'Mr Nice Guy' Albon claims his first podium in 'brutal' Tuscan Grand Prix
Mugello (Italy) (AFP) –
Thai driver Alex Albon claimed his first Formula One podium on Sunday and before he had climbed from his car thanked Red Bull for their faith in him following a tricky few weeks of speculation about his future.
It was a typically polite gesture from one of the paddock's nicest people who has often been reminded that 'Nice Guys Don't Win'.
Albon had struggled to match the pace of his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen in the early months of this coronavirus-hit season and some critics – including six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton -- questioned his ability and value to the team.
But in the first Tuscan Grand Prix, after Verstappen was eliminated in an opening lap crash, the London-born Thai driver rose to the challenge and came home third behind the Mercedes pair championship leader Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
A series of sweeping overtaking moves and some smart aggressive wheel-to-wheel racing proved he had the talent and the determination to succeed.
"I think I get my elbows out on the circuit and I'm nice off it," said Albon. "I think that's the best combination isn't it? I'm nice underneath!"
He said he felt very happy to have lifted the pressure on himself.
"It was good," he said. "Obviously, it is been a while to get here, but it was a tough one. I had to work for it.
"I am happy and I can breathe. It is nice to be here. It was brutal, especially the high speed in sector two. It is more adrenaline going in my body than anything else. I am very happy.
"At the start, we couldn't get off the line so most of my overtakes had to be on circuit. We can do moves like that here and it is fun to drive."
- 'Confidence boost' -
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner beamed with pleasure at seeing his faith in Albon rewarded.
"I am really pleased for him," he said.
"He has bounced back the last couple weekends. He has been getting stronger and stronger and he had to really fight for it.
"The starts were pretty horrible, but he responded and did very well. He is 'Mr Round the Outside' – his placement of the car is really very good. Daniel (Ricciardo) is a hard guy to pass."
Horner disagreed when asked if Albon's friendly temperament held him back.
"It is a disadvantage that he is too nice," he said. "But when he puts the helmet on there is a real racer.
"It is different thinking you can do it to knowing it. This podium for him will give him a boost of confidence. I think he will build from here nicely."
© 2020 AFP