Alex Albon has rubbished claims Sebastian Vettel’s farewell dinner set Lewis Hamilton back 140,000 but that’s about all he’s open to sharing about the night in question.
On the eve of Vettel’s final race in Formula 1, long-time rival turned good friend Hamilton organised a dinner with all 20 drivers present.
Seated around a long table, the photographs from the night clearly show 20 people having a good time and enjoying each others’ company.
Speaking with the F1 Nation podcast team, it was suggested to Albon that there is a ‘camaraderie and respect’ on today’s grid that has never before been seen.
The Williams driver agreed.
“I agree,” he said. “I think the older guys talks about this… I don’t know how it was for you Damon [Hill] but there was a bit more of like enemies or rivals.
“[Today] it’s different. We’re still kind of friends.
“Obviously, when you see the racing on the track, we’re not friends on the circuit. But at least off the track we spend so much time with each other.
“We’re doing 23, 24 races now and I see, unfortunately my team-mate Nicky [Nicholas Latifi] or George or whoever more than I do Lily [Albon’s partner] and that’s just the way it is.
“You kind of build a friendship and I’ve raced against a lot of the drivers since I was eight, nine years old. So I’ve spent a long time with them and yet, there’s also this thing where I think the drivers who have been in the sport for a while, Lewis, Valtteri [Bottas], Daniel [Ricciardo], they’re all super nice guys. They make us feel very welcome and it makes everyone feels like a family and it’s really nice.
“That dinner, truthfully speaking, it was really special. It was a lot of fun. I think every driver, myself included, my cheeks were aching, just smiling and laughing the whole time. So it was really good.”
But while Albon refused to answer the question of who had the alcoholic drinks and who abstained, “I feel I’d get in trouble, that was a strict policy of the dinner itself we can’t say what happened”, he did deny rumours the bill was 140 grand.
“We had a set menu,” he said. “There’s a lot of people with dietary requirements, like obviously Lewis is vegan and all that kind of thing.
“Lewis covered the bill, very nice of him. He organised it as well. Very nice of him. So he knows what the bill was.
“So that bill [the rumoured one], I saw that bill, that bill was from the Salt Bae guy, we didn’t even eat there. We ate in a place called Hakkasan.”
The last group supper and its 18 separate bills
Hamilton’s decision to pick up the bill is in sharp contrast to the last time the F1 drivers had a group dinner back in April 2016 in Shanghai.
That night, then reigning World Champion Hamilton says, his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg asked for separate bills.
“It was a little bit silly really, ridiculous because someone said: ‘Let’s share the bill,’ so 18 drivers shared a bill which is just insane,” the Briton revealed after.
“It probably wasn’t really that expensive. I did say: ‘Why don’t I just get it now, or two of us get it now, and then the next time someone else gets it?’ And they are like: ‘No, no, no. I want to pay individually.’
“We all got a receipt, 18 receipts, 18 credit cards, it was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I have never seen anything like that before.”
Asked who suggested the separate bills, Hamilton replied: “I am pretty sure it was Nico.”
But when that was put to Rosberg, he said: “Really? Interesting. From what I can remember, the hidden agreement usually is that the World Champion pays, but that might just be my opinion.”