Alex Albon: ‘The general public get me wrong’

Alex Albon returned to Formula 1 in 2022 following a year racing in DTM after he was axed by Red Bull.

At a time when there is so much talk surrounding how difficult it will be for Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher to return to Formula 1 in the future should they fail to get a 2023 seat, Williams’ Alex Albon is living proof that such a thing is very much possible.

The Thai driver who raced onto the scene in 2019 with Toro Rosso (known now as AlphaTauri), quickly sent shockwaves throughout the paddock after being promoted to Red Bull halfway through his debut season; however, this proved to be the point where everything started to go wrong.

After 18 months racing for the Austrians alongside Max Verstappen, Albon achieved just two podium finishes, whereas Verstappen achieved 15, with three of those being victories.

At the end of 2020, Albon was ultimately dropped by Red Bull and replaced by Sergio Pérez, with the driver set for a year out of Formula 1.

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He was instead put into DTM in 2021 with the backing of AlphaTauri, whilst Red Bull tried to find a seat for him to make his F1 return in 2022.

Backmarker Williams ended up being the only place available for him, but in all fairness to the former Red Bull driver, he’s lapped up the opportunity.

He has suited the team similarly to how George Russell did, by consistently overperforming in a car which arguably shouldn’t be anywhere near the points places.

Team-mate Nicholas Latifi has been well and truly overshadowed by Albon, who has proven that Williams can compete amongst the midfield.

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Many were left disappointed when he was ruthlessly dropped by Red Bull, due to the 26-year-old being a fan favourite for his bubbly, happy persona.

Whilst this has remained since he returned this season, there is no doubt that this new version of Albon is considerably more mature than the one who was promoted to Red Bull in their debut season.

The Williams driver who ended the opening day of the Japanese Grand Prix in P13 after FP2, revealed that the “public” get his personality “wrong”, with the Thai driver admitting he has a “fiery side”.

“The general public get me wrong,” the Williams driver told the BBC.

“They think I’m this happy-go-lucky kid constantly and that I’m not hungry, maybe too nice.

“They will never see the fiery side because they don’t have a headset. They don’t listen to me when I’m driving.

“I’m naturally quite happy. I love what I do. It’s the reason why I wanted to be in F1 so much. And I felt like I’ve learned to enjoy it and relax. But you definitely need a fiery side if you want to be in F1.”

Albon’s future in F1 was secured earlier in the year, after signing a multi-year contract extension with the historic British side.

There is no doubt that he’s faced his challenges since returning, none bigger than having suffered from respiratory failure following surgery after the Italian Grand Prix for appendicitis.

When asked by the BBC if his new contract is due to himself having demonstrated more steel than fire since 2019, he revealed that when driving he needs to be a “fighter” not a friend.

“It’s both,” admitted Albon.

“It’s the resilience and at the same time it’s determination.

“As a driver, you almost need to be a fighter. When you have a helmet on, you’re fighting other drivers. And I am fired up. I really am not a nice person when I have my helmet on. Speak to the engineers here and they will tell you that.”

The Williams driver is clearly taking a more professional approach since returning to the World Championship, with himself now having a manager and performance coach so that his time gets divided between tasks appropriately.

Albon is known for not being a massive fan of TV appearances, something he gets no choice over being an F1 driver.

He has become better whilst talking to the various broadcasters, with huge thanks being down to the “circle” of people he has around him.

“It’s a genuine thing,” he said.

“There’s a lot of noise in F1 and I think I most probably got caught up in it a bit too much in 2020. There was a lot of firing going on and I was trying to avoid all the bullets.

“Red Bull were very good to me and were trying to help me and support me, but having that circle around me has allowed me to really focus on the driving side – the thing I really like.

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“I’m much more of a guy who is comfortable with the engineers than in front of a TV camera and that kind of thing.

“It was understanding that side of things and making sure I had almost a strategy going into this year – ‘okay, this is how I know I operate best, this is where I understand the car but this is also how I need to understand the team and figure out how I perform at my best as well’.

“A big part of that, which doesn’t really get talked about, is the handling of the Formula 1 environment in itself. It’s such a beast, in the way that you guys do your jobs.”