Alexander Albon finally took his maiden podium finish in Formula 1 on Sunday, with the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver finishing third behind the two Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.
Twice before during his career he had been on course to take a podium only for lady luck to desert him, with collisions with Lewis Hamilton in last years Brazilian Grand Prix and this year’s Austrian Grand Prix ending his chances of a top three finish.
The Thai driver was made to work hard for his result, with late moves needed to move up from fifth to third, with his late race pass on Daniel Ricciardo around the outside of turn one bringing him into the podium places.
“I’m really happy and it took a while to get here!” said Albon. “It’s something I’ve always wanted and one way or another we haven’t been able to get it so to be there today is pretty special.
“It’s really nice to give the Team something back after they’ve supported me since day one and show them what I can do. It was a tough race and definitely not one of the easy ones. This track is brutal, especially the high speed corners in sector two, and with so many re-starts to manage we had our work cut out.
“We struggled to get off the line so I knew I had to be aggressive to get all the overtakes done but we had a really good car and we know it’s good on the brakes so we used that to our advantage.
“When we lost two positions on the final re-start, I was fired up as I wasn’t going to let the opportunity of a podium go by so I pushed hard to get third and I’m over the moon with today’s result.”
“I know this could have been a really good race for us” – Max Verstappen
Whereas Albon was able to get on the podium, team-mate Max Verstappen was forced to retire for a second consecutive weekend, with the Dutchman ending up involved in a crash involving Pierre Gasly, Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean at turn two on lap one.
Starting from third on the grid, Verstappen was able to draw alongside Hamilton at the start but immediately he lost power and dropped back into the midfield, and with limited pace he was collected by Gasly after the Frenchman had already collided with Räikkönen on his way into turn two.
Verstappen’s afternoon was over in the gravel trap, but he knew it was the engine issue that was the main reason for his retirement as it put him directly into the firing line.
“I am of course very disappointed as I know this could have been a really good race for us,” said Verstappen. “I had a good launch at the start of the race and went around Lewis but then the car just didn’t accelerate so I lost a lot of speed and had no power.
“I then dropped back into the midfield and got hit from behind. When you drop into the middle of the pack in the first few corners like that it’s quite easy to get involved in a crash so I’m not disappointed about that, we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place.
“There isn’t much more to say but it is just really disappointing for the Team that we had to retire again, especially when we looked so competitive but it is of course good to see Alex maximize the result and get on the podium.”
“I think this podium will give him a boost of confidence” – Christian Horner
Christian Horner, the Team Principal at Red Bull, was delighted to see Albon finally grab that maiden Formula 1 podium on Sunday, even if he rued the engine issue and crash that eliminated the other car of Verstappen on the opening lap.
Horner felt Albon was able to put all the criticism that has been thrown his way behind him at Mugello as he took third place behind the two Mercedes drivers, with some good overtakes moving him from fifth to third in the final stint.
“A bittersweet day but it’s fantastic to see Alex take his first F1 podium,” said Horner. “He’s done a great job all weekend and he had to pass some tough competitors to fight his way back through the field after a couple of difficult starts.
“All credit to him because he hasn’t let the negativity or external criticism get him down, he’s picked himself up and put in a first class performance. I think this podium will give him a boost of confidence and self-belief and I’m sure he will only get stronger from here.”
Horner was disappointed that Verstappen was eliminated early, and he expects Honda to find the cause to why he suffered another technical issue with his engine in as many weeks after a problem also brought his Italian Grand Prix to an early end.
“Unfortunately, Max was unable to show us what he had today after such a promising qualifying and positive feeling ahead of the race,” said Horner. “He did the hard bit with a great initial launch and was alongside Lewis, but then he experienced a loss of power which caused him to drop into the middle of the pack where he was hit from behind, ending his race in the gravel.
“It is enormously disappointing for him because he was really up for it today and you could see we had a good overall package. The issue is being looked into by Honda and the Team in order to ensure this does not happen again.”