Fantastic Fourth for Alex at the Japanese Grand Prix
Alex scored the best result of his young F1 career, with a battling drive to fourth place at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Expectations were high heading into the home-race of Honda, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team's Power-Unit supplier, but with Super Typhoon Hagibis looming, the weekend was truncated into just two days of track action.
Alex would be tackling Suzuka for the first time, having only ever previously driven it on the simulator.
Considering Alex missed valuable track acclimatisation time with the loss of FP3 that usually precedes Qualifying, he put in a brilliant Q3 performance - setting the exact same time, a 1:27.851 on the final runs of the session.
The grid was decided that Alex would start from P6, for the Japanese Grand Prix, since Max set the lap time first.
As the lights went out for the race star, Alex got a poor start from sixth on the grid, bogging down off the line. This meant he was passed by both McLaren drivers and by the end of lap one found himself in P8 where he began to plot the way forward.
A collision at Turn 1 between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen saw Alex gain a position after his teammates misfortune, moving him up to P7.
He was soon on the attack and on lap four he muscled his way past Lando Norris through the final chicane. Norris protested that he had been forced off track in the incident but the stewards eventually ruled that no further action was necessary and Alex set off after the next McLaren on the road, that of Carlos Sainz.
Alex was soon elevated to P5 when Leclerc was forced to pit for front wing damage received at Turn 1.
The Thai driver caught Sainz, who defended hard until the team decided to pit Alex for his first pitstop of the race on Lap 15 for the Medium tyres and rejoined in P11.
Alex was soon on the march, climbing back through the field to quickly regain P5 by lap 21. Again, he was stuck behind Sainz who was eeking out laps on his first set of tyres as he pursued a one-stop strategy. Eventually the Spanish driver finally peeled off towards the pit entry for his sole stop of the race on Lap 26 and Alex was freed to build a gap ahead of his second stop, emerging in P4.
Alex then managed his race well, looking after his tyres to the end of the race following the completion of his two-stop strategy. He crossed the line after the 53-laps to take the best result of his career to date, with a well-worked and battling P4 at the chequered flag.
Alexander Albon (Car 23):
“Fourth is my F1 career best finish and this weekend has definitely felt like my best with the Team. Immediately from FP1 I felt comfortable with the car and the balance, which is important for a track like Suzuka where you need a lot of confidence, especially on your first visit!
I wanted more in the race and felt like I could have done better at the start but I had too much wheel spin off the line and lost a couple of places to the McLarens. I managed to get back past them but by then I had already lost a lot of time to the lead pack.
The move on Lando for P5 was on, he gave me space and left the door open but it was a bit tight! We then managed to get past Carlos with some good strategy by undercutting him, but from then onwards we were in no man’s land in P4.
It was just about managing the tyres to the end but with Max’s DNF it was good to score some points for the Team and fourth was the best we could do. I’m still finding my feet but overall I’m happy with my pace and progress and we took a step forward this weekend.
Coming into the weekend we probably wanted more, especially for Honda, and we were close but we just didn’t quite have the pace. Now we’ll do our homework and hopefully come back stronger in Mexico."
Formula One next heads to Mexico for Round 18 of the 2019 World Championship, taking place at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City on the 25-27 October.