Red Bull junior
If you do well in karting, you'll soon be on the radar of the big teams in Formula 1. Alex Albon found himself on the path of Red Bull Racing and was allowed to call himself a junior on the talent programme. Once under the stewardship of the Austrian team, the standard series were completed to prepare the young driver for his Formula One debut.
It wasn't until 2014 that Albon really managed to put himself on the map, after he managed to finish second in the Formula Renault 2.0 championship. A move to the slightly higher European Formula 3 immediately followed, and another year later came the switch to the GP3 series. The winner of that year, Charles Leclerc will again be driving for Ferrari. He was Albon's teammate at ART in the 2016 season. Albon had to settle for a P2 behind his teammate, but was handed a promotion to Formula 2.
Tug of war
After being dropped from the Red Bull junior programme in 2012, Albon was free to choose a different path to the one Red Bull normally takes with a driver. However, Albon wanted to prove himself in the eyes of Helmut Marko and completed two Formula 2 seasons.
The first year, as in Formula 3, it was Charles Leclerc who ran away with the title and Albon had to stoop to P10. One year later, the Briton did well and finished third: behind George Russell and Lando Norris and just ahead of Nyck de Vries.
With Russell and Norris promoted to Formula 1, the question was which way would Albon go. Initially, the Briton was designated as a driver at Nissan e.dams (alongside Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi), but this suddenly changed at the end of 2018. Helmut Marko had done everything he could to bring in his former protégé as a replacement for Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso, the team where Max Verstappen also started in F1.
Albon returned as a member of the Red Bull family to drive alongside the also-returning Daniil Kvyat in 2019. The Nissan Formula E team had to look for another driver.
However, Albon managed to leave such a good impression in 2019 that Red Bull had no hesitation when Pierre Gasly's performance disappointed. The Frenchman moved back to Toro Rosso and Alexander Albon got the chance at Red Bull. That went well and at the end of 2019 Albon got the confirmation: in 2020 he also drove for Red Bull.
Albon falls victim to Verstappen
After a season in which Albon started without any experience in a Formula 1 car and then a promotion to Red Bull Racing, the British Thai's preparation for 2020 was much better. After missing out on two podium finishes through no fault of his own, he managed to secure that long-awaited podium at Mugello.
However, it was not enough for Red Bull to keep Albon on as the second driver alongside Verstappen. The team opted for the experienced Sergio Perez, who despite his current contract at Racing Point (now Aston Martin) was sidelined for Sebastian Vettel.
Albon was, however, allowed to stay on as a test and reserve driver, continuing to do valuable work for Red Bull Racing. Albon will return as a regular F1 driver, but in order to do so he must cut his ties with Red Bull.
Alexander Albon in 2022
The timing of his return is favourable because given the new rules and accompanying cars that await Formula 1 in 2022, everyone starts with a relatively clean slate. That could work in Albon's favour, who will need some time to get used to the new situation after a year away.