Red Bull prepared to ‘loan’ Albon to rival team

Date published: December 28 2020

Alex Albon PA

Alex Albon could be loaned by Red Bull to a rival team in 2021 if they urgently need a driver, Dr Helmut Marko has revealed.

The London-born Thai was pushed out of his Red Bull race seat at the end of the 2020 season having failed to come up to scratch as Max Verstappen’s team-mate.

Sergio Perez was hired instead in the quest to take the World Championship fight to Mercedes, with Albon switching to reserve and test driver status.

Nevertheless, with Perez only having an initial one-year contract, Red Bull still hope Albon will eventually regain his place and show why they had invested so much faith in him.

One way of doing that would potentially be to step into a different team should a regular driver be unavailable, as occurred with Nico Hulkenberg at Racing Point on two occasions in 2020.

That was due to illnesses suffered by Perez and Lance Stroll, while George Russell was called up by Mercedes from Williams when Lewis Hamilton contracted COVID-19.

In confirming that Albon took the news of his demotion “calmly”, Dr Marko, head of Red Bull’s driver development programme, outlined what next year would have in store for the 24-year-old – which includes also being on standby for AlphaTauri as well as Red Bull.

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Alex Albon Red Bull

“We have assured him we will use him extensively in test drives,” said Marko in an interview with Motorsport-total.com.

“The 2022 tyres are to be tested, for which there are separate tests. He will drive a lot of simulators. He will also be a reserve driver for many races. We have four cars. The chances that he will be used are there.

“In addition, we are ready to loan him out if the situation arises in another team that they need a driver at short notice, so he can achieve racing kilometres.

“It is not the end. We will see whether we can stabilise him.”

Marko also elaborated on what had gone wrong for Albon.

“A lack of consistency,” he explained. “And he was too easily unsettled, for example when the wind increased in intensity or came from a different direction. Or when the tyres started to degrade, he lost a disproportionately large amount of time.

“It’s certainly a mental story too. But if you have a team-mate who drives at the absolute top level, no matter what the car is, I think that plays a subordinate role.

“Of course, all the reports and the unsatisfactory results unsettled him. His gap to Verstappen increased over the course of the season, not decreased. Admittedly marginal, but it did grow.”

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