Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 21, 2024
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WILLIAMS F1 MEDIA DATABASE / CC BY-SA 3.0

John and Mendes Queiroz recap Alex Albon’s time in the motorsport limelight thus far.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held on Sunday, Nov. 26, marked the end of the 2023 Formula 1 (F1) Championship. It was somewhat of a dramatic finale — although both Drivers and Constructors Championships had long been decided due to Max Verstappen’s unwavering dominance. Ferrari and Mercedes went into the last race of the season with the intention of claiming second place in the Constructors Championship. A risky strategy call by Ferrari, which ended up forcing Carlos Sainz to a second pitstop, coupled with strong race performances by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, led Mercedes to finish three points ahead of the Prancing Horses.

In this melee of top-team clashes, it can be easy to dismiss one of the most interesting stories of this year’s season: Alexander Albon. Today, we’re focusing on his inspiring season at Williams Racing F1 Team, his rocky story at Red Bull and what lies ahead for the 27-year-old driver. 

Early F1 career at Toro Rosso

A world karting champion — winning the CIK-FIA European Championship in 2010 and the CIK-FIA World Cup in 2011 — Albon was destined for motorsport greatness at an early age. He climbed the ranks of the junior motorsport ladder, racing alongside current F1 race winners, including the likes of Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Russell. 

Albon’s two feeder series championships — placing second in the 2016 GP3 season and placing third in the 2018 Formula 2 (F2) season — were marred by financial difficulties. In an interview with Motorsport.com, he revealed how his contract for the 2018 F2 season was renewed on a week-by-week basis. Albon credits his Thai heritage, as well as the Thai sponsors who provided him the financial backing to continue in the sport. 

Albon began his F1 Career in 2019 at Scuderia Toro Rosso, now known as Alpha Tauri, after being released from his Formula E contract with Nissan. The Thai and British driver had been dropped from the Red Bull drivers program in 2012, but his impressive performance in the F2 2018 season landed him an opportunity with Red Bull’s sister team for the 2019 season.

He made his F1 debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, starting a strong season that saw him finish in the points three times in the first six races with an impressive recovery drive in the Chinese Grand Prix. 

Stint at Red Bull

After the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing announced that Pierre Gasly would be demoted to Torro Rosso and Alex Albon would partner with Verstappen at the senior team. Albon quickly adapted to the challenge, finishing the year eighth in the Constructors Championship, the highest-ranked rookie on the grid. Albon had remarkable finishes in the Belgian Grand Prix — charging up the grid from 17th place — as well as at the United States Grand Prix — finishing fifth after three pit stops. These performances secured his Red Bull seat for another year. 

However, the 2020 F1 season was more challenging. The Red Bull car was notoriously difficult to drive that year, and Albon struggled, scoring 105 points to Verstappen’s 214. In The Players Tribune Magazine, Albon explained how the car didn’t fit his driving style; the front end of the car was extra sensitive, making it extremely difficult to stay within the limits.

Although he stood on two podiums that season, Albon was demoted to a test and reserve driver role for the 2021 season.    

Reserve driver for Red Bull Racing

While this may have been the end of many drivers’ F1 aspirations, Albon proved his worth during his year away from Formula 1. As a test driver, he worked with the engineers and the trackside team to provide feedback on how to develop the car. F1 is both a drivers championship and a manufacturing championship — Formula 1 teams are constantly changing their cars, adding new bits and pieces and adjusting brake balances.

Albon would test each of the different setups in Red Bull’s virtual simulator, ironing out the kinks of the car even before Verstappen or Sergio Perez stepped into the seat. He was credited by team principal Christian Horner as one of the many people who were essential to Red Bull’s championship success in 2021. Albon’s tenacity caught the eye of many in the paddock, including then-team principal Williams Jost Capito.

Williams resurgence

As Russell departed for Mercedes at the end of the 2021 season, Williams was in the market for a driver to compete alongside Canadian Nicholas Latifi. The British racing team, which had finished dead last three times in four years, announced Albon’s signing early on in September as Capito praised him as “one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport.” 

Needless to say, the young driver has more than repaid that confidence. After a disappointing 2022 season, Albon single-handedly raised Williams to seventh place in the 2023 Constructors Championship, its best finish since 2017. He scored 27 out of the 28 points obtained by the team this season and recorded some truly brilliant drives, most notably his P7 finish in Canada, where he managed to stretch his hard tires for 59 laps while holding off Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. The tire whisperer, as he is called by his engineering team, also delivered strong P8 performances at Silverstone and Zandvoort.

As Edd Straw at The Race put it, Albon is also one of the highest returns on investment in the 2023 grid. It’s important to remember that the difference between finishing tenth and finishing seventh is approximately $30 million, a non-negligible amount for the Oxfordshire-based team. 

High hopes for 2024

In light of his contract expiration in 2024, Albon revealed he is keeping himself open in an interview with Autosport, despite lending praise to the “rate of progress” at Williams. Furthermore, comments during a recent appearance on High Performance comparing his performance at Red Bull to current No. 2 driver Perez indicate that Albon is planning a return to a top team — in good time, as 13 other contracts are set to expire in 2024, freeing up seats in Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren. If he continues to hold a steady form and outperform the Williams car next season, it is not just possible, but likely, that he’ll get his wish. 


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