Horner says Albon needs ‘strong races’ in Portugal and Imola as Red Bull challenge him to ‘claim’ seat

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 24: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has challenged Alex Albon to “claim” his seat with the team for next year, with strong performances in Portugal and next week at Imola, as they look to lock down their 2021 line-up.

Albon has had some highs this season, such as his first podium at Mugello, but there have also been several races where he has lacked the pace of team mate Max Verstappen, most significantly in qualifying, and trails him by 83 points.

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Red Bull have consistently backed Albon, giving him the time to prove he deserves to stay at the team next year. And ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, Horner has called on Albon to “bounce back” and prove his worth after a couple of challenging race weekends.

"We want Alex to claim that seat and basically justify that there is no need to look at any other alternative than Alex," he said.

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"I think everybody in the team wants him to see him do that. And it felt like in Mugello it was starting to turn a corner and so on.

"He's had a couple of difficult weekends. So he needs to bounce back here I think, and particularly Imola, with a strong, strong weekend from start to finish.

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"So that's our focus. That's our objective. As I say, he's a popular member of the team. But we need two cars closer together in order to fight in order to fight the Mercedes, and that's what we've got to do. That's our target."

It is understood Red Bull have had talks with drivers outside their driver pool, including Sergio Perez, and Horner said that would be the route they would take – rather than promoting an AlphaTauri driver – should they choose not to retain Albon.

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 24: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01

It seems Gasly won't be promoted to Red Bull if Albon's seat becomes free

"I think AlphaTauri are pretty settled with their drivers,” he said. “As I say, our preference is very much Alex.

"But if we had to look at a different solution, then obviously we would have to look outside of the Red Bull pool of drivers simply because there's not one available that we would look to look to put in.

"There's some quality drivers, obviously, on the market that could be unemployed for next year."

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