(Motorsport-Total.com) – Dear readers,
it looked a bit strange how Alexander Albons race at the Nürburgring ended yesterday.
When he drove through the Hatzenbach-Bogen on the 23rd lap, there were still no signs of a problem. Then his racing engineer Simon Rennie suddenly reported: “We’ll park, please. We have to pit this lap, this lap. We have to park. Sorry for that.”
A few meters before the pit entrance, Albon answered: “Why?” Apparently he had no clue why he should stop the race. Rennie just said, “Let’s explain when you get back.”
One of my colleagues in the editorial office spontaneously made a joke: “Marko won’t fire the poor fellow during the race, will he?”
In any case, there would have been reason enough.
Taken out of the race without a defect? Nonsense!
In fact, Albon looked a bit perplexed when he was asked immediately after the race why he was actually eliminated. According to a TV reporter, the team suspected a drive train defect and whether they could confirm it. “We wouldn’t have pitted if we hadn’t had a problem,” he replied hesitantly.
It is of course nonsense that Albon was withdrawn from the race without a technical problem. I trust Dr. Marko not too. But it would have been understandable. Because what the 24-year-old has delivered up to then was not exactly glorious.
He still had every reason to be happy on Saturday evening. In Albon terms, joy means: 0.807 seconds behind Max Verstappen in Q1, 0.828 in Q2 and 0.485 seconds in Q3.
Of course, Verstappen literally called his Q3 lap on the pit radio “shit lap”, but let’s not be too strict about that. P5 on the grid if the teammate is even third, that’s one of the better results for Albon 2020.
The joy of it did not last long. He slept through the start and immediately fell behind Daniel Ricciardo, and when he wanted to correct this mishap at Turn 3, he misjudged himself on the brakes like a cocky student on a gaming PC. He almost got rid of Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
That could only be prevented with a quick, emergency braking, and so after a few meters he got himself a brake plate. “It affected my entire race,” he later admitted. Among other things, because he had to change tires after seven laps.
Shaved off the front wing of his own Red Bull colleague
The scene with Daniil Kwjat in the NGK chicane was the next ill-considered action. Initially praised as a “good job” on the pit radio, it was immediately clear to Martin Brundle on the ‘Sky’ microphone that this could only result in a penalty. And that’s how it happened: five seconds to sit down at the next pit stop.
But before he could complete the penalty, Albon almost rushed into the car of his predecessor Pierre Gasly’s second AlphaTauri before the first corner. Instead of pulling himself by the belt and being humbly silent as a mouse, he moaned on the pit radio: “They fight so hard!” What his race engineer simply ignored: “Mode 6, if you can, please.”
“Albon,” Kwjat later grumbled, “ruined my race. He suddenly pulled over and drove me over the front wing. Very, very suddenly. He judged that pretty badly.” That sounded even less diplomatic on the pit radio: “What is he doing? Why is he doing it?”
It’s not quite two months since I met Dr. I last met Marko in his office in Graz. When I didn’t want to give up on the subject of Albon, he got up, went to the filing cabinet and took out a folder with the data from the last races. Then he showed me by means of colorful telemetry lines how fast the Thai was in some phases in almost every race.
Since the Dr. quite a point. But sometimes is not good enough for Red Bull.
Albon grew up in London but has a Thai passport. Possibly, not only I am assuming that this is one of the reasons why he still enjoys puppy protection at Red Bull, while Gasly was not treated particularly gently a year ago.
Out of nowhere to Red Bull: Did everything go too fast?
When Dr. If Marko reads this column (and I know he does), he will be angry with me again. Gasly, he has often explained to me, never showed the same potential as Albon in certain racing phases.
As an outside observer, of course, I cannot seriously assess that. But if Red Bull says so based on the data, then it will undoubtedly be true.
I would also like to protect Albon. At the end of 2018, when he had just finished third in the Formula 2 championship behind George Russell and Lando Norris, he had actually already buried his dream of Formula 1. At Red Bull he had been kicked out of the squad due to poor performance at the end of 2012, so he had no choice but to go to Formula E.
A three-year contract with Nissan, good money, a professional career: for the then 22-year-old, that wasn’t really lucky, but it was a good prospect.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, Dr. Marko asks whether he could not imagine driving Formula 1 in 2019. Red Bull bought him out of his Formula E contract and put him in the Toro Rosso.
Franz Tost once explained to me that juniors should be trained there for at least two to three years until they are ready for Red Bull Racing.
After twelve races, Albon was in the Red Bull, and that was obviously a bit much all at once. When his first achievements were still praised in large parts of the specialist media in view of the adverse circumstances, I was already quite critical. The gap on Verstappen was too great from day one.
That has never changed since then, and so my criticism has never stopped.
Dr. Marko once asked me if we media could please calm down and give the poor boy time. I am sorry that I am not following this today.
Why not Hulkenberg or Perez?
But Dr. Marko would also be the first to say: If a young Formula 1 driver can’t stand it, then he isn’t cut out of the right cloth anyway to become champions one day. And if he doesn’t have what it takes to be a champion, he doesn’t belong in a Red Bull.
There are alternative candidates. I can understand that Gasly will not be back in the cockpit for 2021. It really blossoms at AlphaTauri, and it should stay that way, led by Franz Tost with a steady hand.
But there are also drivers like Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg. One of them almost finished on the podium at the Nürburgring, the other managed to drive an absolutely fastest mini-sector in Q1 despite the worst “preparation” you can think of.
Whoever can do that has to be able to do something.
I am convinced that Hülkenberg would be the right person for Red Bull. Fast, reliable, no bullshit. He probably wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to Verstappen either. But he would at least challenge the Dutch prodigy more than Albon – and with his experience he could make a valuable contribution to bringing the team forward again.
You can’t expect that from a young driver like Albon.
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