Watching Alex Albon cement his place as Williams’ lead driver and one of the stars of this season, Giedo van de Garde wonders if “Red Bull maybe let him go too early”.
Joining the Formula 1 grid in 2019, a late call-up to Red Bull’s junior team, Albon was thrust into the spotlight just 13 races into his fledgling career when he was promoted to the senior team mid-season.
Partnering Max Verstappen, like Pierre Gasly before him, he wasn’t able to match the Dutchman’s pace and performance.
‘I think ‘s***, did Red Bull maybe let him go too early?’
But almost reaching the podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix, denied his first champagne celebration when Lewis Hamilton crashed into him, Albon was retained for the 2020 season.
That year he did manage two podiums to finish seventh in the standings, but his 105 points were a long way off Verstappen’s 214 and he was dropped to a reserve driver role in favour of Sergio Perez.
Back on the grid last season with Williams, Albon set about rebuilding his career while this season he has cemented himself as a star of the future leading to speculation he could even return to Red Bull.
Helmut Marko was quick to rule this season, saying the Thai-British has “already had his chance”, and while he has “improved remarkably”, the 80-year-old says “at the moment there is no driver who is on Max’s level”.
But given his performances this season, former F1 driver turned pundit van der Garde wonders if Red Bull do regret letting him go.
“It’s definitely a driver who is very surprising this year,” GPFans quotes him as having told Viaplay.
“It’s a car and a team that keeps making strides, but he really does have the number 1 position within the team, so he also has a lot of confidence, everyone believes in him, the team believes in him, he can also bring the car to himself, and you can see that – that he keeps making strides.
“I think he is performing incredibly well, and sometimes I think ‘s***, did Red Bull maybe let him go too early’?”
Van der Garde wouldn’t mind Liam Lawson holding onto the AT04
The Dutchman also weighed in on Red Bull’s newest junior on the Formula 1 grid, Liam Lawson.
Called up to replace the injured Daniel Ricciardo when the Aussie broke his hand in FP2 for the Dutch GP, Lawson finished 13th that Sunday ahead of Yuki Tsunoda while in Italy he missed out on a point by a single position.
“Very good,” van der Garde told Motorsport.com. “He was a bit invisible in the race. Of course, I didn’t see much, but I was able to watch his times every now and then.
“First of all, the qualifying. A tenth behind his teammate Yuki Tsunoda, that is incredibly good. You just have to do it. It is not an easy circuit either. I thought that was a real plus anyway.
“In addition, he simply had a good race. Made no mistakes, didn’t go off, stayed cool all weekend. So yes, I give him a nine.”
He wouldn’t mind seeing Lawson stay in the car for the rest of the season.
“I hope Lawson can drive all year, that would be great,” he said. “Look, he is a young talent. Last year he of course also entered free practice in Max’s car. He also did very well there.
“We already know that there is talk about him that he is a great talent, fast, gives good feedback, is calm, and does not make mistakes.
“It’s probably not going to happen. But if he can show what he’s worth for another two or three races, then that will be fantastic for him.
“Because you know, the more you’re in that car and the more races you do, the better it gets and the more you become one with such a car. So if he gets another chance in Singapore and Japan, that will be fantastic for him. That especially applies to Japan, where he knows the circuit well.
“Of course, he has to drive against Yuki Tsunoda, so it won’t be easy. But on the other hand, I hope he can still show it and that he will get a chance in Formula next year 1.”