Alex Albon weighs in on big AlphaTauri challenge facing Daniel Ricciardo

Thomas Maher
Williams driver Alex Albon at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2023.

Williams' Alex Albon endured a tough time as Max Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate.

Alex Albon is no stranger to mid-season team swaps, and says he found it easier to adjust to racing for the team Daniel Ricciardo has joined.

Daniel Ricciardo has joined the F1 field halfway through the season, having been parachuted in by Red Bull to replace the struggling Nyck de Vries at junior team AlphaTauri. The Australian got the call-up after impressing Red Bull during a Pirelli tyre test at Silverstone following the British Grand Prix.

Alex Albon, who drove for both outfits in his first year in F1, as well as having to deal with being demoted by Red Bull at the end of 2020, believes Daniel Ricciardo is a rejuvenated man on his return to the sport.

Alex Albon: I thought Nyck de Vries would get until the summer break

With two races remaining ahead of the mandatory F1 summer shutdown, Albon said he had thought De Vries would be given until after the Belgian Grand Prix to try impressing his Red Bull bosses.

“[The swap] definitely happened sooner than I expected, I would say that,” he told media ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

“Clearly, they were very happy with Daniel’s test. And that looks like it. I don’t want to put words into anyone’s mouth, but did it accelerate the decision? I don’t know. Looks like it did!

“I know Nyck well, I think he’s a very good driver. 10 races is still an early moment to do it, I would have expected at least until summer break, but I don’t know the reasons.”

With Ricciardo returning to the F1 field after just on eight months out of the cockpit, Albon was asked whether that time away will be a mental help or hindrance to getting back up to speed. recommends

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“I had a year out, he’s had a bit less, but I really do think that year helped me,” he said.

“When you’re in the circus, and when things aren’t going well and you’re just going race to race to race, you’re not really able to reflect and to understand really what’s going on.

“You just feel like you’re in the washing machine, a little bit. Having that time, it’s important to be able to reflect and improve.

“But it’s also just purely good in a sense where you get time away, and you can probably reset mentally because the reset is very important, you start to lose a bit of confidence, and having time away does get rid of the demons in some respects.

“I valued my time in DTM [in 2021] because it was actually driving something a little bit different. But it gave me confidence in a different kind of way.

“I was still driving a racing car, so you still needed to be confident, and driving that car kind of did that to me and it felt like, when I came back into my first test, winter testing back in the Williams, straightaway I felt like I started more confident than I left.

“Just seeing Daniel and seeing the buzz he has, I think that’s happened to him as well.”

Alex Albon: If the AT04 is comfortable, Daniel Ricciardo will hit the ground running

Having jumped into the Red Bull RB15 at the midway point of 2019, having spent the first year driving the Red Bull junior team’s car (then known as Toro Rosso), the STR14, Albon said it had been the Faenza squad’s car that was easier to get used to.

The Williams driver was asked whether he could relate to the extent of the challenge facing Ricciardo, and how he expects the Australian to fare for the rest of the season.

“I personally think it’s all about if it feels intuitive to drive straight away? Does it feel like it makes sense?” he said.

“When I think about my time at Red Bull and Toro Rosso, I felt more comfortable with the Toro Rosso straightaway so I could extract the performance quite quickly.

“My first race weekend, I out-qualified my teammate and it felt like a quick springboard into a good start to the year.

“But, likewise, I think my time at Red Bull and his time at McLaren, when things are taking a bit of time to get your head around.

“That’s when it gets tricky. I think Daniel, if he feels comfortable, he’ll just hit the ground running quite quickly and he’ll get on with it.

“My experience on that is that, within the first two laps, you know if you’re gonna find this quite easy to get up to speed with.”

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