Christian Horner has leapt to the defence of Alex Albon, saying criticism of the driver shows how quickly people “forget things”.
Seven days after he was robbed of a first Formula 1 podium by a late mistake from Lewis Hamilton, Albon’s second outing at the Red Bull Ring didn’t live up to expectations.
The Thai-British racer lined up seventh on the grid and worked his way up to fourth place. But that’s where his progress stopped.
Albon didn’t have the pace on the day to fight the leading three for a podium result and finished 44s down the road from race winner Lewis Hamilton.
The critics were soon out in force.
While Ralf Schumacher feels it is a sign that Red Bull should turn to Sebastian Vettel if they want two drivers on the podium, Jolyon Palmer said Albon offered “nothing” in the fight.
He told BBC Five Live’s Chequered Flag podcast: “In the fight Red Bull have with Mercedes, this is why you put someone like Fernando Alonso in the car. If you have two Max Verstappens then maybe Bottas doesn’t finish second [at the Styrian Grand Prix].
“One Max Verstappen can get beaten and potentially him and someone like Alonso can work together but Albon, as he is right now, is offering nothing to that front fight and he needs to improve to help the team.”
Horner, though, has defended his driver.
“I was asked some questions about Alex’s early race pace,” said the Red Bull team boss, “but let’s remember that he came off the back of a strong weekend the previous week where he was challenging Lewis for victory.
“It just shows how people have a short memory in Formula One and they’re quick to forget things.
“During his first stint on the soft tyre, we were concerned about potential blistering on the front right, so he was managing his pace to ensure he was able to achieve the target lap for his pit stop.
“This meant he gave away significant pace to the cars ahead, but as soon as he changed to the medium compound, he was back on pace.
“If you look at the analysis, Alex was within a tenth of Bottas, who was chasing Max. He also did a very good job in holding off a very fast Sergio Perez at the end of the race.”
The Brit added that the Red Bull bosses are very happy with Albon’s progress especially as he only joined the team midway through last year’s championship when he was called up to replace the under-performing Pierre Gasly.
Horner added: “Alex’s feedback is very good and he and Max work well together which allows us to try different things on each car and make accurate comparisons, which is what we did in Austria.
“Alex is improving with experience, he has a good feel for what the car is doing and that’s very encouraging. We all want him to succeed and let’s not forget he’s only done 11 races with the team whilst Max is in his sixth season.
“Alex has taken a lot of lessons out of Sunday’s performance, so I don’t think he should be down in any way because he actually equalled his best race result in Formula 1 and scored the team a solid amount of championship points.”