Can Albon fight the very best drivers in F1? Opinions are mixed

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Duelling arguments have been made as to whether Alex Albon is upto the standard of fighting Formula 1's top names after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The Thai driver was confirmed as a Red Bull driver in the build-up to the weekend at Interlagos and almost celebrated with his first podium before colliding with Lewis Hamilton.

Albon had only got back into that position, however, thanks to the two Safety Cars during the mad final 16 laps in Sao Paulo and offering his analysis, ex-Renault driver Jolyon Palmer still thinks he has some work to do to match the front runners consistently.

“Albon has undoubtedly been stronger in the Red Bull than Gasly and would have been on the podium in Brazil had it not been for Hamilton’s overzealous passing attempt, but his qualifying deficit to Verstappen is 0.42secs – more than twice that of Ricciardo,” Palmer wrote for the BBC.

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“Albon has been impressive in race conditions, to an extent. His race-craft has been particularly strong since he joined Red Bull, often charging from the back of the grid after a penalty to finish on the back of the main race, and he has made some sumptuous overtakes – including around the outside of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Brazil.

“But at the moment he still seems unable to make any inroads into the ‘A’ race. While [Max] Verstappen took pole position and was heading to victory in Brazil, Albon qualified sixth and was heading for a finish there until Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes engine expired and mixed up the race.

“All the while Albon has been doing OK – but perhaps not quite progressing as well as Red Bull would have hoped after a strong opener in Belgium – [Pierre] Gasly has been sensational back in the Toro Rosso.”

That move on Vettel into the Senna S was the biggest statement Albon has made since joining Red Bull, however, and team boss Christian Horner does think the 23-year-old can hang.

“I think it’s very clear for everyone to see,” said the Briton.

"He’s now racing wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and the Ferraris and he’s making great progress. He’s impressed his whole team with his racecraft.”

It can't be ignored that Albon does still lack a few tenths to Verstappen and that was also telling when he struggled to pass Hamilton despite being on fresher tyres after the first Safety Car.

But with a full winter of preparation to come, only more can be expected from Albon heading into 2020.

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