LONDON (AFP) – Thailand’s Alex Albon said he is ready to “fight at the front in 2020” for top Formula One team Red Bull after they rewarded him for a series of impressive performances by naming him on a permanent basis as their second driver.
The 23-year-old – born in England to an English father and Thai mother – began the season with their junior sister team Toro Rosso but seized his chance when Red Bull offered him the senior drive in the second-half of the campaign by finishing in the top six in all seven races accruing 68 points.
Albon – who will play second fiddle to the audacious Max Verstappen – sits in sixth spot overall with 84 points ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
“This year has been an incredible year for me and getting the call up to Red Bull mid-season was already a big step,” he said in a statement on the team website.
“So now I will use the learnings from this season and use the experience to improve and fight at the front in 2020.” Albon, who replaced Frenchman Pierre Gasly as second driver to Verstappen for the second part of the campaign leaving the former “stunned”, added he was grateful Red Bull had placed their faith in him.
“I am really excited to be partnering Max again for next year and I know how fortunate I am to be given this opportunity,” said Albon, whose best finish so far for Red Bull was fourth in the Japanese Grand Prix.
“I’m hugely thankful that Red Bull have put their trust in me and believed in my results since I joined the team and for them to keep me in the car next year is a big deal.”
Christian Horner, Red Bull’s long-standing racing principal, looked forward to developing Albon’s potential.
“Alex has performed extremely well since his debut with the Team in Belgium and his results – seven finishes in the top-six – speak for themselves,” said Horner.
“It’s extremely hard to deny that level of consistency and in tandem with a growing reputation as a tenacious, fiercely committed racer, Alex has proved that he fully deserves to continue his progress with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.
“There is plenty of potential still to unlock and we look forward to seeing Alex alongside Max in 2020.”
For Gasly, also 23, there is the consolation of being retained by Toro Rosso for next year.
The Frenchman had been unwilling to discuss the reasons for his demotion which came prior to the Belgian race at the end of August, or the performance gap between him and Verstappen, who had out-qualified and out-raced him 11-1 in the opening 12 races, scoring 181 points to his 63.
However, he clearly had not expected it.
“It was kind of a shock that it happened,” he said. “It was not what I had been told before Budapest (the race preceding the Belgian GP). I think everything was pretty clear and discussed over the last few weeks.”