Alex Albon, the Thai-British racer currently with Williams, recently shared his experiences alongside Max Verstappen during his time at Red Bull. Speaking on the High Performance Podcast, co-hosted by former BBC F1 presenter Jake Humphrey, Albon offered a rare glimpse into what it's like to be a teammate of the reigning triple world champion, Max Verstappen.
Albon, who spent one-and-a-half seasons with Verstappen after being promoted from Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) in 2019, began by addressing the perception of Verstappen's dominance within the team. “The first thing is, a lot of people say that car is built around him, he’s kind of like the Michael Schumacher of Ferrari, he’s created this team around him,” Albon said.
He quickly pointed out that while the car's design might favor Verstappen's style, it's the Dutch driver's exceptional speed and unique driving style that truly sets him apart. Understanding Verstappen's Unique Style Describing their differing approaches, Albon noted, “Everyone has a driving style, I would say my driving style is a bit more on the smooth side, but I like a car that has a good front-end, so quite sharp, quite direct.
Max does too, but his level of sharp and direct is a whole different level – it’s eye-wateringly sharp”. Albon likened Verstappen's style to the extreme sensitivity setting in a computer game, where even the slightest movement can lead to swift, sometimes jarring reactions.
This high level of sensitivity, Albon explained, could be unnerving and lead to tension. As the season progresses and car developments focus on enhancing these characteristics, it creates additional challenges for the other driver in the team.
“As it goes sharper and sharper, he goes quicker and quicker, and for you to catch up you have to start taking a little bit more risk,” Albon observed. This situation often leads to a snowball effect, where attempts to keep pace result in accidents or spins, eroding the driver's confidence and widening the performance gap.
Albon's candid discussion reveals the intricacies and mental challenges of Formula 1 racing. Competing alongside a driver like Verstappen, who demands and thrives on such a finely-tuned and responsive car, presents a formidable task.
It requires not just skill but also a high degree of adaptability and mental resilience, shedding light on the often-underappreciated aspects of motorsport that go beyond mere speed and technical prowess.