Red Bull team boss Christian Horner continues to keep his head buried in the sand (or is it mud?) with regards to the team’s underperforming driver Alex Albon, this time at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix.
Relative to Max Verstappen, Alex is nowhere as the stats show. On outright pace, he is about half a second shy of his teammate in whatever conditions and in the race, he is even worse.
At Portimao, on Sunday, he started sixth and slithered down to 12th by the end of the Grand Prix in which Max finished on the podium and lapped the sister car in the process. Adding insult to injury, Pierre Gasly was fifth in the AlphaTauri.
But Horner sees it differently, “He had a tough afternoon. It was difficult at the start with those issues getting the soft tyre turned on.
And then offered a bunch of PR excuses in defence of his driver, “But he came around the first lap in P11 and you think ‘okay, well start getting the temperature and start to build it up from there’, but he got stuck in the train.
“And then his tyres started opening up, a lot of graining, so we pitted him and went on to the mediums. He started to have reasonable pace, he caught up to the back of that group but then he started to wear through the tyres to the point where they had to stop again, we couldn’t have gotten to the end.
“And then we put another set of softs on, but obviously he was too far back to catch up, so a tough afternoon for him today,” admitted Horner, who never showed as much sympathy and compassion when Pierre was going through a crisis in his team.
The double-standards are blatant, but at least the team boss acknowledged, “I think Pierre is doing a great job and he drove another great race today, some great moves.
“You can see his confidence is there, that AlphaTauri car is an easier car to drive, it was an easier car last year when Alex stepped out of it that was one of the first comments he made.
“But I’ve got no reason not to think that if the tables were turned it would probably be the same situation. I think Alex in that car would probably perform equal to that as Pierre is at the moment.
“We have so much information on these drivers, and the characteristics of our car are very different, and that’s something that Alex in certain conditions is struggling with as Pierre did 12 months ago.
“So that’s obviously something we need to work on, but you can see in difficult conditions the segregation between the drivers, whether its Leclerc and Seb at the moment or even Lewis and Valtteri in the race there, you see quite a big offset and that’s obviously what we’ve seen again today.”
With Red Bull apparently committed to their Albon-project, the question of how to get the number two driver closer to the team leader?
Horner ventured, “Quick cars tend to be difficult cars to drive, Max is showing what the car’s potential is and we want both drivers obviously to be up there.
“We need to get Alex to a point where he’s within a couple of tenths, as Valtteri is with Lewis so that it gives you different strategic options in the race.
“Everybody is doing their very best to try to help Alex find a setup, to find a balance that he’s got confidence with because we all still believe in him, he’s a great kid, he’s got great talent,.
“Obviously he’s only in his second year of Formula 1 and everybody is rooting for him to really claim that seat, but obviously today has been a really difficult day for him,” admitted the Red Bull team boss
As for their 2021 driver line-up, Horner explained, “That moment in time is converging, within the next few weeks. We know the options that are available to us and we want to give Alex every opportunity to find his form and claim that seat.”