Not one to mince his words, Helmut Marko placed the blame at the feet of Alex’s Albon race engineer Simon Rennie after a very tough race for car 23 at the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend. Starting down in P6, Albon had a tough race and finished in a lowly 8th position; the Thai driver was also lapped by teammate Max Verstappen.
Asked by Speedweek if Albon’s seat is under threat, the Austrian said: “The performance in Barcelona including the strategy is on the head of his race engineer. Alex looked stupid, but it was not because of his fault.”
“It was his worst race [at Red Bull Racing], but as long as he keeps going [forward] he is out of that discussion [getting replaced].”
Is Marko correct?
Simon Rennie, who previously worked with the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo, was brought in at the British Grand Prix to become Albon’s race engineer as the team felt his experience could benefit the Thai.
However, Albon’s qualifying struggles have continued. 12th, 9th and 6th have been his grid positions since Rennie stepped in. It was his race performance in Barcelona that was a bigger issue, though.
Albon was the first of the front runners to pit on lap 17. He came out behind Magnussen, Raikkonen and Ocon, also known as a DRS train. The Thai was stuck behind the Renault for 15 laps as he struggled to pass him – and he got overtaken by Sainz during that period.
Whilst the strategy may have not been ideal in terms of traffic following his first stop, Albon’s pace before it was terrible. Running in P6, he was lapping somewhere between 1.5-2.0s a lap slower than his Dutch teammate in the five laps before pitting. That’s a massive gulf in any motorsport category, never mind Formula 1.
As well as the massive gap to Verstappen, the five cars directly behind him were all lapping quicker on the final lap he completed before his first stop. He was even struggling to outpace the group of Magnussen, Raikkonen and Ocon which he came out at the rear of.
Marko’s criticism of Rennie cannot deflect from Albon’s appalling pace last weekend. The Thai needs to start regularly finishing 4th on both a Saturday and a Sunday; Rennie’s experience and input will be important in trying to reach that target.
If Albon continues to struggle though, the questions about him maintaining his drive will not go away.