Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021

“Pure talent” Albon was unlucky to coincide with Verstappen – Vasseur

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In the round-up: Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur, who has overseen the careers of several future Formula 1 drivers, believes the timing of Alexander Albon’s arrival in F1 was unfortunate.

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In brief

Albon “a bit unlucky” with timing – Vasseur

Albon arrived in F1 with Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) in 2019 and was quickly promoted to Red Bull halfway through the year. He lost his drive alongside Max Verstappen at the end of last season and is now the team’s reserve driver.

However his future with the team is unclear. Albon recently visited an IndyCar race where he met with ex-F1 racer Romain Grosjean, who joined the series this year.

Vasseur, who ran Lewis Hamilton among other drivers in GP2 before taking over in charge of Alfa Romeo’s F1 team, said Albon was “a pure talent in the junior series” even before he began racing cars.

“[He was] one, probably, of the most [high] performing guys in go-karts,” Vasseur told RaceFans. Albon was part of Red Bull’s Junior Team in 2012, but lost his place on the programme, while Verstappen was snapped up by the team in 2014. “He was a bit unlucky to be in front of Max,” Vasseur added.

The current crop of young drivers in F1 has impressed the Alfa Romeo team boss, including Pierre Gasly, Albon’s predecessor at Red Bull who remains with AlphaTauri. “Pierre Gasly, all this generation, even Esteban [Ocon] who is doing a good job, all these guys they will arrive all at the top at the same stage,” said Vasseur.

“For F1, for sure you will have always one or two teams dominating, but at least you will have five or six drivers at the top.”

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

Ferrari chairman signals start at Le Mans

John Elkann, Le Mans, 2021
Elkann waved off the starters at Le Mans
Ferrari chairman John Elkann performed the ceremonial role as starter for the Le Mans 24 Hours yesterday.

His predecessor Luca di Montezemolo did the same in 2009, at a time when the team’s commitment to Formula 1 was uncertain and a move to Le Mans’ top class was mooted. That never came about, but Ferrari’s entry into the leading Le Mans Hypercar class in 2023 was announced earlier this year.

Grosjean pleased with car balance after first oval qualifying

Grosjean qualified 14th out of 24 cars for his first oval race at Gateway after setting a two-lap average speed of 286.8kph. The Coyne/Rick Ware driver said he was pleased with his car’s balance for the 260-lap race.

“It’s something very, very new,” said Grosjean. “I’m very happy with the first lap I did, a bit less with the second one. But I think we’ve done a good job of giving me a car I’m confident with and hopefully we can put up something later today.”

He said his first goal for the race was to “Go to the end, get some experience.”

“I think we’ve got a decent car for the race so I’m happy with that,” he added.

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Comment of the day

Do Yuki Tsunoda’s struggles this year show Red Bull are hurrying drivers into F1 too soon?

I keep struggling with letting F1 be a training ground.

It seems to me the pinnacle of motorsport shouldn’t be this. Drivers should stick around lower classes longer if they’re not ready yet.

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On this day in motorsport

  • 50 years ago today John Surtees won the non-championship Gold Cup race at Oulton Park for the second year in a row, ahead of Howden Ganley and Frank Gardner.

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  • 58 comments on ““Pure talent” Albon was unlucky to coincide with Verstappen – Vasseur”

    1. I know most of the comments regarding Albon are going to be unkind but I agree with Vasseur. Given Albon’s inexperience and lack of preparation for F1 compared nearly every other driver on the grid he performed very well and certainly deserved to still be in F1.

      1. @rocketpanda I agree with you completely, and I’ll go so far to say that Albon should be given the same chance that Gasly and Kvyat were given, namely a seat back at Alphatauri for a second kick at the can. And if it doesn’t work out, maybe they can give Tsunoda a second chance down the road too. Man, I am feeling generous tonight!

      2. I agree, I thought I’d seen enough to see him get demoted back to the Alpha Tauri team as opposed to kicking him out completely. I think he would probably be in a better position than Tsunoda is currently and I think that Tsunoda would have really benefited from another year in the junior category before moving up. They might end up squandering both their careers because they didn’t give Alvin a little more slack and they Promoted Tsunoda before he was ready

        1. I happen to think the Redbulls were placed on different strategies. Verstappen was trusted with the ‘secret sauce’ whilst the rookies were given the standard mix. They qualified differently and drove the race differently. This approach was made all the more likely with the [apparent] ban on qualifying engine modes.

          1. Any proof or link on that? Otherwise be silent or you will be called out…

      3. It’s not just that, but in a #2 car pretty much devoid of support, always behind on car development and used as a pawn for the #1 driver often, there is not much you can expect from them either.

        Albon and Gasly demonstrated they perform a lot better in a more balanced team like STR.

        1. Vallteri, this is James.
          Vallteri, this is James again.
          Hey Vallteri, guess who.
          Sorry, Vallteri, this is James again.
          Hey buddy, James speaking.

          Yeah, being a #2 must be hell.

          Reply moderated
        2. Repeating nonsense does not make it true. Something you do not seem to grasp.
          Both cars and drivers get the same support. Yes sometimes brandnew parts will show up on the car of the fastest driver first.
          But next race the difference is gone.
          It’s not uncommon to have the best development driver leading the direction. Ver is one of the most impressive development drivers according to people who do know. His technical input is accurate and shows a deep insight in the engineering.
          Albon is not that great and was very depending on the setup finalised by ver. So if you are not able to tell the engineers where to change the setting up, you have a problem.

          1. It’s all facts. The fact that you choose to ignore them doesn’t make them any less facts.

        3. That said. Look at Riccardio and Norris. In that sitation Daniel finds the car counter intuitive to the way he has always driven an F1 car, and for that reason is finding it hard to adapt to. You have to wonder about the way the Redbull is set up, and if there are other reasons why the #2 drivers find it so much harder to manage.

        4. I really don’t understand this argument in general, that one driver is knowingly left to flounder. There are literaly millions on the line decided by the performance of both cars, why would a team give one of their drivers no support? I understand that one car might get preferential treatment on strategy for example but what would be the reason to actually promote the performance disparity?

          1. Well it can make sense to focus on one driver. If they only focus on Verstappen then they can develop his car faster than if they need to make two of everything.

            Ferrari and Red Bull have been doing this forever. To great effect with Schumacher and Vettel.

            Teams like Williams and Mercedes opt to have two drivers supported and hope that they spread their chances and that having two supported driver propels the whole team forward.

            Both methods seem to work

          2. Konstantinos, leaving aside the question over whether Red Bull practice such behaviour (it seems most here have already made up their minds on that point) and turning to your other question: it might seem illogical, but the history of the sport is littered with examples of teams that did sacrifice success in the World Constructors Championship in return for World Drivers Championship success.

            One motivating factor might be that, if the team thinks they would end up in roughly the same place in the WCC if they had two similar performance drivers who roughly shared points between them anyway, then they might decide that prioritising one driver might not necessarily cost them that much in the WCC.

            Against that, a team might decide that prioritising one driver and getting them higher up in the WDC might be more profitable overall. If the press focus on the driver who is doing well in the WDC, that increased press coverage may be a means of drawing in more sponsors that flock to that high profile driver and helps to pump up the overall value of the team if the positive press for that driver outweighs that of the other driver doing more poorly.

            Similarly, certain sponsors may also be prepared to pay performance bonuses if that driver finishes higher up in the WDC or even wins the WDC, which adds a commercial incentive. Popularising a driver and turning them into a star could also offer opportunities to cash in on that success too, particularly where there is strong interest in their home nation.

            Others teams have also done so when they have had a driver whom they are particularly keen to hold onto, and where they might feel that holding onto them is worth sacrificing the performance of their other driver. The whole dynamic around Senna at Lotus is a famous historical example, with Senna insisting that Lotus had to prioritise him and vetoing their plans to hire Derek Warwick because Warwick was too good and thus the team would have to give Warwick a greater share of their resources than Senna was prepared to tolerate. In that situation, Lotus backed down and gave Senna whatever he wanted.

            In some cases, if the team also doesn’t expect that second driver to be with the team for the long term, that second driver can also have support cut off – sometimes in an effort to push them towards resigning, since that can be cheaper for a team (if the driver chooses to walk, then the team might not have to compensate them for cutting their contract short), or if the driver is moving to another team, they may be cutting off support because they don’t want them taking information to another team.

        5. I don’t believe your opinions.

    2. @rocketpanda @ferrox-glideh

      Also agree, I believe Red Bull has to be highly complemented with their ability to picking out very young drivers, help develop & support them within lower level classes (Brendon Hartley not included) but also have to say they’ve done a terrible job at putting young drivers who are not yet ready for F1’s big show, then telling them its going to be the very brutal “swim quick or drown” scenario. They’ve been going through junior drivers like popcorn. I think Albon and Gasly would have done substantially much better if they were given one more season to develop before throwing them in the deep end. Red Bull could have had much lower driver attrition.

      I believe all of those young drivers could have greatly benefitted from another season in the lower classes to gain more training, maturity while making those young drivers move closer to their F1 facilities to be involved in engineer meetings, be in the F1 paddocks, do lots of F1 sim training and observe f1 drivers briefing and debriefing meetings while in still developing in F2 so they can better understand the environment and pressure before throwing them in the very deep end and yell swim.

      Red Bull has never had a jr driver do better than 3rd in the F2 championships but still puts them in F1. Next up is Jüri Vips, again a driver who has not yet mastered F2 yet but next up.

      1. Rob (@realnigelmansell)
        22nd August 2021, 5:33

        To play devil’s advocate, I think they only care for swim talents in the sink or swim scenario. Vettel, Riccardo, and max. One max is better for the brand than four albons. But I do agree it’s rough on the drivers and hope albon gets another shot and gasly another shot with a top team. Maybe he can replace Fernando at Renault

        1. Atleast Red Bull Youngsters get a chance to prove their worth at the big team.

          Reply moderated
      2. Brendon Hartley not included

        I’m not sure why Brendon was excluded from the list of drivers you complimented Red Bull for helping. Brendon has 2 FIA World Endurance Championships to his credit and is currently leading the World Endurance Championship. He also was one of the drivers who took part in winning 2 24 hours of Le Mans races. The team he is part of is currently involved in another 24 hour race.

        1. @drycrust I think it is more over whether Red Bull really helped Hartley all that much given that he went on to a career in sportscar racing, rather than single seater racing, and was probably helped more by Porsche than by Red Bull with regards to his development as a driver.

      3. Hartley is a great driver too, just maybe not particularly suited to F1. They made no mistake by supporting him.

        1. @drycrust @ferrox-glideh

          Hartley was not included (as said above) as he did don’t go through the normal Red Bull Junior system like the others did.

          Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Hartley was dropped from Red Bull half way through the Renault 3.5 season in 2010, but later returned a couple of times on Red Bull’s roster and also did some work for Mercedes as a test & sim driver.

          If you go look at his open wheel racing record, I hate to say it but it doesn’t look great or really show any decent results since 2007 when he was 14 yrs old. Most of his open wheel seasons since then were mid-group or lower finishes. I think his performance in F1 pretty much mirrored his earlier open wheel career results. When you look at the other Red Bull juniors racing records who made it to F1 and you’ll see a very stark difference in performances.

          I’ll admit as a big fan following sportcar racing, I was really excited to hear whispers of putting Hartley into a F1 Toro Rosso car for the season after Porsche bailed out of WEC. I was really pushing for him to do well but he ended up having the worst finishes in F1 in those seasons and his teammate Pierre Gasly always finished significantly better than him. It was not to be and tough to watch.

          While open wheel racing may not be suited for him, he has proven to be a race winning driver in LMP racing; winning Le Mans twice, once with Porsche and once with Toyota. Also twice being on the winning team for the WEC Championship teams and could repeat again this season, although he finished 2nd in Le Mans.

          1. @redpill Only once did he return to Red Bull’s roster after his 2010 driver program ousting. He, like Albon, only got an F1 chance through luck as RB lacked available drivers at the time in likewise circumstances, i.e., after a pre-F1 program ousting. BTW, he turned 18 in 2007 (he’s 1989-born like Ricciardo and Bottas).

            1. @jerejj

              You’re correct, my math was off by four years. And also correct about RB, I thought Hartley was not with Red Bull while he was at Porsche but his Helmut had the RB logo.

    3. I disagree with the albon part, or better yet, I was not aware he was dropped to make place for verstappen, BUT as far as I see it the only demotion from red bull the main team that was not justified was the one of kvyat, that’s the only one that only makes sense cause there was a generational talent waiting they were eager to promote, so imo no excuses for gasly and albon, they didn’t perform at red bull, but kvyat was doing better than both of them and got demoted to make place for verstappen, THAT is what unluck is.

      1. @esploratore1 Indeed. Kvyat lost his drive in the senior team for less than Gasly and Albon, given he didn’t really underperform. RB merely waited for one bad race (2016 Russian GP), which they could use as an excuse for bringing forward a switch that probably would’ve happened for the following season at the latest anyway.

      2. Nah Kvyat was very underwhelming in Red Bull. Was usually off the pace and only finished ahead of Danny Ric in 2015 because Danny had so many unlucky races with crashes or punctures or Dnfs. In 2016 Max was being looked at by Ferrari and this made Red Bull make the decision to drop Kvyat. Important to note too Kvyat had a terrible race the week before in Russia crashing 3 times in the race. He’d also had some races where his pace was significantly slower than Ricciardo. Albon by far the most brutal rejection Red Bull have done. Dropped him out of the sport completely. Kvyat was given another 2 years in Torro Rosso to show other teams his worth but he didn’t do well enough. Albon never got that chance which he more than deserved.

        Reply moderated
        1. @LS No, Kvyat is the one least-deserving of losing an RBR drive. Albon probably would’ve got a chance this season w/o Tsunoda’s presence.

      3. Spot on. On a down the road effect I’d rather see Albon in the second AT (over Yuki). Let Yuki do the simulator while working on his composure.

    4. COTD: Red Bull should allow their drivers to develop. They appear to be more desperate with the 2nd driver in the car in recent years. 3 drivers in 3 years. Ouch. It’s nice to have new drivers in the seats constantly, but being aggressive with the demotion or promotion could affect them badly psychologically.

      1. When your preferred driver drops the contract at the last minute and you have 4 young top talents, it seems only logical to give them a chance by throwing them into the deep end.

        You know immediately whois capable.

        Reply moderated
      2. @krichelle

        That was their plan, but then Ricciardo left…

    5. Pure talent rises to the top quickly. No reason to give Albon any more of a chance than they did. Next.

      1. @darryn Especially considering how he got a chance in the first place following his 2012 driver program ousting.

        1. He got a chance fairly because he had been very competitive in GP3 only coming 2nd behind Charles Leclerc. Then in F2 only coming 3rd behind Russel and Norris. He more than deserved a second chance. Think you just don’t really care for him which is fine. I’m not a fan either but he deserved a chance and imo should still be in F1 in place of Tsunoda who will get dropped soon. Inevitable. He wasn’t ready for F1.

          Reply moderated
          1. @LS I meant he wouldn’t have become an F1 driver in the first place if RB didn’t lack available drivers at the time since he had signed for Nissan’s FE team, meaning FE was his planned career move post-2018 F2 season.
            Thus, pure luck, things suddenly changed in late-2018.

      2. @darryn, @jerejj It’s not really fair if they are treated that clearly and badly as a no2 drivers. Perez is now getting fed up with it and says he doesn’t want to continue a next season as contractual designated #2 driver. That’s just how Red Bull operate though. I guess he hopes they cannot find another patsy to fill that #2 seat again.

        Verstappen gets updates several races before the No2 car, the car is fully developed to suit his driving style, he gets the prime strategy, the no2 is used as a pawn for Verstappen during the race (especially with Albon this was really bad). How can you expect the no2 driver to ever feel OK in the car? They are already set back by about a second a lap just by all the disadvantages.

        1. They are already set back by about a second a lap just by all the disadvantages.

          It seems that RBR is even reducing their PU output, just to upset you.

        2. Coventry Climax
          22nd August 2021, 14:35

          Bottas seems to do very fine indeed, and Barrichello too, never had any problems being in that role.
          Apart from that, there is no evidence to backup the idea that Gasly, Albon etc. were simply used to backup Verstappen. And if so, they (meaning either Red Bull or the drivers themselves) made a very poor job of it.
          Perez saying he doesn’t want to be the no.2 driver is also a way for him to hide his deficiencies. I think situations on track too often obscure his decisive ability, for a driver with his experience. In other words; too hot-headed, not wanting to admit -temporary- defeat, not abiding his time, whatever you want to call it, it results in him having to either note another DNF or having to fight his way back from way down the order too often.

          I would like to see how Albon performs, given another chance with Red Bull, Alpha Tauri or any another team, because I feel he had very little preparation time indeed.

          Mr. Marko has only once said he regretted sending off someone. It was either Buemi or Vergne, I don’t recall which.

          1. Bottas is not a #2, het gets exactly the same chances as Hamilton does. Apart from that one time in 2018 when they asked him to let Hamilton past.

            there is no evidence to backup the idea that Gasly, Albon etc. were simply used to backup Verstappen.

            Apart from all the times they called in Albon for no good reason clearly just to try a certain compound of tyres etc?

            Every technical anlysis shows that Verstappen car is one or two specs ahead of Perez’s car. These are all easily verifiable facts if you just want to actually see them.

            Plus you see how great Albon was actually performing at alomost the same level as Gasly when Gasly was in the Red Bull and Albon in STR. Same thing when Albon moved to RB and Gasly was close to Albon at STR. There is a reason they perform almost as well in a car that;s a whol etier lower than the Red Bull. It’s due to being the #2 Red Bull driver.

        3. The fastest driver gets the new updates first. All teams use this approach.
          Not all updates that work for ver are per definition suited for the other driver.
          We see regular differences in parts and setup at merc. Like the different wings on both cars in Monaco and Baku. Bottas tried another one, so be it

          1. For Red Bull and Ferrari that is the case yes, but not at teams like Mercedes or Williams and at times McLaren.

            Mercedes only rolls out a new update when they have two of them. Indeed if Bottas decides to run with it and Hamilton not or vice versa then fine. The thing is Perez doesn’t get these parts at all. Not during practice not during the race. Never until they have enough parts to make sure Verstappen has enough.

            Maybe they will change that this year since Bottas clearly has no shot anymore, but normally Bottas gets exactly the same chances and Mercedes go out of their way to make it a fair fight. Even in not letting Hamilton choose an alternative strategy when he’s behind. Since that race in Silverstone where Hamilton was behind and won due to a different strategy. Of course that means Bottas also does not get the alternate strategy to get back at Hamilton, but that’s equal for both.

            Perez seems to have had enough of this too and is negotiating for equal treatment in his contract rather than continuing with the #2 clause fixed in.

        4. @f1osaurus Fair enough argument. I just don’t watch F1 for fairness. If you are going to knock off a top driver like Hamilton or Verstappen you really need to be good. RB doesn’t see that in Albon. I like RB’s approach. Give a guy a chance against the #1 and if he doesn’t do it like Albon through another in there. If he does like Riccardo then depose the former #1 and move on.

    6. I could’ve expected these kinds of words from Horner or Marko, but not really Vasseur.

      AusGP’s realistic chance is probably at the season’s tail-end, though, like rescheduled this season before ultimate cancellation. This is if the mid-2022 reference for Australia’s normality return is accurate.

      While COTD has a point, I don’t quite feel this way about Tsunoda.

    7. Re Albon: Don’t know how his career would’ve been if he stayed at RB’s programme. Also, Vasseur has some good opinions.
      Re WEC tweet: Quite a sight, eh?
      Re COTD: Somewhat agree.

    8. How nice for Giovinazzi to know his boss has all this praise for Albon, Gasly, and Ocon.

      1. Gio shouldn’t even be in F1. He clearly is one of the weakest talents to be supported by a major team in years and has zero chance of ever making it to SF beyond maybe filling in temporary for a sick/injured driver. He must have a great personal relationship with someone influential at Ferrari for them to continue wasting money and reputation on him. At least Kimi brings sponsors and fans to compensate for declining performances.

    9. COTD is spot on in my opinion. F1 should be a race of champions, and the absolute top of motorsport. And while Tsunoda showed something in the second half of his F2 campaign, it all feels a bit too rushed and his racing record isn’t particularly stellar. And seeing him failing is not pleasant at all as the pressure keeps piling on him, he doesn’t look ready for it unfortunately.

      I wonder though whether this trend will continue in a costcap-limited era. Crashes will cost even more and betting on experienced drivers could be a sensible choice ?

      1. @spoutnik I’m hopeful he’ll improve and eventually stop crashing.

      2. Problem is it has always been a sport of pay drivers and a few of the best. There aren’t enough of the best to fill even the tiny grid we see today.

    10. Coventry Climax
      22nd August 2021, 14:44

      I agree with the COTD that F1 should not be a training facility. But do not forget that Tsunoda -most likely- was an important pawn in the play between Red Bull and Honda. This suggests there is an underlying problem to drivers being promoted prematurely.

    11. @keithcollantine feed back for you. As of 17.03 GMT there is no coverage of the 24 hours of LeMans. I’m mega surprised that a site that changed its name from f1fanatic to racefans hasn’t covered any of one of racings most famous races

      1. @broke1984 While I agree that a bit more Le Mans coverage would be nice (and there is a little bit in the round up, so not absolutely nothing), I don’t think the coverage will have been lacking as long as a decent race report, like the ones Hazel does for FE, is provided. The site’s About page says:

        RaceFans specialises in Formula 1 news and has a journalist attending most of the races on the 2020 F1 calendar. We also cover Formula E from the paddock and report on IndyCar, the World Endurance Championship and Formula Two among other racing championships.

        I don’t think trying to report on a 24 hour race is always a great idea, as anything you publish will go out of date pretty quickly (and a full live blog for a 24 hour race? That’s a lot of effort. Maybe a 12 hour update could have been nice, but it all comes down to what people can do and when.

        And I expect the site was renamed from F1Fanatic to RaceFans more because Liberty Media came knocking and asked the name to change to protect their trademark (which they have a right to do). I have no proof, so it may have been so they could cover more categories, but the timing (2018, not long after Liberty took over), and the recent purge of YouTubers with F1 in their name makes me suspicious that the trademark may have been a problem.

        1. I disagree. The race was over and there was no mention of the winner

      2. Interesting. I didn’t even know it was going on. I was waiting for the new hypercar class which I thought was next year, but just found out was already in it. I guess I’m still somehow stuck in 2020.

      3. @broke1984 Thanks for your question – I’ve put an explanation here: World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours coverage

        because Liberty Media came knocking and asked

        To be clear, we had no such request from Liberty Media.

    12. Agreed. Especially when a driver mentioned in the comments above, finished 2nd at Le Mans earlier…

    13. Soorya Narayanan
      23rd August 2021, 8:14

      Is it Moto-boxing or motor racing?

      Reply moderated

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