Ex-Red Bull star branded F1 World Champion material after huge transformation

Oliver Harden
Nico Hulkenberg, Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo, Logan Sargeant

F1 drivers, including former Red Bull stars Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo, line up for the national anthem.

James Vowles has backed Alex Albon to become F1 World Champion one day after watching the former Red Bull star grow in stature at Williams last season.

Albon enjoyed arguably his strongest F1 season to date in 2023, scoring all but one of Williams’ 28 points as the team finished seventh in the Constructors’ standings – their best result since 2017.

In his second season with Williams, the Thai driver registered seven points finishes in total and made a number of Q3 appearances, starting as high as fourth at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Alex Albon transformed since Red Bull F1 spell

His revival came after a troubled 18-month spell as Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate across 2019/20, which ended with Albon being demoted to a reserve role for 2021 to make way for Sergio Perez.

Former Mercedes strategist Vowles, who excelled in his first year as an F1 team principal in 2023, has been struck by Albon’s transformation over the last 12 months.

And he has tipped the 27-year-old to emerge as a potential World Champion, claiming few other drivers could match his exploits in the Williams.

He told German publication Auto Motor und Sport: “The Alex you see today is different from the Alex when he was at Red Bull or the Alex at the beginning of the season.

“He still lacked faith in himself. He has it now. He is happy, he is a leader, he has self-confidence, he works in a structured way and sets the direction.

“It all sounds easy, but the simplest is often the hardest.

“You never know how good a driver is compared to another until you put him in the same car as the other at the same time. If other drivers had to drive a Williams tomorrow, they would probably have a hard time.

“Today I know from Alex that he gets the maximum out of the car available to him at any time.

“And every time you put him under pressure, he withstands the pressure. He can cope with a car that is difficult to drive. This experience can be an advantage for him.

“For me, Alex has the skills to become world champion once. I mean that honestly.”

Albon recently outlined the changes he put in place both on and off track to become a more complete driver, having confessed to being too meek during his shortened spell at Red Bull.

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He told the High Performance podcast: “I realised there were two areas I needed to work on.

“First, I felt like I was too much of a ‘yes man’ at Red Bull. I was too eager to impress and to please, so I’d always say yes to a lot of things and I realised my energy – my mental energy – was far too drained even before I got into the car to begin with.

“The second thing was just pure performance. Where were my weaknesses to Max? What areas of the car? Why was he able to drive this style of cars, why could he drive it like this way? What areas in race management did I struggle with compared to him?

“I created almost two areas, two sides – the racing side and the non-racing side but of course it’s all in one.

“I sat down with my trainer, got myself a manager, got myself a social [media] person, got myself a psychologist.

“I got the network going so I had a true team. I chose people that were maybe not the most experienced in their role, but would fight me to the death.

“And these are the same people that I have with me to this day: people who wanted an opportunity but cared for me.

“I took a guy from Red Bull who always fought my corner no matter how tough the situation was. He became my manager and then my trainer, who’s obviously been with me from the very beginning.

“So I created my network and then on the other side of things was the driving stuff, which was actually very tough to do because I couldn’t drive the car due to just not having a seat.

“I did a lot of work in the simulator, which made me understand things a little bit better. How do I get myself to be the best driver I can be, that’s going to put me in the best position? I’ll do that.”

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