Albon Shares Fascinating Story Of How He Became Formula 1 Driver Overnight

F1
by Erik VirostkoWednesday, 31 January 2024 at 03:00
albon alex williams5
Alex Albon is now one of the more established drivers in F1, but his start was very unconventional, as he found himself in the sport technically overnight.
In 2018, the Thai driver was competing with his good friends George Russell and Lando Norris for the championship in F2, and even though they both had their contract for the 2019 season secured, Albon was the only one without it.
Therefore, he was considering all of his career options, and one of them was also Formula E, which he revealed recently during an episode of the High Performance Podcast.
However, before signing a contract with any Formula E team, Albon made sure to make one last call to Helmut Marko, who takes care of Red Bull development drivers, to see if there was any seat left in the team.

"I actually called Helmut Marko, who’s the boss of the Red Bull junior programme, before I signed the contract, just to say, ‘Just out of any chance, is there a seat going in F1 before I sign this Formula E contract?’ and he told me, ‘No. Our seats are full, there’s no chance’."

After he got a negative answer, Albon already set his sight on Formula E, as he was aware that there would be probably no other way of getting into Formula 1, which was his preferred option.

"I think at that point I was disappointed. I did go around more than just Red Bull, I did give it every chance I had to see if there was a spot in Formula 1, but I knew there wasn’t, so I thought, ‘Okay, Formula E it is’. And my mindset was there."

However, things then took an unexpected turn when Albon got contacted by Marko once again, and this time, the conversation that the two had was much more positive for the Thai driver.

"I signed that [Formula E] contract maybe three, four months before the final race of the season in Formula 2, and then it came to the last race of the year and Helmut Marko got me back again."

"He enquired about my ‘simulator services’ – that’s what he said. He got his PA to come over and speak to me and say, ‘Do you mind just popping into Helmut’s office at the circuit?’. We had a chat about simulator [work]."

One thing that Albon didn't forget about when signing his Formula E contract was to have a clause, which would allow him to compete in F1 if any team would have approached him, and that happened.

"As I was walking out the door, he was like, ‘By the way, what’s your position with your Formula E contract? Can you get out?’ And the one thing I did make sure with my Formula E contract was to have a clause in it that, if I had a Formula 1 offer, I was good to go."

Things progressed quickly after that, as according to his own words, Albon became a Formula 1 driver literally within 24 hours. He would then start the season with Toro Rosso, and in even more unexpected twist, transfer to Red Bull during the season.

"And then within 24 hours it was almost pretty much all done. He called me literally in 24 hours time saying, ‘Okay, yep, good to go. We’re going to make your press announcement in about an hour’, and I was a Formula 1 driver."