It was always going to be a steep learning curve for Alex Albon as he stepped up from Toro Rosso to partner Max Verstappen, one of the most feared drivers of his generation, starting at Spa-Francorchamps after the summer holiday.
But in the week between his baptism by fire at the Belgian Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix, the rookie believes he has improved relative to Verstappen who is his obvious benchmark.
Speaking to reporters after the race at Monza, Albon said, “I am actually happier with my pace than I was at Spa. Compared to Max, it has at least improved. There were some positives there.”
“The start wasn’t great and I lost out a couple of positions… we’re just struggling to get off the line and we need to see what’s going on there. Obviously, it’s a long run into Turn 1, so I lost a couple of positions.
“At the start of the races it’s hard for us to do the overtakes on the straights, so we had to try to stay close and do the overtaking in other places. Some worked, some didn’t. In the one with Carlos [Sainz] I lost a few positions, and then again with Kevin [Magnussen] I got the time penalty and that cost me three positions.
“It was a bit of a messy race. Saying that I felt that the moves I tried were justified. I wasn’t trying to do anything crazy. We finished in P6. Obviously, without that time penalty it would have been P5.”
The step up to one of only six cars capable of winning in the top flight has thrust the Thai 23-year-old into one of the brightest spotlights in global sport.
Despite the pressure, Albon admits Monza was less stressful than Spa a week earlier, “They’re still there but I’m enjoying it more. I’m getting to know the car a bit better. In the race I felt I was getting a bit more comfortable.
“I’m still trying things in the races, seeing how the car behaves with switches and everything. It’s still all quite new to me but I feel it’s getting better and my pace was better than Spa. It’s going in a good way,” added the Red Bull driver.