(Motorsport-Total.com) – Alexander Albon still has at least two race weekends to convince the Red Bull leadership of his abilities and to secure a contract extension for 2021: “Even after Imola we will not make a decision about Albon, we will give him longer time “, confirms motorsport consultant Helmut Marko in an interview with ‘Motorsport-Total.com’.
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Alexander Albon has little time left to convince Helmut Marko of himself
The Austrian had already announced to RTL that Red Bull would announce the second driver alongside Max Verstappen “after the race in Bahrain at the latest” (December 6th). This means that Albon will have time “until the beginning of December” to turn things around: “Two or three races. Roughly speaking,” said Marko.
The circle of candidates is getting smaller. On Wednesday morning, Red Bull officially confirmed that Pierre Gasly will also drive for AlphaTauri in 2021. That was no longer a surprise, after all, Marko had already let the cat out of the bag in Portimao last weekend and announced: “At AlphaTauri, Gasly is set.”
The 24-year-old Frenchman is one of the positive surprises of the 2020 Formula 1 season with his victory in Monza and currently 63 points (ninth in the drivers’ championship). He has his team-mate Daniil Kwjat clearly under control. The Russian only holds 14 points after twelve of 17 races, and in the qualifying duel Gasly leads 9-2.
Gasly: drive better in 2020 than ever before
To say that he drives better than ever before is “fair,” says Gasly: ”I have more experience now and approach the race weekends in a completely different way. I get more out of the car.” When asked whether he had the feeling he was knocking for a Red Bull cockpit, he replied in Portimao: “We’ll see. Ultimately, Red Bull will decide.”
Fifth place in the race, ahead of the best McLaren, Racing Point and Renault, was not enough to make the Red Bull bosses think again. Given his achievements, from the outside it would have made sense to give him a second chance. But Marko and Christian Horner never considered him for the Albon position.
“We have collected a lot of information about our drivers over a long period of time,” said Horner on Sunday evening. “Pierre did a great job today. He drives well in the environment at AlphaTauri, feels comfortable in the car, and maybe has a little less pressure – and expectations are different there.”
Photo gallery: Portimao: driver notes from the editorial team
Alexander Albon (5): There was heated discussion with some drivers in the editorial office this time – not with him. In qualifying, the usual half a second slower than Verstappen, then even lapped by teammate in the race. The grade was quickly determined for us.
Horner also reminds us that in 2019, when Albon took over the Red Bull cockpit from Gasly, he “scored significantly more points and also performed better” than his predecessor. And he asks the rather rhetorical question: “If we really do exchange, would it be different today than it was a year ago?”
Horner: With Gasly it would be no different than 2019
Horner himself gives the answer: “I have no reason to assume that the situation would not be the same again. I think Alex would be just as good in the AlphaTauri as Pierre. The characteristics of our car are completely different, and so Alex is accurate under certain conditions the same problems Pierre had twelve months ago. “
This is by no means a pure Red Bull phenomenon, argues Horner and points in the direction of direct competition: “Let’s just take Leclerc and Seb at Ferrari or Lewis and Valtteri at Mercedes. You can see a big gap. And we have that today also experienced with us “, said the team boss in the evening after the Grand Prix of Portugal.
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Pierre Gasly has tried in vain to get another chance at Red Bull
“Our car is, how should I put it, more sensitive to the rear, and I think that this can drain some drivers of the last nerve,” explains the Briton. “Max gets along with it incredibly well. Others have problems with it. Those are facts.” Albon struggled with the unpredictable rear end of the RB16, especially at the corner entrance.
Red Bull cannot be put under pressure when it comes to the driver question. Even if you should decide against Albon, there is no reason to rush: “We are in no hurry,” Marko assures RTL. “It’s no secret that there are some good people in the market. And after Mercedes, we still have the most interesting cockpit to offer.”
Marko: Red Bull already in the middle of the analysis
“If it is certain that Albon cannot meet the expectations, we will approach the candidates and make an appropriate decision,” explains Marko, adding: “We are already analyzing it carefully now.” A rhetoric that makes it clear that Albon has to improve significantly in Imola and Istanbul if he wants to have another chance.
Red Bull does not worry that the preferred Albon substitute could sign elsewhere. Even if the public is still puzzling over who could come then, it can be assumed that Marko has long since determined his preferred candidate. There are currently many indications that Nico Hülkenberg is involved.
“I think,” says Horner, “that any of these drivers would give Red Bull preference over all other cockpits. So I assume that they will wait and see how we decide.” In addition to Hülkenberg, Sergio Perez is also a possible candidate. According to reports, he is currently negotiating most intensively with Alfa Romeo.
Incidentally, the fact that Hülkenberg could possibly take over Red Bull from Albon in 2020 is as good as impossible: “We have committed ourselves to Alex for this year,” explains Horner – and adds: “Everyone in the team would like Alex we fought for the cockpit for next year too. He’s a good guy and we think he’s talented. “
After Mugello, Horner hopes for a second Albon coup
“He’s only in his second year in Formula 1, and it’s tough, very tough business. Mentally too. Against Max, too. But he has already proven that he can fight back, and I really hope that he’ll manage next weekend in Imola after not having his best weekend in Portimao. “
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“We have to get Alex to a point where he is within a couple of tenths of Max. The way Valtteri manages with Lewis. Then you have more strategic options in the race with the two cars,” says Horner. The numbers are clear: Bottas is currently at 70 percent of the points of Hamilton, Albon compared to Verstappen only 40 percent.
By the way: The thought experiment played through in the current # last night video with Christian Nimmervoll and Stefan Ehlen, according to which it would make sense from Red Bull’s point of view to dig deep into his pocket and make Lewis Hamilton an offer to solve the Albon problem and to weaken Mercedes at the same time remains a fantasy.
In an interview with ‘Motorsport-Total.com’, Marko makes it clear that such a record offer to Hamilton is “not an issue”: “We believe that with Verstappen we have the younger driver who, in our opinion, is at least as strong. We stand for the youth. We have never hired a finished star. “