyat better starts looking for another seat now.

    1. @gpfacts Indeed. I can’t see him staying at AT past the end of this season should Tsunoda become eligible to race in F1 for next season.

    2. He’d look good alongside Kimi next year at Alfa Romeo, Giovinazzi to me doesn’t belong in F1 and Kvyat likely brings Russian money as well.

  11. 0,5s in qualy and 1s/lap in race pace. Add the times before and after the SC and you get 43 seconds between Max and Albon.

    Albon was given Hards in Spain because the rest also didn’t work for him. In Spa he was given softer tires to try and overtake the Renaults. On the same tire (soft first stint for both), he made no dent in their aspirations. I still think they sometimes put Albon on an agressive Max/Ric strat, but AA cannot make that work.

  12. Horner made similar noises just before kicking Kvyat back to the junior team. The man cannot be trusted.

    1. If anything I hope history repeats and they kick him out and get a decent driver, NOT from red bull academy, please!

  13. Gap between Albon and Verstappen is “exaggerated” by Verstappen.

    1. @greenflag Absolutely true. Drivers like Verstappen are potentially career-ruining for their teammates. If not by public perception then by loss of self-confidence.

  14. the gap is not exagerrated by the car, as the title leads to believe (as if they have two different cars), it is exagerated by how they adapt to the particularities of the car

    that’s different, it shows that Albon isn’t at the level of Max, not that I expect him to be, but he still lacks behind quite a bit

  15. Not a single podium after so many races, not to mention a win or even being remotely close (except in those two races when Hamilton knocked him out, to be fair, but it was mostly down to luck and safety car timing). Not a single strong qualifying performance. Sweet talk from Horner? We could hear something similar before Gasly was kicked from the team, after similar or slighly weaker performances. In any case, he’s performing much better than Albon at the moment, also better compared to Kvyat than Albon did last season. I hate this dishonest PR and also encouraging drivers you won’t truly support even for a single season.

    1. Gasly was totally anonymous in the RBR. At least Albon has looked fighty. Gasly maybe performing now but put him on a proper race horse and he cant break out of a trot

      1. I don’t disagree, on the contrary. I only compared his situation to Albon. They kind of switched roles, though Gasly performs better in Torro… Alpha, whatever than Albon did, while Albon performs slightly better for RB; but I think the difference is almost negligible. Despite that, I do believe that Gasly was treated poorly (somebody promoted him, but took no responsibility whatsoever), even if I dislike him as a racing driver. It’s not so hard to predict a similar outcome for Albon. The thing is, someone makes rush decisions and shows poor judgement; yet puts all the blame on almost children. Horner, on the other hand, seems to be the greatest demagogue of them all. Just my “two cents”, I don’t pretend to be the F1 expert, nor I care for the gossips that follow the series. I only prefer more direct and honest approach (as rare as it is in corporate sport), while all this PR talk where it’s no one’s fault, all will be well, we’re all good guys, no one underperforms etc. kind of sickens me.

  16. Albon isn’t close to Verstappen by a long shot, the two youngsters who I would consider close in terms of talent and pace are Russell and Leclerc. If we’re talking talent and a car that’s hard to drive and Max continues to put it on the podium that is enough said. Nice of Horner to keep Albon focused though.

    1. Just go again on what Russell has done?

      1. Decisively win the F2 championship on the first try? Like Leclerc. While Albon was only third even in his second attempt.
        Also to go in as a rookie and destroy Kubica and then continue with destroying Latifi (who performed similar to Albon in F2)?

        1. Sorry I meant in f1. I’m sure he was handy in karts also. Kubica has one hand and was a busted flush. Latifii is a pay driver. Whoop whoop. He does nothing in races, he’s way to cautious. Mr Saturday has yet to do anything on Sunday. Points are on Sunday. I’ll give him 1 more season. If he doesn’t do anything by then he’ll be de Resta’d

          1. You have to consider leclerc had a platform (sauber) to show what he can do and get a promotion to ferrari, russel doesn’t really get the same with williams, remember for example alonso, his first season was at minardi, he was good but wasn’t able to get any point.

  17. Its why The Max’s & Lewis’ & Alonso’s get the big bucks, adaptability. Vettel is one of the best one trick pony’s f1 has seen but they are expensive millstones if the car is a diva. The factory are always going to follow the points and that’s Max, whatever Albon’s feedback is they are not going to change tack when he’s got relatively few points.

  18. If it weren’t for the car, they’d both be pretty slow. So yeah.

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