Alexander Albon insists he cannot wait to get started this weekend at Albert Park as the twenty-two-year-old prepares himself for his Grand Prix debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso, although pre-season testing was a shock to the system, with modern-day Formula 1 car’s completely different to anything he had previously experienced.
Albon is only the second driver from Thailand to race in Formula 1, and the first since Prince Birabongse Bhanudej in 1954, with the FIA Formula 2 graduate joining Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso for his maiden campaign in the premier single seater category.
He says he did have some nerves ahead of his first outing with Toro Rosso during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, although he was eager to learn what needed to be done to be able to prepare himself for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.
“After the sessions in Barcelona, I can’t wait to get to Melbourne and my first F1 race,” said Albon. “Before testing began, there were some pre-test nerves and I was keen to know if I would be able to learn about the car quickly enough and be comfortable with it.”
Albon’s first outing in a Formula 1 car came during pre-season testing and despite a few issues, including a first day spin, he was happy with the progress made, and he admits the car is such a different beast to tame than anything he has previously experienced, something he had to quickly adapt to on track.
“Having done my four days, I think Toro Rosso and I can be happy with how it went,” said Albon. “For my first drive in a Formula 1 car, I found the car really impressive. Your mind can’t really understand how quick it is until you actually drive it.
“The cars are just at a different level to anything I’ve driven before. On the first day, despite all the training I had done, I felt my neck muscles a bit, but that got better and better every time I drove the car because your body adapts.”
Albon says it was only on his final day of testing that he felt comfortable within the car knowing what he had to do to push to the edge, and he credits his team for giving him the confidence to push more to the limit.
“By Day 2, I started to feel I had a good understanding of what to do in the car to be quick, but it was only on the last day of the test that I began to feel comfortable on the edge, even if there’s still a way to go,” said the Anglo-Thai driver.
“My team has been very helpful, also because Toro Rosso has so much experience helping rookie drivers. They are very open and they know what rookies struggle with. I found it relatively seamless working with my race and data engineers as they got me up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Albon has never raced around the Albert Park circuit previously and admits the early runs during free practice will be taken to acclimatise himself to the venue, while he’ll also be acclimatising to the processes that take place across a Grand Prix weekend.
“My only experience of Albert Park is on the simulator,” said Albon. “It’s a really bumpy circuit so understanding the bumps and the kerbs is important as, in order to be quick, you need to know exactly where on track to place the car.
“I will also have to get used to the track evolution from FP1 through to qualifying as the circuit is not used during the year. Apart from actually driving the car, I will have to get accustomed to the fast pace of a race weekend, particularly qualifying for example, so I was pleased to be able to simulate that on my final test day.
“I’ll just have to experience it for real once we get to Melbourne.”