5 things you didn’t know about Alexander Albon
© Scuderia Toro Rosso
He’s another young driver who's overcome obstacles, worked hard and earned his place in Scuderia Toro Rosso as a driver for 2019, but who is Alexander Albon and where did he come from?
Alexander Albon's the latest in a long line of young drivers who've come good at the right time and grabbed their grid spot in F1. But here are several things you mightn't know about the incoming Scuderia Toro Rosso driver.
1. He’s the second driver in F1 history to race under a Thai flag
Born in London with a dad called Nigel, going to school in the English town of Ipswich and first hitting the kart tracks in a town in the English county of Hertfordshire called Hoddesdon, Albon is nevertheless half-Thai because his mum’s from Thailand, and that’ll be his nationality on the F1 grid. There’s only ever been one other Thai driver in Formula One, Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh, or ‘B Bira’, who also spent much of his early life in England and drove in the early years of F1 from 1950–4.
2. His dad was a racing driver
Nigel Albon has driven in a number of high-profile racing series, though it’s notable that, unlike Albon Jr, his cars generally have had a roof. He drove in the Renault Clio Cup and then in a larger Renault 19 in the Independents Cup section of the British Touring Car Championship in the early 1990s before later switching to Porsches, spending three seasons from 2005–7 in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.
I have to say a big thank you to Red Bull and Dr Marko for believing in me and giving me a second chance
3. He’s had ‘ups and downs’
After signing to the Red Bull Junior Team aged just 12 in 2008, Albon worked his way up to a drive in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series for the Spanish EPIC team in 2012. After finishing 38th that season he left the programme but not the series, switching instead to the KTC team for 2013, after which his results steadily improved. “I worked really hard and tried to impress every time I got in the car,” he says, “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.”
Incidentally the 2012 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series line-up has a few other names you might recognise: Daniil Kvyat (seen in the Red Bull Junior Team photo below that also features Carlos Sainz), Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne have all gone on to grace the F1 grid, while even Timmy Hansen, now in a tin-top Peugeot 208 in WRX, still hadn’t completely made that switch from open-wheel racing to rallycross. There was also a 16-year-old French kid driving called Pierre Gasly. Wonder what happened to him?
4. He used to have Charles Leclerc as a team-mate
More F1 connections: Albon drove alongside the highly rated driver Charles Leclerc in GP3 in 2016, where he finished second to his team-mate in the championship, though actually Albon won four races that season to Leclerc’s three. Leclerc has also come through karting (he finished runner-up in one series in 2013 to a certain Max Verstappen) and Formula Renault. Having climbed the ladder to F2 in 2017 and won the title at the first attempt as the youngest ever champion, he got a full F1 drive with Sauber this season and now has a place at Ferrari alongside Sebastian Vettel for 2019. Impressive.
5. He’s impressed in F2 this year
The revival of Formula Two as F1’s feeder series for 2017 was good news for Albon too. After a 10th-place finish for ART that first season and just a couple of podiums, Albon finished a strong third in 2018 for DAMS, with wins in Azerbaijan, Great Britain, Hungary and Russia, and four other podium spots. Bring on 2019 and a place at the pinnacle of motorsport!