“Thanks for sticking with me,” said Alex Albon seconds after securing his first podium in Formula 1. The release from the relief and joy was instant, and powerful.
Albon made this difficult for himself. He was in a solid position early on, despite getting jumped by Charles Leclerc at the start, thanks to Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen losing power off the line then getting punted off.
But poor restarts, rolling and standing, proved Albon’s undoing and he was mugged too often. Every time he fought back he got pushed back again. This race was a microcosm of his career!
Armed with a Red Bull that was finally a clear second-best again to the Mercedes, though, Albon had what he needed to do the job. The manner in which he passed Daniel Ricciardo in the final phase of the grand prix – late on the brakes and using the profile of the first corner to sweep around the outside – was a wonderful combination of judgement and bravery.
When Albon has been in these positions before, that combination has been a bit off. This time it was perfect. It was tougher than it needed to be, but that just meant Albon earned it.
It has been clear to see for all this year how difficult the Red Bull RB16 has been to drive if your name is not Max Verstappen.
But at Mugello, something finally clicked for Alex Albon and how he needed this result after Pierre Gasly’s triumph in Monza.
An improved qualifying performance bagged fourth on the grid and even though he had a slow start, his recovery only needed four overtakes and not ten. And boy did he overtake.
Team principal Christian Horner coined Albon the nickname ‘Mr around-the-outside’ after a handful of moves at the carousel-like turn one, notably in claiming his third place from Daniel Ricciardo. A further particular highlight of his race was a manoeuvre on Sergio Perez around the outside of Poggio Secco.
Albon was a man on a mission and there was nobody he would allow to prevent him from experiencing a first F1 champagne shower.
Going forward, however, it is important this momentum is carried into future races.
ALEX ALBON FINALLY TAMES THE BULL ALEX ALBON FINALLY TAMES THE BULL
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F1 2020 NEXT RACE
|Russia ||27 Sep|
|10h00 - 11h30||Free practice 1|
|14h00 - 15h30||Free practice 2|
|11h00 - 12h00||Free practice 3|
|14h00 - 15h00||Qualification|
|14h10 - 16h10||Race|