Verstappen: Albon "smartest" choice for Red Bull
Max Verstappen says his Red Bull Formula 1 team’s decision to give Alex Albon a full-season drive in 2020 is the “smartest way of continuing” next year.
F1 rookie Albon was promoted to Red Bull during the summer break, replacing the struggling Pierre Gasly alongside Verstappen.
Albon has finished in the top six in all seven grands prix he has started with Red Bull, earning a best result of fourth and already beating Gasly’s points haul from the first 12 races.
Red Bull announced this week that Albon will drive for the senior team in 2020, completing a whirlwind year for a driver who only made his F1 debut after Red Bull opted to extricate him from a deal to race in Formula E.
Verstappen said: “He’s a nice guy and I think for him the last 12 months have been a bit of a rollercoaster!
“He’s very laid back, very relaxed, people like him in the team. He’s easy-going, which helps. He’s quick, doing his job, he’s getting the points. I think it was the smartest way of continuing.”
Verstappen has stated he was not interested in being consulted on Red Bull’s driver choice, as it evaluated whether to give Albon a full season, recall Gasly or re-hire Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat.
“At the end of the day it’s not up to me to judge his performance,” Verstappen reiterated. "It’s Christian [Horner] and Helmut [Marko] who make the decisions.”
Albon described earning the Red Bull drive as another milestone in a “crazy” career-changing period.
“To get the call-up originally after Hungary, it was quite a daunting prospect really,” said Albon. “But I felt like I could do something and to be honest the races that I’ve had I have been pretty happy with.
“To get the final call to tell me that I’m staying for next year, it feels really good.”
Albon said he was given the news in a “pretty short” phone call with Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Marko. He was informed after the United States Grand Prix, where he charged back from an early pitstop to finish fifth.
“He was happy with the race in Austin and it was a quick one just to say ‘you’ve got it’,” said Albon. “They’re never detailed, they’re never that long. Obviously I was very grateful!”
Albon’s performances alongside Verstappen had made him the clear favourite to keep the drive for 2020.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he was surprised or had an inkling he had done enough, Albon said: “I didn’t know when the decision was going to be made. I was just thinking about the races I had, and making sure I was happy with how I was progressing.
“That was the important one, just trying to show that I am making steps forward. I knew it [a decision on the future] was going to happen, but it’s not like I was stressed.”
Brazilian GP: Best images from Interlagos on Thursday
Hamilton braced for next round of "stressful" F1 contract talks