April 2018 – Confirmed with DAMS in F2 for Bahrain only
Following a very difficult 2017 campaign with ART where he finished 10th in the championship – not helped by a collarbone injury after a cycling accident – left his career hanging by a thread.
Albon admitted at the end of the 2018 F2 season that he ‘’begged’’ Francois Sicard [DAMS’ managing director] to give him a seat on the grid.
‘’I remember January/February, on the phone to Francois literally begging to have the seat for this year and I didn’t have the money for it, and he put me in it anyway.
From then on it was always about proving a point and staying in the championship.’’
May 2018 – Keeps DAMS drive for the remainder of the season
A 4th place finish in the feature race in Bahrain was followed by a brilliant win in the Baku feature race left the Thai P2 in the championship following the opening four races at those two events.
At the third round in Barcelona, DAMS announced he would retain the seat for the rest of the 2018 championship.
The Thai went on to have a very strong season: 4 wins, 3 (successive) poles and 4 other podium finishes saw him finish P3 in the championship. Fellow 2019 F1 rookies George Russell and Lando Norris were the two drivers who finished ahead of Albon in the standings.
September 2018 – Albon signs a contract with Nissan in Formula E
During his F2 journey last year, Albon penned a deal with Nissan e.dams to drive for them in the 2018/2019 Formula E championship. He was very much looking forward to taking part in it at the time of the announcement.
“The level of competition in the series is intense, and I’m looking forward to testing myself against some of the best drivers in the world.
Electric street racing will be a new challenge for me, but working with Sebastien as my teammate will be a huge help, as he has set the benchmark for performance in the series.”
October/November 2018 – Gets out of Nissan contract and joins Toro Rosso
Rumours that Toro Rosso was interested in putting Albon in the car started surfacing in October as Brendon Hartley’s seat came under the spotlight. It was complicated due to the fact the Thai had already signed the aforementioned contract with Nissan.
However, Albon reached an agreement with them and he was released. They drafted in Oliver Rowland to take his seat. The then 22-year-old was confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver for 2019 in late November. Understandably, he was thrilled to get this chance.
‘’It's such an amazing feeling to know that I'm in Formula 1 next year. Throughout my single-seater career, I went through a few ups and downs.
I was dropped by Red Bull in 2012, so from then I knew my road to Formula 1 was going to be a lot harder. I worked really hard and tried to impress every time I got in the car, and I have to say a big thank you to Red Bull and Dr Marko for believing in me and giving me a second chance.
I've always been motorsport mad and since I first got in a car it's been my dream to be in Formula 1. To be given this opportunity is just incredible.’’
August 2019 – Moves up to Red Bull Racing
On Monday, there was a shock announcement that Albon would be swapping seats with Pierre Gasly and joining Max Verstappen at the senior team. Unsurprisingly, he was delighted.
1/2 : Surreal to have been given this massive opportunity @redbullracing! Can’t thank you enough for believing in me and making this possible. It’s a big jump into the deep end, but I’ve got my swimming shorts on! 😄 pic.twitter.com/3kRzQP1U6f— Alex Albon (@alex_albon) August 12, 2019
An encouraging first season to this point
It’s been a fairly impressive rookie campaign for Albon so far. He might trail former team-mate Kvyat in the points (16-27), but he’s put in some tremendous drives this season.
The standout drives were at China and Germany.
Albon’s heavy crash in FP3 meant his car was too heavily damaged for him to take part in qualifying. What followed was a spectacular performance in the race. From a pitlane start, he charged through the field to finish a superb P10. He showed his promise very quickly and it backed up his 9th place result in Bahrain.
The result might not have been as good as Kvyat’s, but this was probably Albon’s most impressive race to date.
Starting 16th on the grid, he brilliantly climbed his way through the pack in the wet conditions and ran in 4th for quite a few laps. Unfortunately for him, the switch to dries was too late for him and lost out to his Russian team-mate, Stroll and Sainz.
Nevertheless, he finished P6 and was one of the drivers of the day. He outperformed Kvyat, but luck was against him on the day.
Can he get close to Verstappen and keep the Red Bull seat beyond 2019?
Let’s not underestimate the challenge Alex Albon faces after the summer break. Max Verstappen is quite possibly the best driver in the sport at the moment and has finished in the top 5 at each of the last 21 races.
Verstappen also lapped Gasly at Austria and in Hungary; the Dutchman sits a whopping 118 points clear of the Frenchman after their twelve races together. Albon faces a massive test just to get near the Dutchman on both a Saturday and Sunday.
What will it require for the Thai to potentially stay with the team in 2020? You would have to say that he’ll need to finish in the top 6 at every race (excluding reliability problems) with the package Red Bull now have. That’s the absolute minimum. Albon will be expected to challenge and beat the Ferraris at tracks like Singapore, too.
There is going to be massive pressure on him, but if he can put in good performances, keep Verstappen honest and continue to show the calmness he’s displayed so far, Albon’s got a shot at holding onto the Red Bull drive post-2019.
Nonetheless, no matter what happens, his journey to find himself in a race-winning car in the pinnacle of motorsport is quite incredible. Let’s see how the next part of this amazing story goes over the next three and a half months.