Alex Denied Maiden Podium and Victory Shot
Alex Albon was denied a shot at his maiden podium and potential race victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, after late-race contact with defending champions Lewis Hamilton, span Alex out of P2 in the opening round of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.
After what seemed like an eternity, Formula One roared back to the life in the first race back following the cancelled Australian Grand Prix in March, after analysing the fluid situation of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Alex got back behind the wheel of the RB16 on Friday for the opening two Free-Practice sessions, setting the 7th and 13th fastest times - analysing the car updates and race pace of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing package.
On Saturday, Alex stepped up in FP3 - setting the 6th fastest time, before delivering in Qualifying to line up P5 on the grid for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.
Alex was elevated to P4 on the grid, following a pre-race penalty for Lewis Hamilton in Qualifying. The Thai driver made a good start on the Soft compound tyres, fending off Hamilton in the early stages to consolodate P4. Alex then began to apply pressure on Norris and on lap three, the Thai driver muscled his way past his old F2 rival in turn four to seize P3.
Alex spent the next four laps defending hard as Hamilton applied pressure but on lap nine there was little the Red Bull man could do as Hamilton got close in turn three and then passed Alex on the high-speed run down to turn four with DRS.
Alex was elevated a position following teammate Max Verstappen encountering technical issues which saw him drop out of race contention on Lap eleven - leaving Alex as the sole remaining Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver in the race.
The safety car was deployed on lap 27, in response to Kevin Magnussen beaching his Haas at turn three. The incident was the cue for a mass round of pit stops as almost the entire field flowed into the pit lane to switch tyres. All except Perez opted for hard compound Pirelli tyres, with the Mexican instead fitting a set of mediums. As a result of the mass stop the order at the top remained unchanged, though the gaps closed.
The race went green again on lap 30 and Bottas held his advantage over Hamilton, with Alex secure in third.
Hamilton began to edge closer to Bottas and by lap 45 the gap between the two was down to half a second. Behind them, Alex was looking solid in third place, with the Red Bull driver now 2.5s ahead of Perez’s Racing Point.
On lap 52 the safety car made its second appearance of the afternoon when George Russell’s Williams expired. Alex took the opportunity to pit, taking on soft tyres, and he emerged in P4 behind Perez.
When racing resumed on lap 55 Alex was quickly on the hunt and when Perez locked up into turn three, Alex dived down the inside and re-took third place.
The safety car was immediately called back to action, though, when Kimi Räikkönen lost his front right tyre on the entry to turn 10 and he was forced to park his Alfa Romeo on the pit straight.
Alex was then told to move past Perez under the safety car and when racing resumed on lap 61 he did so from third place. Out of turn three Alex closed on Hamilton and, seeing a chance, he attacked the Mercedes around the outside.
It looked as though the move would stick but on exit there was contact, Alex spun into the gravel trap and into last place.
Insult was added to injury when on lap 69 his RB16 lost power and he was forced to pull over and retire.
Alexander Albon (Car 23):
“It’s still quite fresh so I’ve got to be careful what I say but there’s nothing to add apart from how frustrating that is. I really think we could have easily won that race.
We had a great strategy, the guys did a great job in the pit stops, yes we had a little bit of fortune with the safety car, but the car was feeling good. The hard tyre wasn’t very strong today and I knew the Mercedes would have cold tyres on the re-start, so I already planned to get past them within a few laps of the safety car coming in. I feel like I had completed the move on Lewis already, and I was thinking about getting Bottas on the next lap.
The contact with Lewis was so late in the corner that it surprised me. I was right on the edge of the track and I knew if I gave him all the space I could it would be up to him if he wants to crash or not. This time I was the one on the attack and he was defending. I wouldn’t say this one hurts more than Brazil but that incident was maybe 50/50 whereas this one isn’t.
Obviously we’ve got next weekend to focus on now, we’ll need a bit of luck to have the same opportunity as today, but let’s see.”
Despite the disappointment from the season opener, Alex will be back in action at the same circuit next weekend for the Steiermark Grand Prix, on the 10-12 July for the second round of the 2020 Formula One World Championship.