Alexander Albon became the first-ever Thai driver to stand on a Formula 1 podium Sunday, taking third place in a chaotic, crash-riddled Tuscan Grand Prix.
“It took a while to get here. It was a tough one. We had to work for it,” Albon, 24, told a media briefing after the race at Mugello. “I’m really happy, I feel I can breathe. It’s nice to be here.”
Born in England to a Thai mother and British father, Albon is the first Red Bull driver not named Max Verstappen to finish in the top three since Daniel Ricciardo at Monaco in 2018.
He actually had to overtake Ricciardo’s Renault to secure his spot in behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who were P1 and P2 respectively,
Albon’s victory, however, was overshadowed by two heinous crashes that saw the grand prix red-flagged twice. Only 12 cars crossed the finish line on Sunday, with several drivers forced to retire throughout the 59-lap race.
“I was expecting [the physicality] to be worse, but we did have two red flags so that did help it,” Albon said. “It’s ruthless, especially the high speeds in sector two, you feel it. But otherwise there is more adrenaline going in my body than anything else so I’m happy.”
Dropping places on both restarts at Mugello, Albon overtook Sergio Perez after the second start and Ricciardo after the third start, finishing only behind the two Mercedes.
“We just couldn’t get off the line, so most of the overtakes had to be done on the circuit. But our car is good on the brakes, we’e known that since Day One. So, we can do the kind of moves like that [on Ricciardo] and it’s fun to drive.”
It hasn’t been an easy route to victory for Albon Albon who has struggled to match teammate Verstappen’s pace, particularly in qualifying, and has delivered considerably fewer points.
Even as he settled into the cockpit for Sunday’ race, speculation swirled that, if he should falter, Albon could be replaced on the Red Bull team by AlphaTaun’s Pierre Gasly who pulled off a shocking win at last week’s Italian Grand Prix.
But Red Bull Motorsport Team Principal Christian Horner and adviser Helmut Marko backed the Thai driver, both publicly and privately.
“As far as Red Bull Racing’s seats are concerned, we are focused on Alex Albon,” Horner said at Friday’s news pre-race conference. “We want to try and give him the best opportunity to retain that seat.”
It looks as if Albon took that opportunity.
Albon was born in London in 1996. His father, Nigel Albon, is a former British racing driver who participated in the British Touring Car Championship and Porsche Carrera Cup. His mother, Kankamol, is from Thailand.
Part of the Red Bull family since 2012, Albon replaced Gasly on the F1 team last year, debuting at the 2019’s Belgium Grand Prix and has produced several brilliant recovery drives this season. But he has struggled with consistency and confidence in Saturday qualifyings, putting him at a disadvantage on Sundays.