Alex Albon will retain his place in one of the hottest seats in Formula 1 in 2020, with Red Bull confirming he will continue to partner Max Verstappen next season.
Originally drafted in late last season to drive for Toro Rosso in 2019, Albon found himself moved into the senior Red Bull team from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards, as Pierre Gasly was moved in the other direction.
And it seems that the Thai driver has done enough in his seven races with the team – where he’s enjoyed a best finish of fourth at the Japanese Grand Prix – to impress his Red Bull paymasters and keep his seat there for 2020.
“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 Red Bull Team Principal Christian 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.” “I am really excited to be partnering Max again for next year,” said Albon. “And I know how fortunate I am to be given this opportunity. 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.
“This year has been an incredible year for me and getting the call up to Red Bull mid-season was already a big step, so now I will use the learnings from this season and use the experience to improve and fight at the front in 2020.”
The news continues the remarkable reversal in the career fortunes of Albon who, having been supported by Red Bull during his prodigious karting career, found himself dropped from the Austrian firm’s junior programme in 2012 after a difficult start to his single-seater career.
However, his performance in Formula 2 last season – where he finished third, behind current Williams and McLaren drivers George Russell and Lando Norris – persuaded Red Bull to offer him the Toro Rosso drive for 2019, as a replacement for Brendon Hartley, before he was promoted again to the Red Bull seat at the start of this year’s summer break.
Albon’s announcement, meanwhile, will come as a blow for several drivers on the grid, particularly Gasly and Toro Rosso team mate Daniil Kvyat, with neither driver’s return to the Red Bull team they were demoted from – Kvyat in 2016, Gasly on the back of his difficult start to 2019 – looking imminent.
More obliquely, the news shuts down another potential avenue for out-going Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, who had been linked in some quarters to the second seat at Red Bull.
Toro Rosso have also announced that they will retain their current driver line-up into the 2020 season, with Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly set to continue on at the Italian team next year.
“I’m delighted to retain Pierre and Daniil for next season,” said Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost. “Both drivers have shown really good performances this season and they have proven in their years in F1 to be very competitive, able to exploit the car’s potential and give valuable feedback to make improvements.
“This young but experienced duo, combined with hopefully a competitive car, will be the best factors to achieve a very successful season in 2020 and I’m looking forward to this extended cooperation.”
“I’m really happy to continue with the team for 2020 and I’m sure we have exciting challenges ahead of us,” said Gasly. “Toro Rosso has always given me the best chances to perform every season and I’m super motivated and dedicated to repaying them with the best results possible next year. Toro Rosso has been improving year after year and it’s great to be a part of the journey.”
Meanwhile, 2020 will mark the sixth season in which Daniil Kvyat will start a Grand Prix as a Toro Rosso driver. And understandably the Russian – who scored a sensational second-ever podium for the team in Germany this year – admitted that he was “very comfortable” within the Faenza-based organisation.
“It’s great to be confirmed with the team for 2020,” he said. “I’m really happy because I feel very comfortable with everyone here, I know the team and they know me very well, so it’s easy to understand everyone’s needs.
“We’ve achieved great things together, like our podium this year in Germany, so I hope to deliver a very strong season again for this team next year. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue in Formula 1 and I will give it my all to show the best possible performances next year. I’m really looking forward to more exciting times together.”
In terms of the announcement’s effect on the driver market, Toro Rosso’s news means that just one seat remains to be filled on the grid for 2020, alongside George Russell at Williams, with Canadian F2 racer Nicholas Latifi heavily fancied to take that drive.