Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko maintains that he is happy with Alex Albon for now, but he must make himself a feature in the title picture.
When the Thai driver picked up his first podium in Formula 1 with P3 at the Tuscan Grand Prix it seemed like he had finally made a breakthrough after a difficult start to 2020.
But his season has declined again since then with P10 at the Russian Grand Prix that followed, and a DNF at the Eifel Grand Prix.
Albon received plenty of criticism for his showing around the Nurburgring, with his “they race me so hard” comment earning him very little sympathy.
And while Red Bull consistently defended their struggling driver, Marko has now said that the team can’t afford to keep fighting for titles with just Max Verstappen.
As quoted in AvD Motorsport Magazine in an interview with F1-Insider.com, Marko said: “The distance to Max at the Nürburgring was reasonable. If he [Albon] continues to deliver races like this, he will have his seat for 2021 safely.
“I don’t think that anybody is capable of beating Verstappen. The question is, who can be in the range of three tenths of a second? Albon can on good days and he’s still young. It’s also clear that you can’t go into the title fight with just one leg. Competitiveness is what counts. But we are not that far on yet.”
If Red Bull did decide to look to replace Alex Albon in the team for 2021, then Marko said the alternatives are clear.
“You can name the names. They are [Nico] Hülkenberg and [Sergio] Pérez,” he confirmed.
“We were already talking to Hülkenberg on Friday. Albon had had an uncertain, undefined test result. It could have turned out to be positive. Right after landing I called Hülkenberg.”
That first taste of an F1 car 👌
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) October 14, 2020
There are four seats to fill under the Red Bull banner for 2021 across the works team and also AlphaTauri.
Pierre Gasly is expected to retain his seat at AlphaTauri for next year with Yuki Tsunoda, who is backed by Honda, likely to become his new team-mate.
Verstappen’s place at Red Bull is obviously secure, but when will Red Bull make an official announcement on their 2021 line-ups?
“We want to be clear about the fourth position in Istanbul at the latest,” Marko revealed.