Criticism of Albon “unwarranted and unfair”, says Horner

2020 British Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Alexander Albon has been the focus of “unwarranted and unfair” criticism.

Albon joined Red Bull from Toro Rosso in the middle of last season. Asked yesterday about his driver’s performance, Horner said “there has been criticism of Alex, which in some ways has been unwarranted and unfair.”

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.”

Lewis Hamilton, Alexander Albon, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Horner believes Hamilton cost Albon a potential win
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.

Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, Hockenheimring, 2019
Change of engineer wouldn’t have helped Gasly, said Horner
“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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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52 comments on “Criticism of Albon “unwarranted and unfair”, says Horner”

  1. Really?!? He’s been miles off the pace in the 2nd best car (last year too), in the meantime some wonder what GRO is doing in F1 given his performances in a backmarker car… and in which pretty sure even HAM wouldn’t be doing significantly better. Albon seemed a liability to me since race 1 with RBR.

    1. Compared to Gasly Albon is capable of coming through traffic(generally speaking, although he has shown some short-sighted behaviour regularly). RBR has dried up their pool of young drivers with their mentality of treating drivers are use and throw utility(blame Marko and Horner for this) and they dont have any decent drivers in their lower ranks anymore.

      1. There is Vips in the wings, as he is eligible for a superlicence – so Red Bull do have an option in him.

        It has to be said that Albon’s crash is particularly unlucky timing, as it is going to add to the criticism of him.

      2. As if it is Red Bull’s fault that their senior drivers run away the moment they get a challenging teammate.

        1. Its red bulls fault for giving them a car slower then maxs car. How else do you explain gasly being faster in a toro rosso then in a red bull

          1. All teams do that of course. Giving the number two driver the slower car is good for the wc points of course..
            Dream on :)

    2. @huhhii One word – Pride.

      Helmut Marko would never admit (or be held to account, given he’s one of Dietrich’s besties) that he is/has been mismanaging the driver program to the degree he does seem to be (and always has done) from the outside.

      That he considers all his charges as merely resources to be consumed (and, if they don’t like it, they can sod off as they’re nicely compensated for the mental and physical torture he dispenses) speaks volumes.

      1. Ok, this was meant for another thread 🤦‍♂️

      2. Marko, you’re fired. It’s time to fire him haha.

      3. Everybody seems to forget that Marko has had a significant part of today’s drivers under his wing; Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly, Kvyat, Albon… with some of them ending up at the likes of Ferrari and McLaren… I know he’s bit of nutter sometimes with questionable comments, but he does know a thing or two about drivers it seems —just look at the list above and then at last year’s driver top ten!

      4. @optimaxima Yes, this is the core problem. Red Bull could have had Alonso and they can get Vettel back now, but no, Marko’s driver program counts before points and performance, and it’s all about his ego.

  2. If Horner says things like this, we know by now that Albon is close to the exit.

    1. Unfortunately true. Horner would give even Bernie a run in the used car salesman stakes. I remember the nice things he said about Gasly only too well. Would make a great conservative party politician.

    2. So, If Hulk delivers in Racing Point… ?

      1. Yeah, Hulk or Perez would be such an upgrade for RBR. Experience to deal with different cars, they know how to optimize a weekend build up, valuable feedback, and most importantly good race pace/management. I’m sure Vertappen will still be 3 to 4 thents quicker than those guys in qually though.

        1. Agree, aside from the fact that mercedes is way too strong and no matter if you put a schumacher at his prime you won’t do much better than verstappen is doing atm, definitely when it comes to having 2 performing drivers, red bull needs to look OUTSIDE their academy, perez is much better than anyone they can take from their academy just as an example.

  3. Albon has had more than a chance…criticism is not unfair at all…and I think Christians statement is the equivalent of a football chairman backing his manager..
    I suspect Albon has already been replaced for next season…..Now who is available??

    1. Perez and Nico

    2. GtisBetter (@)
      1st August 2020, 10:35

      I wouldn’t call getting into the RB halfway through a season and a couple of races in this season “more then a chance”

  4. Red Bull promoted wrong Toro Rosso driver last season. Kvyat was very decent during his first stint in RB and I don’t understand why they didn’t pick him. Especially since they saw what happened to Gasly when he was promoted too early. They just kinda did the same mistake again.

    1. @huhhii That choice was so that they could evaluate him in a top team as Kvyat had already been there before.

    2. Kvyat seems to have a tendency to hugely overdrive the car when up against better teammates, so he might do that again when paired with Max.

    3. @jerejj That’s a very dumb excuse. If they wanted to evaluate Albon v Gasly then surely pairing them in Toro Rosso would’ve been the logical option. They should’ve promoted Kvyat as a placeholder, let Albon and Gasly mature in Toro Rosso for a few seasons and then promote a driver who comes on top.

      @aapje I don’t know. Kvyat was involved in some silly and completely avoidable incidents, but I feel like both Albon and Gasly have been doing more mistakes than Kvyat did.

      @optimaximal That could explain it. But on the other hand he re-hired Kvyat despite saying that Kvyat will never return to RB driver programme. He seems to be able to change his mind, albeit rarely.

    4. Out of the three recent red bull drivers it is kvyat who was the best. That being said on pace kvyat wasn’t on the same level as ricciardo but was sort of lucky when ricciardo was unlucky. Kvyat is no future world champion but on merit he is at the moment the fastest option for the red bull 2nd seat. He did not do bad job at red bull either.

      One could say even his sacking from the red bull team had nothing to do with his pace. They just wanted verstappen in the red bull and had to switch because otherwise verstappen might have had different ideas. Whether in reality verstappen had actual options is another thing but red bull did not want to even risk losing verstappen. A risk they were way too comfortable with ricciardo which has also cost them dearly and set them to this path with no exit.

      Kvyat’s downgrade also disrupted the red bull and toro rosso junior program as they had to elevate drivers quicker into f1 and into red bull. Suddenly they needed drivers for toro rosso that were not fast enough to be there. This also meant they did not have enough time to evaluate if these drivers are indeed fast enough to be elevated to red bull. And worst of all red bull did not have any options to even choose from. They were forced to take kvyat, they were forced to take gasly and forced to take albon.

      Then getting rid of ricciardo then totally left red bull open for any options at all. They lost like 3-5 years of potential time trying to find the next vettel, ricciardo or verstappen and instead had to take anyone who had enough superlicense points. It sealed the fate for red bull having to deal with second rate drivers for a really long time.

  5. geoffgroom44 (@)
    1st August 2020, 9:33

    Fascinating comments here. Much opinion,little fact. I seem to remember when hotheaded Max first came on the scene,similar comments about inexperience,bla.bla.
    Yesterdays pre-crash practice 2 times suggest a lurking achiever, not a failure. Regular races finishes in the top 6 also indicate a man with some consistency whilst still ‘learning the ropes’ As for the carsh,well, I also remember many comments about Max and his circus activities in the early days…and then it was,’well,he is pushing on the performance edge so we can expect some incidents’.
    So I fail to fully understand this ‘anti-Alex’ theme that is going around some quarters.

    1. @geoffgroom44 Honestly I think Albon is suffering from something a lot of drivers have in the past – particularly rookies and less experienced drivers. And that’s having an exceptional teammate who always gets close to the maximum out of the car every weekend. I think most drivers would look similarly bad up against a Hamilton, Verstappen, or Alonso. Same thing happened to Vandoorne in recent years – came into the team with almost no F1 experience and having the pressure of being up against one of the best drivers every weekend can’t be easy, and maybe caused him to underperform a bit due to pushing too hard.

      I think pace wise Albon hasn’t been too dissimilar to Gasly in the Redbull, but I do think he’s dealing better with the pressure as he doesn’t have the tentativeness and lack of commitment Gasly showed when racing with other cars. But Albon is still very inexperienced to be in a ‘front’ running team, and so I think he has a lot of potential to improve his pace and get closer to Max as he develops.

      1. geoffgroom44 (@)
        1st August 2020, 10:42

        Very fair assessment KC. Of course, the advantages of having a high performing teammate is a quick learning curve and a dynamic motivation to match the teammate. If you have the personality to cope with that.
        I usually watch races on 2 screens, the one screen the race itself, the other the live timing. The LT is very fascinating to watch how a driver can maintain consistency against opponents. On this score, AA does quite well.
        I am an incorrible LH fan, but am somewhat impressed by AA and hope, really hope, he can finally get a podium this weekend…I think it would be good for him…and maybe would silence some of the critics.

        1. I a saw a laptime head to head for Hungary Albon vs. Verstappen. Alex was slower than Max every single lap So yeah, he is consistant, but it’s consistently below what the car is capable of.

          Add to that he’s 3 to 7 thenths off in qually every race too, and well… It’s just not good enough, really.

          1. Mind you, even consistency wasn’t his strength in the Styrian GP, where his pace during his second stint was inconsistent.

      2. I think similarly too. Albon not really had a hot run of luck yet, but was better at scoring points than Gasly during his RB stint. Gasly barely had better than 6th positions during races (including mid race temporary positions!). Albon started to drive for RB slightly after mid season when Ferrari had it’s strongest perid for some races. At that time it looked like it might even be the end of Mercedes’ hegemony considering Ferrari’s qualifying pace and straight line speed. By that time RB was the 3rd team, with a decent gap behind.
        While this season RB’s engine maybe bette but the car is not legendary. Maybe they will fix it as they say, but these snaps are common for them yet, Verstappen crashed or spinned it multiple times since and including winter tests. Having an understeering car not guarantees having a predictable or bengin car at all, if something is overcooked with design or setup, and not yet understood what that is, one can have very horrifying snaps alongside understeer. They are understeering corner entry (and this is not too desirable, because the car should be a bit more nimble without fighting for it, and this fight is where are they likely snapping) instead of having a desirable power-on understeer I guess.
        Despite of it the car is not bad, but lack of predictability not makes it a equipment to be really trusted, and that’s scary. Imo nothing guarantees that RB will deal with Racing Point with more ease than prev midseason’s Ferrari.
        Also nothing guarantees Honda will be on an upward trajectory, if no others colsed the gap vs Mercedes engines, and if we consider history since the Vettel era, RB is on a slow decline results-wise.
        Verstappen is very good, but I think as power units will not change for years, nothing is guaranteed for him or RB.
        Team bosses and generally everyone in business are this diplomatic in their public statements but imo Albon still looks better than prev year’s Gasly, and he still not had a hot run of luck what everyone has occasionally (and in theory, because for example Hulkenberg not really had it when fighted for podiums, Stirling Moss not had it when fighted for titles).
        Gasly improved results wise vs prev year a more than I expected, but Kvyat not really proved himself since his return to F1 results wise, a bit unlucky maybe. Probably RB should open the purse and try to steal one or two of the many Ferrari academists, because Armstrong, Ilott, Shwartzman and Schumacher are all around the top of this year’s F2 scoreboard, so it’s very likely that they will earn the superlicense points by merit in 1-2 years. Shwartzman looks like a juggernaut, I would not sell but promote him in next year into Alfa without doubt, he’s on a rocket trajectory like the young Leclerc was. But the other 3 or Zhou is a nice prospect too, much better than Latifi, who earned his superlicense points after half decade of trying and with a Stroll like wealth.
        I would not bet a dime on Latifi vs Russell, he might had problems at previous races, but the team might be diplomatic as many used to be, time will tell, yet he had a huge gap at live timing considering race pace vs his teammate (who I preferred to see at RP at this race especially as it is British GP, but giving the seat to Hulk is a bit more sane than the average decisions around F1 in the recent years, so it’s ok for me it’s the second best option). As someone mentioned it would be bad to lend Russell to Merc or RP or McLaren in necessity due to Covid, but as I remember these teams agreed to have a shared driver pool for these cases. Hulk or some recent retiree could help out Williams at that time, or what about giving at least a GP to Nyck de Vries, who was a bit more consistent and earned his superlicense points a bit more comfortably than Latifi. It’s not the eighties, a youngsters are much more experineced, they have much higher chance to drive properly and safely as a stand in compared to the age of those monster cars. Despite of it old school F1 had more stand ins an adventurous efforts and those likely not took away from it’s charm.

        1. About the laptime differences amongst teammates, I’d say there is a bit too much between them, I’d say up to 0.3s on average is acceptable and not uncommon between teammates. Albon is a bit above 0.3s I think (but he’s quite consistent and incidentless considering he has 1 years of experience), but Max not had a very fast growing up despite of he had a competitve and sometimes excellent car for 4 years and 2 additional seasons at Toro Rosso. He is good but many had a better learning trajectory historically, and that might foreshadows something about his theoretical peak (or let’s say Maximum? :P)
          The problem with Max, that he had some harsh prank on Ferrari, so one top team is already ruled out for him for years, while the other has its prospects like Russell and I would not rule out Norris or some other guys from other Mercedes engined teams. If factory Mercedes quits, McLaren can excel and the case is same for Verstappen, unless he shows a bit even more. Although I like him, and of course he shown already a lot on track.

    2. GtisBetter (@)
      1st August 2020, 10:40

      “there has been criticism of Alex, which in some ways has been unwarranted and unfair.”

      The “in some ways” is quite important. I think we all know there is room for improvement. For now he must be fast enough to follow max and make sure he is not left alone at the mercy of two Mercedes drivers. I agree that there is also a bit of weird criticism. Crashing is part of it.

      1. geoffgroom44 (@)
        1st August 2020, 10:45

        hehehe. yeah. At this level of expertise I cannot think of any of the ‘top’ drivers who have not had their crashes.As for following, well twice he wasn’t willing to follow Lewis and was shunted off for his audacity,huh? I see no reason why he would be willing to follow Max :-)

    3. Comments about max’s young age and his racecraft are much easier problems to solve than lack of speed with albon and gasly. Max has never been accused of being too slow. Getting older fixed max’s inexperience and doing more races has mostly fixed his racecraft. Although at the same time max has always driven cars which relied on him getting his elbows out to get anything out of the race. More often than not verstappen’s name was spoken with phrases like future world champion and young talent or getting everything out of the car. Meanwhile albon and gasly, and to lesser degree kvyat, were mostly viewed with despair or hope that one day they’ll hopefully be little faster.

      Out of the three recent red bull drivers gasly and albon have been pretty hopeless. Kvyat was not setting the world on fire but he did respectable job at red bull. There is a world of difference how well max has driven and his skills have been talked about in the press compared to what are the topics when it comes to gasly or albon. There just isn’t any comparison.

  6. I don’t believe there’s no benefit backing up Gasly with senior engineer last year but at least this is a good move.

  7. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    1st August 2020, 10:13

    I am confused why he is constantly defending Albon. Every time he is criticized is for being well off the pace, or often crashing. Neither are a good thing! I think the only advantage over Kvyat and Gasly is his racecraft. If anything, He lacks more speed than Kvyat did and is no better than Gasly in that regard. And he’s just as bad as both in terms of number of incidents. But I don’t blame him for either of the clashes with hamilton. They were both good moves that Hamilton misjudged.

    1. @thegianthogweed Kvyat has never been a teammate to Max at RBR, so not perfectly valid to claim Albon lacks more speed than him. The key difference to Gasly is, of course, that Albon has struggled less in traffic and getting through slower cars, but his results and pace have also been more consistent than what was the case with his predecessor.

      1. geoffgroom44 (@)
        1st August 2020, 10:47


  8. Albon is not a Tier 1 driver. It is as simple as that. He is not and would never be a Top driver like Max or Charles. He is Tier 2 driver like Gasly, Kvyat, Kevin…etc

    1. geoffgroom44 (@)
      1st August 2020, 10:46

      I hope when he proves you wrong there will be no tears :-)

      1. Don’t see how he can prove him wrong at this point, I don’t see him lasting much at red bull, they better take someone from outside their academy if they want a competent #2 driver.

        1. geoffgroom44 (@)
          1st August 2020, 21:28

          Now wouldn’t that be a sight worth seeing – Seb and Max on the same team? I mean, both have calm dispositions (huh?) and do not have fiery tempers (huh? Huh?).Both have an impeccable record for not crashing out (huh?), and I’m sure both would get along very well, providing the racing media with endless column inches.
          Still, if the media don’t have AA to moan about, they would need some column inches on some other teammates rivalry.
          Personally, I think it is totally absurd to compare a 1st season F1 driver to Max.
          Comparing cars is one think, that’s technical stuff.
          Comparing drivers, quite another thing.

  9. There is some truth in Horner’s words but the bigger problem is really Red Bull. They can manage a one star driver very well (like Vettel or Verstappen) but when it comes to having two almost evenly matching drivers there the problems will start. Of course we have seen it in many other teams that it is very hard to race with two winning drivers but if you compare Vet-Web and Ver-Ric they are basically the same. Other was favored and the other driver had enough.

    I’m not blaming Red Bull what they are doing but they should do it better. There are two Red Bull teams (I don’t mean Red Bull/Alpha Tauri.) It’s either Vet-Web/Ver-Ric situation or more recent one Ver-Alb/Ver-Gas and they have trouble handling both of those situations.

  10. Given the guy was originally dropped by Red Bull and had limited backing, looked like he was going to go into Formula E until the last minute and was parachuted into a Toro Rosso despite never having driven an F1 car before, then halfway through the year elevated to the main frontrunning squad, the guy’s doing alright.

    He’s been thrown in the deep end far more than any other driver currently, with far less experience and preparation than the others and yet he’s expected to be immediately on the pace or better than Verstappen – arguably one of the best of the current grid in a team that’s largely built around him? He’s seen what happened to Kvyat and Gasly, he knows if he doesn’t perform he’s probably out so considering that pressure he’s performing actually quite well.

    Russell & Norris came in F1 at the same time with better backing and F1 experience, and when they’ve been slow or made mistakes people give them a pass but if Albon’s not immediately on Verstappen’s pace every race the knives come out. It’s weird, given a lot of people (me included) criticised Red Bull for being too cutthroat with Gasly & Kvyat. Do we want to see them chew up another promising young driver psychologically again?

    So far the gap between him to Verstappen has been generally lower than the gap to Gasly, and nothing I saw from Gasly indicated he could come back through the field or make the overtakes that Albon did in the same car. Albon’s a driver that given his experience should by rights be in a Toro Rosso or a midfielder, but he’s having to learn what everyone else knows in a frontrunner. Give the guy some time, Horner is right – the criticism of him is at the moment at least, unfair.

    1. geoffgroom44 (@)
      1st August 2020, 15:30

      excellent and unbiased summary,Adam. many thanks.

  11. Red Bull would probably do better with stability now and not go the usual way. But as any thinking driver would do when pitted against a very fast driver, Albon too has to play his part and build confidence in the team at his side of the garage.

    1. An yet Albon did so great in quali, oh wait..

      1. geoffgroom44 (@)
        1st August 2020, 15:34

        and don’t even think about mentioning shortened practice sessions or anything like that.Meanwhile, a former 4 times champ also experienced shorter sessions,huh? Seb did so great in know, when Ferrari had a ‘special engine’.Come to think of it, Seb also did great when RB had a ‘special floor’.
        As AA has demonstrated on earlier occasions, starting further back is not a limiting factor for him.

      2. Performances like this will certainly not help.

        1. geoffgroom44 (@)
          1st August 2020, 21:31

          I totally agree. such performance from the RB garage,Honda,etc are not helping, Correct me if I’m wrong, but AA didn’t miss out a lot of practice because he drove a stationary car badly. Admittedly, he crashed the ‘unstable’ car the day before, following Max’s fine example of twitching and shuddering on the track.

  12. I like Albon, seems a great guy and there’s no doubt at all he has pace, So this will probably sound like i’m laying into him, but it’s just not happening for him.

    Albon won’t see the year out at Red Bull. Harshly, but…Red Bull. We’ve seen it before, arm around the shoulder quickly becomes being told to get on with it, quickly followed by Helmut Markko pointing at the Toro Rosso(Or Alpha Tauri as they now are) garage and telling them that’s their home now.

    If you look at Kvyat and Gaslys spells there… Kvyat was overdriving in Quali and a fair bit off Ricciardo but in races, when he kept his nose clean, the pace was usually there. He actually outscored Ricciardo in their season together, had the joint highest finish (2nd) and was on the podium before Ricciardo in the season he got dropped. Problem was all that he was getting involved in a few too many incidents, often because he was making up for a poorer quali. His dropping was harsh on him, but they had Verstappen in the wings. The fact Max came in and won on his debut for Red Bull pretty much cemented that it was probably more down to having somebody special they couldn’t risk losing if they didn’t promote, so the correct call.

    Gasly was well, well off Verstappen and the race pace wasn’t there either. To such an extent, he was dragging a car that should have been fighting for podiums and the odd win into midfield and wasn’t being aggressive enough to make up for it. He did show signs of getting more up to pace, but was also starting to get involved in incidents, odd crashes etc. The pace started to ebb again and he was swiftly replaced.

    Albon was initially a little closer to Verstappen than Gasly managed in quali pace, and was aggressive in races to try and help make up for the deficit. He has been, often mega unlucky in races, he should have had at least 2 podiums now and maybe even a win, so the race pace is there…but kinda feel his confidence is going and knowing how Red Bull work and not looking kindly on missed chances, he’s now overdriving too. The quali pace is now rapidly verging on Gasly at Red Bull and the same crashes are happening. If Gasly was replaced, then it’s hard to see how Albon keeps the seat for much longer. He probably does deserve more time, but that’s not how Red Bull operate.

    The only potentially saving grace for him is, who do they bring in?, 2 drivers at Alpha Tauri have already been dropped by Red Bull so can’t see Markko changing his stance on them not being good enough (even though Kvyat probably should have got the seat ahead of Albon down to performances at the time and added experience, and Gasly has again been back to looking excellent in the B team). Realistically, Hulkenberg if he impresses at Racing Point subbing for Perez is the only candidate.Or maybe they let Perez go, keep Hulk for the rest of the season as a seat holder for Vettel and Perez winds up in the Red Bull. But that would see Albon out of F1 or one of the Alpha Tauri drivers unfairly dropped to make room.

    For what it’s worth, i hope Albon keeps his seat. Maybe getting a podium would settle him and keep Red Bull showing faith, but then again, look at Kvyat….

  13. geoffgroom44 (@)
    1st August 2020, 21:36

    I guess my old eyes play tricks with me, but this so called ‘useless driver’ is number 5 in the rankings after 3 races, isn’t he? Thats 66% of Max’s points – but we have to bear in mind that Max only came into formula 1 last year.DUH!

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