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'It killed me, it was terrible' – Albon opens up on losing his F1 drive and his dream 2022 return in Beyond The Grid

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Alex Albon is the guest on this week's Beyond The Grid podcast – and the Williams driver has offered a heartfelt, honest assessment of how he felt watching from the shadows last year before his return to F1.

Albon has already made an impact on his return, scoring a point with a perfect execution of the team's strategy in Australia, and while it may seem like smooth-going now, the Thai driver reveals to Tom Clarkson that he did suffer sitting on the sidelines in 2021.

LONG READ: Alex Albon's long road back to F1 – and why he believes Williams have what it takes to improve

"It killed me. It killed me, it was terrible," he says. "It was one of those things – it got announced that I wasn't going to be a racing driver pretty late, I think it was December. They still believed in me and still trusted me, Christian [Horner] and Helmut [Marko], everyone at Red Bull, and I still have a great relationship with them.

"But on my side, it was more or less like: 'I want to be in F1. I feel like I’m the hungriest driver I know, how can I get back into it?'"

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Albon therefore wanted to make a statement in serving his role as Red Bull's reserve driver last year, playing a part not just in developing the winning RB16B but learning from the full-time drivers to forge a path back to the cockpit.

"What was also important was just listening to Max [Verstappen] and Checo [Sergio Perez]; I'd always listen to their engineers… and I would take bits from it. As people, their personalities – how did they interact with the team and how did they learn?

"It was quite interesting to have that step back away from the spotlight and from the paddock in that way, and look at things in a different perspective."

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"I couldn’t watch" – Albon found it difficult to adjust to his status in 2021

Yet, he admits that it was still hard to watch Verstappen and Perez come out and start delivering for the team on their way to a first drivers' championship for Red Bull since 2013.

"The car was quick out the blocks… Max was talking about how much better the rear felt, how much more stable it was. It does hurt a little bit, because at the same point you're like, 'That's great, I feel like I contributed to that.'

"People like Adrian [Newey] gave me a lot of credit for it. I don't want to say I helped a massive amount, but I felt like I chipped in. The first few races... it was terrible, I was a reserve driver, so I had to go to every race, but just being there, I couldn’t watch, I was just sitting down and trying to stay away from it as much as possible."

Listen to the full podcast episode, including Albon talking about why he felt "intense" pressure in 2020, in the player above. Head here to listen to Beyond The Grid on your favourite platform.

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