Alex Albon has been rewarded for his Red Bull form with the confirmation that he will stay with the team for the 2020 season. Albon has impressed Red Bull’s management since replacing Pierre Gasly in August. He’s finished in the top six in all seven of his races and, as a result, has retained his seat for at least another year.
The London-born 23-year-old Thai, an F1 rookie who was previously with Toro Rosso before his mid-season step-up, will continue to partner Max Verstappen in 2020. “I am really excited to be partnering Max again for next year and I know how fortunate I am to be given this opportunity,” said Albon. “I’m hugely thankful that Red Bull have put their trust in me and believed in my results since I joined the team and for them to keep me in the car next year is a big deal. This year has been an incredible year for me and getting the call up to Red Bull mid-season was already a big step, so now I will use the learnings from this season and use the experience to improve and fight at the front in 2020.”
Albon has enjoyed an incredible and unlikely rise in 2019. After finishing third in the F2 championship last year, behind this year’s fellow F1 rookies George Russell and Lando Norris, Albon was set for Formula E. Then Toro Rosso came a-calling. Although Albon was out-scored and out-qualified by Kvyat at Toro Rosso in the first half of the year, his speed and consistency, considering he only drove an F1 car for the first time in February, was attractive for Red Bull, who came calling once deciding that Gasly wasn’t up to the job. Albon has yet to stand on the podium since making his debut in Belgium but has finished every race , despite often having to recover through the field, in the top six and has actually scored 14 points more than star teammate Max Verstappen since joining the team.
With Red Bull adamant that Verstappen’s partner would be one of the drivers in their pool of three, it is therefore no surprise that they have opted for Albon. Toro Rosso have meanwhile confirmed that both Gasly and Daniil Kvyat will stay with the team next season. Described as a “young but experienced duo” by the team, Gasly and Kvyat, who have both been axed during a season by Red Bull in the past, will hope to boost their F1 credentials in the midfield. Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s announcements mean that there is only one unconfirmed seat on the grid for 2020, that of Williams.
It now potentially means Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault teammate, Nico Hulkenberg, will be forced to leave Formula 1, effectively rendering him unemployed from the end of 2020. Naturally, as has been seen in the last year or two, that can be subject to very quick change. Hulkenberg was snubbed by Renault for next season, with Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon regaining a full time top tier drive and taking his place alongside Daniel Ricciardo. A return to Williams is something Hulkenberg has already said he is not interested in, and he already accepted that Red Bull was unlikely to recruit from outside its development system.
Hulkenberg also said taking up a simulator driver position or a development driver position with another F1 team next year was “not an option”. He is yet to announce his plans for 2020. Williams now have the only vacant seat for 2020, which is expected to be filled by Nicholas Latifi.
Formula 1 is also set to “clean up its act” by going carbon neutral by 2030. This includes a move to utilising renewable power for offices, factories, and associated facilities. Single use plastics will be banned and water will be recycled or reused where possible by 2025. Chase Carey, Chairman, and CEO of Formula 1, said: “Few people know that the current F1 hybrid power unit is the most efficient in the world, delivering more power using less fuel, and hence CO2, than any other car. We believe F1 can continue to be a leader for the auto industry and work with the energy and automotive sector to deliver the world’s first net zero carbon hybrid internal combustion engine that hugely reduces carbon emissions around the world.”
There are just two rounds left in the 2019 season. This coming weekend sees the final round in the Americas, with the Brazilian GP, before heading to the season finale at Abu Dhabi a fortnight later. Interlagos, as the circuit is perhaps best known, first hosted a round of the F1 GP in 1973. It’s 4.309 kilometres in length for a total race distance of 305.909km and 71 laps. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas is the current race lap record holder, at 1:10.540.
Practice starts at 11:00AM local, Friday November 15, with qualifying getting underway at 15:00 local on Saturday. The race start time is 14:10, Sunday November 17.