Behind the scenes, Alexander Albon, Red Bull Racing’s reserve driver, helped Max Verstappen win the world title. Although the driver lost his place to Sergio Perez, he did everything he could to serve Red Bull as much as possible during the title fight.
“This title feels great, also for me,” Albon told Motorsport.com. After the victory in Abu Dhabi, the British Thai could count on a lot of praise and gratitude from Verstappen and Pérez. The 25-year-old driver played a part in the testing and development phase of 2021. Thanks to his experience from 2020 when he was still Verstappen’s teammate, the Red Bull reserve driver was able to perfectly compare the 2021 car with the previous model.
Albon: ‘Feels great when your hard work is rewarded’
“In 2020 the car was still quite tricky, especially due to the fickle rear. Of course the rules for the modified floor helped us, but we also really maximized our own package’, says Albon about the car. Albon says that everyone at Red Bull has worked extremely hard to achieve this success. ‘It feels great when your hard work is rewarded. Even though I only contributed 0.1 percent to the end result, it was not in vain and this success gives me satisfaction.’
Still, Albon sells himself short here. For example, the British Thai drove test drives for Red Bull during the winter break and also during the final phase of the season, when driving on unknown circuits, the simulator work of the reserve driver was important. Without his commitment, Red Bull would not have found the right set-up so quickly and the weekends would have started badly. “We spent more time in the simulator for the races in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi than before,” Albon said. “Fortunately, that worked out very well.”
Happiness in Abu Dhabi was justified according to Albon
Albon also wants to talk about the final phase in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton was in the lead for a long time, but a late safety car threw a spanner in the works. Verstappen became world champion partly due to decisions by the race director. Mercedes protested, but that was quickly brushed aside. There was also no appeal. Albon understands why Hamilton and Mercedes are angry: “I understand both sides of the story, but I also believe a bit in karma. I feel like a lot of moments and decisions were against Max this year. Just look at Silverstone, Hungary, Jeddah and the first round of Abu Dhabi. I think we deserved so much luck at the last minute.’
The 25-year-old driver who will drive for Williams in 2022 was therefore the first to be heard on Verstappen’s on-board radio. “I did hundreds of thousands of laps in the simulator and gave everything for the team. I gave everything for this for a whole year and it’s nice that it was worth it’, Albon ends.