Following the departures of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso were tasked with replacing both drivers for their 2019 lineup.
Daniil Kvyat was a natural choice, given his past experience with Toro Rosso, as well as stints with Red Bull racing Ferrari. Surprisingly, Alexander Albon received the call to fill the second seat at Toro Rosso.
The 22-year-old British/Thai driver, was plucked from obscurity and will compete as a Formula One driver in 2019.
Albon has had a very impressive season in Formula 2 this year and, up until last weekend in Abu Dhabi, he was one of only two drivers who could have won the title. Like many of his contemporaries, Albon started racing in karts winning various championships. He joined the Red Bull programme in 2012.
Although born in London, Albon races under the Thailand flag. It means that 2019 will be the first time there has been a Thai driver on the Formula 1 grid since Prince Birabongse, who raced in the early Fifties.
Here is a first in-depth interview with the new Scuderia Toro Rosso driver, as he processes the fact that he will be a Formula One driver in a few months.
Where were you when you received the call to tell you that you are now an F1 driver?
I received the call on Monday afternoon. I was told that I was now confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver and that the team was ready to make an announcement. I was in the shopping mall buying a pair of trainers so I rushed back to the hotel straight away!
What was your reaction? Did it come completely out of the blue?
I was beyond excited as I have waited for this moment since I was six years old. I can’t say that it came out of the blue, because I have been trying to resolve my situation with Nissan e.dams to allow me to join Toro Rosso for the past few months. I still couldn’t believe that it finally happened!
I was in the shopping mall buying a pair of trainers so I rushed back to the hotel straight away!
Who were the first people you told about the news?
My mum was the first person I called, she was most probably more excited than I was.
You are known for your exciting overtaking maneuvers, are you confident you can bring your racing style into F1?
Yes, I am. The way the cars are designed in F1 make it hard to overtake, but with the rules for next year, I’m sure there will be some nice battles. Quite a cool fact is that I raced with around half of the drivers on the grid from karting, so in some ways I think it will feel like battling like the old days!
You race under the Thai flag, how proud of a moment will it be to be the first Thai driver on the F1 grid since the early 1950s?
I am so proud to be representing Thailand. It is a huge honor for me and my family to be given such an opportunity. Hopefully I will do them proud.
How tough a period was it after being dropped from the team in 2012?
Very tough, it was a difficult year for me for numerous reasons, not least because of my results, but it made me work that much harder. I was on the brink of stopping racing all together. Since then, I knew I had to impress every time I drove and fortunately Dr. Marko gave me a second chance.
Did you think your F1 dream was over at that point?
I never gave up on it, I needed to believe that it could still happen. Having said that, I knew that my chance of going to F1 was very slim as I didn’t have a proper budget. In reality, the only way I was going to have the opportunity was through Toro Rosso/Red Bull, but as we all know, it is not easy to impress Dr. Marko!
What are your hopes and goals for the 2019 season?
Personally, I don’t really set goals for the end of the year. It’s more about trying to maximize each race weekend as it comes. I won’t have many days in the car before Melbourne, so it will be very important to be as prepared as possible and take each race as it comes. Of course, it would be nice to fight regularly for points and at the sharp end.
Who are your idols in F1?
Michael Schumacher, I was obsessed!
Outside of motorsport, what else do you enjoy spending your time doing?
I spend most of my time training and the rest with my family and friends… and pets, I love animals. We have two dogs and five cats at home.
Do you have any hidden talents people may not know about?
I would say I’m pretty good at drawing and designing. I even help design other drivers’ helmets!