Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

Sochi track “accentuates” Albon’s handling difficulties – Horner

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the layout of the Sochi Autodrom aggravated the handling problems Alexander Albon has in his Red Bull.

Albon finished almost a lap behind race-winner Valtteri Bottas and a minute and a half adrift of his team mate Max Verstappen. He started 15th on the grid after taking a five-place penalty due to a gearbox change.

“Alex is particularly sensitive to some of the characteristics of the car, he’s struggling with that, And they are accentuated at this type of circuit with short corners and big braking zones,” said Horner.

Albon started the race on the soft tyres but switched to hards during the Safety Car period. He fell to last after being passed by Lando Norris, but eventually got ahead of the McLaren driver on his way to 10th at the finish.

“Obviously there’s plenty to look at for him,” said Horner. “His second half of the race, he recovered reasonably well. But it’s been a tough weekend for him.

“So it’s a shame after the podium two weeks ago that this one has probably been one of the hardest of the year for him.”

Albon admitted it was “not an easy race” for him. “I struggled to get through on the hard tyres and then on the mediums, we did as much as we could, but just difficult out there today.”

“We were just in traffic the whole time,” he added, “we couldn’t really get any clean air and put some proper laps in.”

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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...
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20 comments on “Sochi track “accentuates” Albon’s handling difficulties – Horner”

  1. I hope him to do well, but hard to keep the hope alive when every other or every third event, whatever, he struggles both in qualifying and the race. If he’d finish towards the front more consistently, there’d be less risk for him to get in trouble on the opening laps of the races. He should be safe until the end of this season, but next season is another matter, so he has to be careful not to lose his drive after this campaign to Gasly, or potentially even an ‘outsider’ like Perez. I still have faith in him, but difficult due to the inconsistency in pace and results.

    1. I do agree but his car for most drivers is undrivable. Gasley couldn’t do it.
      Max is on another plane of talent.
      If they switched Gasley and albon now, then albon would be a better driver than Gasley

      1. No a class driver like Ricciardo would be consistedly matching and sometimes beating Max as exemplified in the past. Dan’s last year included 6 DNFs beyond his control and didn’t count.
        Albon is a nicely spoken English Thai. RB are part Thai and part Ayrian blond Austrian owned. Albon is there for Thai acknowledgement and to be a No.2 bend over support driver for Crashstappen nothing more

  2. I don’t understand the switch to the hards on such an early phase in the race. This is literally one of the worst tracks for following.

    1. @krichelle Rosberg managed P2 with that strategy a few years back

  3. Alex has a different driving style to Max. He rounds the corners in a nice steady arc, Max brakes later and harder and turns in sharper to straighten the car sooner for a fast exit. If Max brakes later then he gains time, if he can get on the throttle sooner he gains a lot of time even especially if there is a long straight after that corner.
    It is up to Alex to adopt the same driving style or except defeat. The way Max drives is always going to be faster on “stop and go tracks”.

    1. This is also the reason Lewis is faster than Bottas, Leclerc is faster than Vettel, etc.. Driving style that is suited to modern F1.

      Sharp V shaped lines, extreme late braking, chucking the car through the corner and getting on power early and finessing the car through this transition.

      Saddly Albon cannot cope with this, but then again very few drivers can.

      1. Adaptability is a rarity in f1 rather than the norm but as has been pointed out the factory are going to follow the stopwatch, not only that it the quicker the car the narrower the peak operating window. Shame for Albon but unless RBR go and get an Alonso they are doomed to repeat this problem. Does also show good Danny Ric was for RBR and he’s started to get the Renault to come alive now as well.

    2. recreational_racer
      28th September 2020, 15:08

      square cornering – the new, “best practice” driving style because of the powerful engines. Lewis. Max, and Charles use it. It’s no longer the smooth arch where a twitchy rear becomes more pronounced. I do karting, and the smooth arch is for the traditional non-shifters like Sr Rotax. Square is for the KZ shifters with more power in them.

      1. recreational_racer
        28th September 2020, 15:12

        Also, Charles and Max were KZ racers as young teens. I guess they learned square cornering during that stint of their ‘training’.

  4. Albon is not cutting it. Yuki Tsunoda will replace him next year

    1. @dutchtreat it is not a given that Tsunoda will definitely have enough points to get a superlicence – although he’s currently 3rd in the championship, he only has a 7 point gap between himself and Mazepin in 6th, so it’s a fine margin between him managing to score enough points and failing to score enough.

      It’s also questionable whether it really would be in Red Bull’s interests to place a complete rookie into the main team, as that would place a considerable amount of pressure onto a driver who doesn’t have a huge amount of racing experience.

  5. Verstappen must be amazing.. or Albon is simply not good enough. I am a Verstappen fan, but also I am quite convinced he is not 1.2 faster than good F1 drivers.

    1. @jureo watching the qualifying onboard from Verstappen’s incredible lap, and you you can see that he is just muscling that car around the track. 2-3 counter-steers per corner, particularly on the exits; but even under braking he’s busy at the wheel.

      Albon said in an interview, this level of stability (about Max), “it just doesn’t bother him”.

      It can only be second-nature to Verstappen to be driving a car on knife edge all the time. His reaction times at the wheel are so fast, from outside the car it looks relatively smooth. Like a duck on water, smooth and calm from the outside, paddling like mad underwater.

      But yes, I think Albon is a good driver, but not a great driver. Which is a shame, I really like him. He really needs to try and adapt his driving style to account for constant instability.

    2. No, Verstappen is amazing.

      He destroyed Ricciardo in the end (who has destroyed everyone except Max), destroyed Gasly, destoyed Albon.

      Wouldn’t matter who you make his teammate he’s going to beat them.

      1. He was beaten by Ricciardo though. In the end they didn’t give Ricciardo that would reach the finish, so yeah then Verstappen was “better”

      2. Yeah he didn’t “destroy” DRicc. There were weren’t that many races in which both Red Bulls worked properly.

  6. This just goes to show that adaptability is really what being a top F1 driver is all about. Of course one can luck out with a great car from career start to finish, but it’s rare.

    1. Underrate comment by Balue, this is seen over and over again. Its not easy to understand the cars, and its tyre behaviour. This has been seen many times, especially the later years when especially tyre behaviour is extremely complex. I guess kubica is one good example, or vettel in his ferrari years. Being fast driver in one car doesnt mean you are fast in another car, and can understand it fully. Or just because you where fast several years ago in those cars/tyres doesnt mean you will be fast today.

  7. It all comes down to fast hands and anticipation. Some drivers have a preference for a pointy car, others for a lagging car at the corners. The best drivers will adapt to all situations and read the car’s attitude and compensate.
    Albon needs to relax inside the car and just guide the car not try to always control it or expect that he will tame it.
    As some mentioned earlier, some drivers prefer to square the corner. I believe that is a way to compensate for the car’s handling characteristics. If you turn in early you’ve taken away a good portion of the surprise an unstable car can give you. When you follow a long curve there will be lots of opportunities for the ugly sides in a car’s handling to appear.

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