Alexander Albon secured an excellent fifth place finish on his Red Bull Racing debut at Spa-Francorchamps, with the Thai driver admitting he came into the Belgian Grand Prix weekend feeling nervous about the opportunity that had been presented to him.
Albon had made the switch between the Hungarian and Belgian races from Scuderia Toro Rosso to Red Bull, with Pierre Gasly making the opposite switch, but he came into the event knowing he would be starting towards the back of the grid thanks to engine grid penalties.
Once all the grid penalties sorted themselves out – there were eight in total across the twenty-car field – Albon was to start seventeenth, and he was happy to end up as high as he did in the race.
“I’m very happy. P5 is an amazing result and we’ve got off to a great start,” said Albon. “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.”
Albon said it was difficult to pass cars during the first stint but once he made the switch to the Pirelli soft compound during his pit stop, he was able to make the gains he had been hoping to make earlier on, with one of his highlights being his last lap battle with Racing Point F1 Team racer Sergio Pérez, which ultimately saw the Thai driver claim fifth.
“It was actually a difficult race and in the first stint I struggled with grip in the dirty air and couldn’t overtake anyone,” admitted Albon. “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.”
Albon admits there is still some work to be done to improve with the RB15 and he will be sitting down with his engineers and mechanics to better understand the nuances of the 2019 Red Bull so to have better races going forward, starting this coming weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
“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,” said the Thai driver. “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.”
Albon admitted Saturday night and Sunday morning were extremely tough for everyone due to the passing of FIA Formula 2 racer Anthoine Hubert, someone who most of the rookies on the grid knew well, and he dedicated the race to the Frenchman.
“Last night was very tough, us rookies knew Anthoine very well, so it’s been a stressful few hours and this morning felt strange,” admitted Albon. “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.”