Albon says his car ‘came alive’ on Red Bull debut
Red Bull’s new recruit Alex Albon said that the Belgian Grand Prix was a game of two halves as he reflected on his fifth-place finish on a weekend ultimately overshadowed by tragedy.
Aware that this would be a recovery drive from the back of the grid after changing engine and taking a penalty, Albon took a chance to show off his overtaking prowess at Spa-Francorchamps.
Starting 17th, Albon made it up to fifth by the end of the race, just three seconds ahead of a stoic Sergio Perez. But the Red Bull rookie felt “stranded” at the start.
“I’m a little bit – I won’t say disappointed – I struggled at the start of the race, I struggled to get past any cars. And on the medium tyre it felt a little bit stranded, I was a bit in no man’s land.”
He was in 14th after the lap one Safety Car returned to the pits, on the tail of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and at the back of a pack of cars with DRS – what Albon referred to as a “DRS train” – until he pitted on lap 23 for soft tyres.
“We pitted a little bit earlier than I’d like then the car came alive and felt really good. Straightaway it felt like ‘okay, we can make some moves’ and of course overtaking is easier when you have a fast car under your seat,” he said.
Emerging 14th after pitting, Albon made a number of brilliant overtakes on his way to P5, but it was the Racing Point of Perez that proved most tricky to pass.
“The Racing Points were so quick down the straights all weekend,” said Albon, who went on to describe the “DRS game” he played with Perez at Turn 1 on the final lap – both drivers reluctant to overtake each other before reaching the DRS timing line – as the two sparred on lap 43.
READ MORE: Tributes pour in for Anthoine Hubert from racing world
“It was like ‘after you', ‘No, after you’" he joked. "He started to go wide into turn 1 and I said ‘Okay, I know what you’re up to’. It was a good fight, but we had a laugh about it afterwards.”
“So we’re playing the DRS game, obviously Sergio wants DRS: it’s like a VSC restart. The Racing points were so quick down the straights all weekend.”
Both drivers were called to the Stewards post-race, but no action was taken, after Albon (with DRS) passed Perez on the grass on the Kemmel Straight for a P5 finish on his Red Bull debut - a career high finish that gave him 10 points to put him 10th in the standings.
On a weekend clouded by the death of young F2 driver Anthoine Herbert, Albon gave a poignant summation.
“Of course I think everyone especially us rookies know Anthoine very well. It’s one of those things you never really think it’s going to happen to you, never mind someone else. It’s been a very stressful few hours. No one’s had a great focus this weekend, this morning felt strange. It’s crazy really. It’s just one of those things."