Alex Excels on Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Debut
Alex delivered a brilliant debut drive for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing at Spa-Francorchamps to claim his best ever F1 finish of fifth place at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Alex was forced to start from the back of grid following a power unit penalty, meaning he would start his maiden Grand Prix for his new team from P17 on the grid. It was action right from the start, as he had to quickly navigate around the slow-starting McLaren of Carlos Sainz, before a collision involving Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen brought out the Safety Car at the end of the opening lap.
Alex found himself in 14th position at the restart, sandwiched between the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and 15th-placed Daniel Ricciardo. Progress was hard to come by as a train of cars were all within one second of each other, creating a DRS train that made overtaking difficult. Alex moved up to 13th when Hulkenberg pitted on lap 11 and Alex then set off in pursuit of the Alfa Romeo Racing car of Antonio Giovinazzi who was a second ahead. The Alfa driver then passed Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Alex followed suit on the ned of lap 15 to seize 12th position with a bold overtake at the Bus Stop chicane.
Alex continued his rise up the order. Thanks to pit stops from the soft-tyres starters ahead of him, the Thai driver found himself in eighth place on lap 20, running a long first stint on the Medium compound tyre - before pitting on Lap 23 for the Soft compound, which he would run to the end of the race.
The car in Alex's words "came alive" on the softer tyre, as Alex made rapid progress in the remaining 20 laps and began to power through the pack. Lap 30 saw Alex move into a points paying position and continued his charge, overtaking Pierre Gasly into Les Combes to seize 9th, followed by a brilliant move around the outside of Renault's Daniel Ricciardo before Pouhon corner to moving into 8th position a couple of laps later.
Alex quickly closed in on former teammate Danil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso, making a move stick to take 7th position on Lap 38 down the Kemmel Straight.
Into the final laps, Alex had managed to close down a nine second gap to the Racing Point of Sergio Perez starting the penultimate lap. After a bit of wheel banging at the Bus Stop Chicane, they both passed the stranded McLaren of Lando Norris on the start/finish straight to move into the battle for 5th position.
His rival attempted to lure Alex into overtaking him at La Source, in order to gain the DRS benefit and re-pass him down the Kemmel Straight, but Alex was wise to this, biding his time to stalk his rival up Eau Rouge and Radillon to make his move on Perez on the long run to Les Combes. It was a brave pass too, as Perez squeezed him onto the grass to defend his position, but Alex kept his foot in to steal 5th position on the final lap - powering towards his best ever F1 finish after gaining 12 positions on his debut with the new team.
Alexander Albon (Car 23):
“I’m very happy. P5 is an amazing result and we’ve got off to a great start. I had some good fun out there and I enjoyed this race a lot. I started off the weekend very nervous and if you had told me I’d finish the race fifth I’d be very happy, but I’m a bit more relaxed now. It was actually a difficult race and in the first stint I struggled with grip in the dirty air and couldn’t overtake anyone. But then once we pitted for the soft tyres, the car came alive and I was like - now we can do something!
The last lap was really good, I had a good fight with Sergio where we were both on the grass and it made for some good racing. There are definitely some areas I need to improve on and over the next few days I’ll get my head down, do some homework and address them for Monza. I will sit down with the Team and understand why I struggled at the start, but I am still finding out the car’s little tricks and adapting to it.
I didn’t really feel too much pressure coming into the weekend, I think the media thought I was going to, but I’ve enjoyed my week with the Team. It’s been a good experience and a different way of working.
Last night was very tough, us rookies knew Anthoine very well, so it’s been a stressful few hours and this morning felt strange.
When you know a person and when they’re at the race track, it’s a very difficult atmosphere, so we dedicate this race to him.”
Alex will be back in action in just one weeks time, as the next round of the 2019 Formula One World Championship will take place at Monza, Italy on the 6-8 September.