Alex Albon is set to be axed by Red Bull, with Ted Kravitz recently citing sources as saying Sergio Perez will replace him and a source telling Formula1News.co.uk in early November that the Thai driver will not be retained by the team beyond 2020.
However, former F1 driver Martin Brundle believes Albon provided Red Bull with “timely ammunition” to keep him as a result of his performance in the season finale at Abu Dhabi.
“Alex Albon had arguably his strongest day all season from a team perspective, passing Lando Norris with a nice move and then staying well within the pit-stop window of both Mercedes, which took away their opportunity to try something different with one car on a second stop in order to try to destabilise Max Verstappen’s metronomic progress out front,” Brundle wrote in his latest column for Sky Sports F1.
“Albon was the fastest car on track in the final quarter of the race and closed to within a second-and-a-half of Hamilton, and four seconds of Bottas who finished second.
“For those in the team keen to retain Albon next season, it provided timely ammunition,” he added.
Analysis: How Strong Was Alex Albon’s Abu Dhabi GP?
While it’s fair to say the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was probably Albon’s best race of the season, it was hardly a strong performance.
In qualifying, Max Verstappen took pole with his Red Bull RB16, while Albon could only manage P5 in equal machinery, behind both Mercedes and the McLaren of Lando Norris.
As for the race, the Red Bull was clearly the fastest car, but Albon was nevertheless outpaced by the two Mercedes, though he was catching Lewis Hamilton towards the end.
More alarmingly, he finished the race around 20 seconds behind Verstappen – and this gap would have been around 30 seconds if an early safety car hadn’t bunched the field up and allowed him to close the gap to his Red Bull team-mate.
So, while it was a strong race by Albon’s standards, the harsh reality is it was still far off the level you would expect from Red Bull’s second driver – and it’s hard to argue that a driver like Sergio Perez or Nico Hulkenberg wouldn’t have done a better job.