Jacques Villeneuve has added his voice to the growing criticism of Alex Albon by hinting Max Verstappen is taking on Mercedes single-handedly for Red Bull.
Albon has struggled this year to be an effective team-mate for Verstappen, with only one podium finish at the Tuscan Grand Prix and he is generally off the Dutchman’s pace in qualifying especially.
The Eifel Grand Prix most recently was a particularly bad one for the London-born Thai driver, who performed raggedly in the race from the first few corners and eventually had to retire with a punctured radiator just as he was about to serve a five-second penalty for clipping off Daniil Kvyat’s front wing during an overtaking move.
Villeneuve has compared Red Bull’s situation to the contrasting scenario at Mercedes, where Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have combined to put the World Champions close to collecting a seventh straight constructors’ title already, being 180 points ahead of Red Bull.
“Mercedes have the advantage of having two drivers who are more equal to each other,” said the Canadian, the 1997 World Champion, quoted by GP Blog.
“That’s why they can make the car better. A top team needs two really good drivers.”
Villeneuve’s remarks are in contrast to those of Albon’s bosses who continue to defend the driver, in order to preserve his confidence, when it would be easy to take the opposite stance.
After the race at the Nurburgring, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: “I think he would have been racing [Sergio] Perez and [Daniel] Ricciardo even with that flat spot and early stop… so I think it’s a shame he didn’t get a result out of it because I think there was more to come.”
Dr Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull’s driver development programme, said: “The distance to Max at the Nürburgring was acceptable. If he continues to deliver such races, he will have his cockpit for 2021 safe.”
Spared from the Villeneuve criticism is Verstappen, who consistently this season has been the only driver able to live with the Mercedes duo in qualifying or races and won the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.
“He works very hard with the team and this way they are able to make progress,” said Villeneuve, who was impressed with Verstappen’s display in the Eifel Grand Prix where he finished second behind Hamilton.
“Verstappen was fast throughout the race. He had almost a comparable pace to both Mercedes cars.”