When the five red lights turn green, the focus almost always remains spectacularly skewed to cars at the front. To that regard, it’s the likes of the Mercedes’, Ferraris and the Red Bulls that find the throbbing beats and aching hearts.
Not an awful lot is reserved for those who are fighting in the middle of the grid. But that said, a sport ever embedded in the ‘present’, it remains to be seen whether one can ignore F1’s midfield in 2019. This is for the simple reason that this year, there are drivers like Alex Albon that are doing their fair bit despite knowing well that they are against world-class names amid a set of rules that may not always be very driver-supportive.
Torro Rosso’s Alex Albon is a name that is doing the rounds of the paddock, and anywhere where Formula 1 is viewed as a contest that runs beyond the usual suspects; drivers that drive the sport toward capturing glories, such as Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, and well, where current form dictates, then a bit of Sebastian Vettel.
For a man who occupied the very last seat on the grid this season, Alex Albon, now a noted Thai-British racing driver hasn’t done that bad in his rookie year- or has he? While he’s yet to break regularly into the top seven in a race, let alone breathing on the tail of the number five in a Grand Prix, it was his fighting tenth at China that earned him the respect he so deserves.
And it’s not too hard to note why.
While Toro Rosso’s senior driver, Daniil Kvyat, someone who’s described as a tad bit fortunate in being ‘granted’ a return to F1, failed to even finish the 1000th race at China, the 23-year-old had other plans.
Not only did Alex Albon finish at China, thus being the only Toro Rosso car to finish the 56-lap contest, he also managed to score a point despite having begun from the pit-lane. If anyone was looking for a rookie driver to punch above his weight, then this was the finest example.
So the question is clearly this: what is Alex Albon’s team doing to promote him and capture the very best of his talent whilst an experienced name such as Kvyat fails to even drive till the checkered flag?
But if you noted the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, yet another contest where a top car became the subject of adulation, in that case, Sebastian Vettel’s new (albeit much-inexperienced) teammate Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon was right on the money. While comparisons are often weaved to put one down vis-a-vis the other, it ought to be asked, how many drivers has one come to see score a point so early in their F1 journey?
At Sakhir’s electrifying night challenge, Alex Albon finished a respectable ninth. In the same race, arguably, the quicker Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi failed to collect a point; Daniel Ricciardo, one of the most experienced names of the grid suffered a power issue, and the Russian Torpedo couldn’t exactly launch any attacks, finishing with a lowly P12.
Albon’s maturity and calmness under pressure and natural adaptability to the situations makes him highly likeable and perhaps, draws him in a close contest with the likes of Lando Norris of McLaren, another driver who’s marked his debut this year.
Appreciating the London-born driver, his own team-principal, the vastly experienced Franz Tost shared the following (in regards to the P10 at Shanghai):
“Alex crashed at the end of FP3 which caused a decent amount of damage to the car. We changed the monocoque and built a completely new car which meant he missed Qualifying and had to start from the pit lane.”
All that said, with 18 races to go and a really fascinating race next up, the Azerbaijan GP at Baku, one can’t help but expect the Londoner to fire up some cannons from the back of the grid. Who knows, it may end up inspiring the ‘Torpedo’ to fire some shots where they should be aimed at; toward points, not at the other cars?