Alexander Albon admits a power unit penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix takes the pressure off to a degree as he makes his Red Bull debut.
Red Bull opted to replace Pierre Gasly with Albon after the Hungarian Grand Prix, with the Frenchman having struggled throughout his first 12 races with the team. Albon’s first race with his new team will see him starting from the back of the grid as a result of taking an upgraded Honda power unit, and without the direct qualifying comparison with team-mate Max Verstappen he says it removes some of the pressure early on.
“Yeah you could say that (the pressure is off) definitely,” Albon said. “I still would have liked to have qualified properly and seen where I would have gone, but obviously the focus now is not on the short run pace, it’s really trying to set-up the car for Sunday.
“So there is a bit of a more chilled out atmosphere but of course you still want to do a good job on Sunday.”
Albon was fourth quickest in the first practice session on Friday — within 0.1s of Verstappen — but that gap was 0.4s as he ended up 10th when focusing on race pace in FP2.
Dealing with the challenge of driving two different cars in the same season, Albon says he found his improvement rate to be quicker once he was physically in the car after carrying out some simulator work earlier in the week.
“It was a pretty smooth day. I feel quite at home with the guys, they’ve been very nice to me and it is very different (to the Toro Rosso). I could tell that already on Wednesday in the sim and you could tell it’s going to take some time to get used to. But once you are on the track and have the helmet on you can feel the G-forces and you can feel the car a bit better, but it’s just baby steps really.
“It’s just you’ve got the driving style you learn at Toro Rosso and you spend six months driving that way and you come to the Red Bull car and you’ve got a memory of what the other car was like. You have to kind of rewire your brain to start from zero again and go again. It’s not one thing in particular…”