Albon makes up 15 places in 'bounce back' run to fifth in Sochi
Up until Sunday it had not been the best of weekends for Red Bull’s Alex Albon, a qualifying accident and subsequent set-up changes confining him to a pit-lane start in Russia.
All that changed with a sterling race drive – admittedly aided by some fortuitous Safety Car timing – that saw the Thai rookie rise all the way to fifth place, with only the Mercedes, a Ferrari, and his Red Bull team mate ahead of him at the chequered flag.
“I wanted to bounce back and get a good result after yesterday’s crash so I’m really happy with how the race went, although we probably got a bit lucky with the Safety Car,” said Albon.
“Morale was obviously a little bit low on Saturday night and it was a lot of work for the team so this result is for them. Starting from the pit lane was never going to be easy but the pace was quite strong on the softs and it was a good haul of points.”
I like boring races too, so I’m hoping for a cleaner and smoother weekend in Japan
In what was only his fifth race for Red Bull, Albon – a winner here in F2 last year – made a number of decisive overtakes, on rivals including Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz.
“I started out of position and had some fun coming back through the field, but I don’t want all of my races to be like that,” he added. “I like boring races too so I’m hoping for a cleaner and smoother weekend in Japan.
“In the first stint I was struggling to get past Daniil and Pierre and it took me a long time. The downforce loss is immense when you’re following in a train of cars which I think is because the track is designed a bit like a street circuit.”
By contrast, in the sister RB15 Verstappen had a much quieter afternoon. Out of position on the grid thanks to a five-place penalty, the Dutchman made quick work of his midfield rivals but was unable to challenge the two leading teams and came home fourth.
“I think P4 was the best possible result today and we had a little bit of luck with Seb [Vettel] retiring, but I’m satisfied with the points we scored considering the penalties and pace of Ferrari and Mercedes,” he said.
“There wasn’t too much going on for me once I cleared the mid-field traffic and from there I had a bit of a lonely race until the Safety Car closed us all up. For sure we maximised the result but of course we want to be scoring more podiums and victories so we still have work to do as the others are very strong.
“Now I’m looking forward to Suzuka and we want to do the best we can for all the Japanese fans at Honda’s home race.”