‘I thought we were on for a win’, says Albon after spins and ‘confusing’ Istanbul tyre issues leave him P7
At one point in the Turkish Grand Prix, it looked very much as though Alex Albon was going to win his first F1 race at Red Bull's 300th Grand Prix, as he hunted down the Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez. But after eventually finishing just behind team mate Max Verstappen in P7, the Thai driver declared himself “confused” by the Red Bulls’ lack of grip in the final stages of the race.
A spin for Verstappen while attacking Sergio Perez on Lap 18 of 58 had allowed Albon – who’d enjoyed one of his strongest weekends of the season in the build-up to the race, leading to him qualifying P4 – to go after the Mexican, with the pair simultaneously reeling in race leader Lance Stroll to the point where Albon was briefly less than five seconds off the lead.
But Albon’s strong pace in that phase of the race appeared to have taken the life out of his intermediate tyres, as he spun himself on Lap 34 before pitting for a new set of the green-walled rubber – which, according to Albon, he mysteriously couldn’t switch on, as he spun again en route to a P7 finish.
“Mixed,” was how Albon summed up his race. “I feel a little bit confused from the race. From the beginning, our starts were poor but then we had very good grip, we could make our way through. Then when we [first] boxed for inters, we had incredible grip. Honestly, at that point I thought we were on for a win, and I thought everything was going to plan.
“I had a little pirouette, but still felt good… I still felt there was so much [of the race] left and we could do something… but then we put another set of tyres on, the same set of tyres, and just no grip and no pace.
“Obviously the Ferraris came alive,” he added, referring to Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s third and fourth-place finish. “It’s quite a confusing one, especially when you’re in the cockpit… So a lot of head scratching. But it’s such a unique weekend – we’ll look into it I’m sure, but at the same time, just focus on the next race.”
Having qualified fourth and finished the race on Verstappen’s gearbox in seventh, Albon was nonetheless buoyed by a strong performance over the weekend, as he fights to hang onto his seat at Red Bull, which Team Principal Christian Horner has repeatedly said is Albon’s to lose.
“I would say the weekend has gone really well,” said Albon. “I’m happy with the progress. I feel like we’ve done a few things on my side of the garage which have definitely helped. But obviously to be so competitive the whole weekend on Friday and Saturday, and then finish sixth and seventh, it’s a bit of a tough one to take.”