Red Bull tips Albon to be the 'surprise' of F1 this season

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Alex Albon is being tipped as the possible "surprise of the season" in Formula 1 this year by Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

The London-born Thai driver enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2019, going from a potential Nissan seat in Formula E to Toro Rosso and was then promoted alongside Max Verstappen from the Belgian Grand Prix.

His consistency in the final nine races was pretty impressive too, as he would have finished in the top six at each one had Lewis Hamilton not collided with him at Interlagos.

So with some experience now under his belt and stability at Red Bull, Horner believes that could enable Albon to put up a strong fight against his highly-rated teammate.

“For Alex, people do forget it’s his second season in Formula 1 and he’s missed sort of the first half of that, so it’s been a baptism by fire – but he coped with that incredibly well last year,” he said earlier this week.

“He seems to deal with pressure very well and we’re just looking for him to make progress on where he finished last season.

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“I think opportunities will present themselves for him and I really think he could be the surprise of the season in many respects this year.”

Before heading to Austria, Albon had the chance to test the upgraded RB16 at Silverstone in a filming day last week, as Red Bull adapted to the new operating protocols at a time of coronavirus.

While the 24-year-old called that part of the day "seamless", he also admitted it was beneficial to get back in the groove. 

“I feel good,” he said. “There’s [been] so much time [off the track] that, with any driver, there’s going to be that level of uncertainty as to what’s going to happen.

“I’m glad I did the filming day to get that initial dust off my shoulders but I’m excited, we’ve all been waiting for this.

“There’s been a long drought, we all do this because we love it and we’ve missed it, so I can’t wait to get started.”

Like everyone, Albon is preparing to go from no racing to full throttle with at least eight races in the next 10 weeks and more expected after that.

“The teams that really get into the racing rhythm first will be the best and the ones to beat," he said on that challenge.

“Being back to back to back, we will have less time to prepare, unlike a normal weekend where we do some simulator [running], and of course there will be tracks which we’ve never been to, but I think that’s a good opportunity.

“I think the good teams will be quite flexible, the same with the drivers, being on top of it and understanding the car and the tracks as quick as possible, and that’s an area where as a team I believe we will be pretty successful.

“Just looking historically at how Red Bull are good at interpreting and getting up to speed quickly. It should be good!”