Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Alexander Albon has been the focus of “unwarranted and unfair” criticism.
Horner said Albon had been well-placed to score a strong result in the opening race of the season, and had delivered top-five finishes since then.
“If you look back to the first race in Austria, through strategy he was in a position to arguably win that race and was taken out by Lewis Hamilton.
“He finished fourth in the next race and fifth in the next race.”
Speaking before Albon’s crash in second practice yesterday, Horner admitted the team’s car was a handful for its drivers.
“We know the car we have provided our drivers with this year isn’t optimised and it has had some difficult characteristics . For a driver that doesn’t have experience, he’s only just had over a year’s worth of Formula 1 experience, that’s a tough call.
“But the way he has handled the situation, the way he has handled the pressure has been impressive. And I think he just needs time and we’re doing our best to support him as much as we can and things like the experience of the race engineer he’s now working with will only compound that.”
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Red Bull has replaced Albon’s previous race engineer Mike Lugg with the experienced Simon Rennie as of this weekend’s race.
“Simon has obviously been with the team for a long time and he was race engineer to both Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo through his entirety at Red Bull,” said Horner. “Simon left the pit wall through his own choice at the end of 2018 to take on a factory-based role and that’s what he’s been working at for the last couple of years.”
Rennie had been recalled to help Albon tackle the car’s handling instabilities, said Horner.
“With the issues that we currently have with the car and an inexperienced driver like Alex we felt that it was unfair on the race engineer who was working with Alex, who was relatively inexperienced, to have that pressure. So we’ve brought Simon back into the front line for the rest of the season. Mike remains under contract to us.
“Hopefully that experience, that knowledge while we aggressively develop this car, will only help Alex. You have to understand that every time he gets in the car it’s that little bit different and I think an experienced hand like Simon is definitely a positive for him.”
Asked whether Pierre Gasly, who Albon replaced at Red Bull mid-season last year, might also have benefited from a more experienced race engineer, Horner said: “Pierre was a bit more experienced that Alex is.
“And we had a car that was far more settled than where we currently are. So I don’t think it would have had any material change on Pierre’s performance last year.”
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