Toro Rosso have announced that Alexander Albon has secured promotion into F1 and will partner Daniil Kvyat at the team in 2019.
Having previously been dropped from the Red Bull young driver programme, Albon has done enough to convince the team to change their mind and hand him a drive for the 2019.
Dan Ticktum’s Macau GP win put him almost within reach of the points needed for an F1 superlicence – he could have made it with success over the winter in the Toyota series – but Red Bull bosses Christian Horner and Helmut Marko clearly feel he needs a little more preparation before F1.
He’s expected to race next season in Superformula in Japan – following Pierre Gasky’s stint there. It’s only a matter of time before we see Ticktum in Toro Rosso.
With Formula One options initially looking limited for Albon, he had elected not to wait around in the feeder series for another season and signed for Nissan to be part of their Formula E programme. But the call of Formula One sparked negotiations to release him from his Nissan contract.
The timing was poor for Nissan, who are on the verge for starting the fifth Formula E season. However, an agreement was reached to break Albon’s contract.
“It’s such an amazing feeling to know that I’m in Formula 1 next year. Throughout my single-seater career, I went through a few ups and downs,” said Albon.
“I was dropped by Red Bull in 2012, so from then I knew my road to Formula 1 was going to be a lot harder. I worked really hard and tried to impress every time I got in the car, and I have to say a big thank you to Red Bull and Dr Marko for believing in me and giving me a second chance.
“I’ve always been motorsport mad and since I first got in a car it’s been my dream to be in Formula 1. To be given this opportunity is just incredible.”
He finished runner-up to Charles Leclerc in his only GP3 season in 2016 before being promoted to Formula Two. There, he proved to be a consistent points-scorer and podium challenger with ART before moving on to DAMS for 2018.
Taking four wins in 2018, Albon entered the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend as an outside contender for the Formula Two championship. However, a problematic final weekend meant he finished in third place, behind champion George Russell and Lando Norris.
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost praised the racing ability Albon managed to show throughout his Formula Two campaign.
“Alexander had an impressive Formula 2 season in 2018. He won four races and finished the Championship third,” said Tost.
“The way he is able to overtake many of his rivals in the races shows that he is ready and matured to race in Formula 1. Scuderia Toro Rosso is very much looking forward to 2019, as with Daniil and Alex we have two young, very strong and competitive drivers.”
This signing means that effectively all twenty seats have been decided for F1 2019. However, Force India are yet to formally announce Lance Stroll, despite an agreement being in place.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images