OCTOBER 25, 2020

Albon doesn't mind Hulkenberg rumours

Alex Albon insists he doesn't "mind" if Red Bull has been naming potential candidates to replace him for 2021.

Alex Albon, Portuguese GP 2020
© Red Bull

Alex Albon insists he doesn't "mind" if Red Bull has been naming potential candidates to replace him for 2021.

As the British-born Thai driver struggles to match up to his teammate Max Verstappen, boss Christian Horner admits the team may look "outside of our pool of young talent" for next year.

"We want Alex to claim that seat and basically justify that there is no need to look at any other alternative," he said.

"He's had a couple of difficult weekends, so he needs to bounce back here I think and particularly at Imola with a strong weekend from start to finish," Horner said in Portugal.

In qualifying, Albon qualified sixth - three places behind Verstappen in third. But former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld thinks it is the half-second gap to the sister car that is clearly "too much".

Red Bull has named Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez as potential candidates to replace him.

"He's still our man," Dr Helmut Marko, the man most directly in charge of Red Bull's driver decisions, said of Albon.

"Even if the gap is still acceptable, we expect him to further reduce the gap to Max. We are satisfied with the sixth place."

Clearly, Red Bull is now combining statements of support for Albon with obvious pressure to improve.

"I know that I have to do the job," the 24-year-old admits. "If names are being put out there, I don't mind. There are no fixed goals that I have to meet and my approach doesn't change because of the situation.

"What is written or said does not affect the way I drive," said Albon.

"I have the feeling that my qualifying is getting better and better, even if the gap to Max is still there. I just need a clean weekend.

"My confidence in my abilities is still there."

Finally, Marko was asked about rumours that Verstappen's preference - declared privately but also now publicly - is that Red Bull replace Albon with Hulkenberg.

"We ask Max for his opinion on the driver question," Marko confirmed to f1-insider.com, before smiling: "But whether a driver speaks Dutch or not is not decisive."