Dr Helmut Marko has pointed the finger at Alex Albon’s race engineer for the Red Bull driver’s disappointing P8 finish in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Albon ended up crossing the line two places lower than the grid slot he had started from, having made an early pit-stop for hard tyres.
That left the London-born Thai driver having to battle his way up through the field against rivals on medium and soft rubber, pulling off a series of overtaking moves to gain positions.
Speculation this season has suggested Albon’s place in the Red Bull team could be under threat, 12 months after he was promoted from AlphaTauri – at the time Toro Rosso – in what was essentially a job swap with Pierre Gasly.
After a promising last three months of 2019, Albon’s progress has at best levelled off and he has so far failed to match the pace of his team-mate Max Verstappen.
Marko, head of Red Bull’s driver development program, described the Spanish contest as Albon’s “worst race” but refused to blame the 24-year-old.
Albon switched race engineers earlier this season with Simon Rennie taking over from Mike Lugg for the British Grand Prix.
In an interview with Speedweek.com, asked if Albon’s place with Red Bull was at risk, Marko said: “The performance in Barcelona, including the strategy, is on the cap of his race engineer.
“Alex looked stupid then, not because of his fault. It was his worst race, but as long as he keeps going he is out of discussion.”
The 77-year-old Austrian also denied that Daniil Kvyat is in danger of being dropped by AlphaTauri despite being outshone by his team-mate Gasly.
Potential F1 drivers from the Red Bull development program are emerging but Marko rejected suggestions that his compatriot Lucas Auer – nephew of Gerhard Berger and currently competing in DTM – is a candidate for Kvyat’s berth.
“Yes, Daniil does not perform as we expected,” said Marko. “But we are still just before half-time. Auer is not on my list.
“(Yuki) Tsunoda in Formula 2 and (Liam) Lawson in Formula 3 are currently in positions that qualify for a super-licence. But we are not thinking of exchanging Kvyat.”
AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost had previously said Tsunoda, who has achieved three F2 podium finishes this season, would be with his team “sooner or later”.