Alexander Albon’s first appearance for Red Bull saw him recover from 17th on the grid to finish fifth at the Belgian Grand Prix, and impress team principal Christian Horner.
Albon was promoted to Red Bull in place of Pierre Gasly over the summer break, with the Frenchman returning to Toro Rosso after struggling in the first 12 races this year. Power unit penalties meant Albon started from the back but he produced a strong recovery to finish in the top five in a race that teammate Max Verstappen retired from on the opening lap.
“Alex impressed me all weekend with his approach, his feedback, his pace,” Horner said. “In the race he did a very mature job. The first half of the race we weren’t quite as competitive on the harder tire as we were on the softer tire but he didn’t make any silly mistakes or take any silly risks. He just dialed himself in.
“I said to him on the grid, ‘I think the car will come alive in the second half of the race.’ It certainly did. His move on Daniel (Ricciardo) — we know Daniel’s a tough racer — his move on Sergio (Perez) on the last lap were impressive. To go from P17 to P5 was a very good start.
“I think it was an encouraging start for him. Hopefully he’ll have a clean weekend with a straightforward qualifying in Monza. But certainly he’s made a very favorable impression with the engineering team and in the garage. Certainly a good start.”
Albon says he felt no added pressure racing for Red Bull, and while satisfied with the result he is already focusing on where he needs to improve.
“Relieved? Not really,” Albon said. “To be honest it didn’t seem like a bigger deal to get through. Really I think it’s more the background stuff that has been hyping up the weekend more than myself.
“On my side I’ve just been focusing on it like a normal weekend and getting down to my business. Of course you still want to do well and have a good first race, and I’m quite happy with how it went.
“I struggled a bit in the beginning of the race — I really struggled in that first stint actually. I felt like I struggled with the tires and our pace was there but the corners where we needed to be quick to overtake I wasn’t that quick — the corners before the big straights. It was a tough one and then we boxed and went onto the softer tires and straight away the car felt a lot stronger. That’s when we made our moves, got through the pack and it was a fun race.
“I do definitely think there’s some areas to work on, though. Just heads down really — I’ve got a few days to focus on Monza.”