Alex Flies to Fifth in Russian Grand Prix Comeback Drive
Alex Albon completed an excellent comeback drive, from a pit-lane start at the Sochi Autodrom to finish in 5th position in the Russian Grand Prix.
After the team elected to take tactical PU-related engine penalties, it was always going to see Alex needing to make overtakes in the race. However after a small mistake in Qualifying, Alex was forced to start from the pit-lane after the crash damage was forced to be repaired under parc ferme conditions. Meaning he would have to put on a spirited charge through the field on Sunday.
Alex immediately made progress from Lap 1, after a collision at Turn 2 saw the Safety Car deployed - with Alex running up in P16 position already.
When the race restarted, Alex meanwhile quickly cleared Williams’ George Russell after the safety car and then inherited P14 when Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen was handed a drive-through penalty for a jump start. He inherited another place when Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg suffered a slow second pit stop due to a front jack issue and then forced his way past Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat to rise to P12.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed on Lap 27, as previous race leader Sebastian Vettel ground to a halt on the run-off area at Turn 15. One lap later, George Russell experienced a front wheel failure putting him out of the race and bringing out the full Safety Car for the second time in the race.
Alex took this opportunity to complete his one-stop strategy and pit for the Soft tyres for the rest of the race.
The Thai driver made a brilliant restart, passing both Racing Point drivers of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez in quick succession, then quickly passing McLaren's Lando Norris for P7 and continue his charge.
Alex then began to hunt down Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and at the end of lap 42 he launched a late-braking attack into Turn 13 to gain another position on his charge. With P6 claimed he next set off after Sainz who was on the medium tyre.
He capped a brilliant afternoon with an equally brilliant move past Sainz at the start of lap 49. He pulled alongside the Spaniard on the sweep through turn three and then powered past on the entry to the next corner to seal P5 in style.
Alex crossed the line in 5th position, just one position behind teammate Max Verstappen after his epic comeback effort - which saw him gain 15 positions over the course of the 53 lap race.
Alexander Albon (Car 23):
“It was a good race and I think P5 is the best we could have done. I wanted to bounce back and get a good result after yesterday’s crash so I’m really happy with how the race went, although we probably got a bit lucky with the Safety Car. Morale was obviously a little bit low on Saturday night and it was a lot of work for the Team so this result is for them.
Starting from the pit lane was never going to be easy but the pace was quite strong on the softs and it was a good haul of points. I started out of position and had some fun coming back through the field, but I don’t want all of my races to be like that.
I like boring races too so I’m hoping for a cleaner and smoother weekend in Japan. In the first stint I was struggling to get past Daniil and Pierre and it took me a long time. The downforce loss is immense when you’re following in a train of cars which I think is because the track is designed a bit like a street circuit.
Up to the race it had been a tough weekend but I’m getting more comfortable. I just need to get up to speed and in a rhythm earlier on in the weekend, but that will come with more laps and time in the car.
With the exception of Abu Dhabi, all of the remaining tracks will be new for me so Suzuka will be difficult, but I like new tracks.“
The Japanese Grand Prix will host the next race of the 2019 Formula One World Championship, on the 11-13 October.