How a twenty-second phone call to Marko led to Albon's F1 debut
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How a twenty-second phone call to Marko led to Albon's F1 debut

8 January - 20:01 Last update: 23:30

Alexander Albon was announced at Nissan as a Formula E driver for the 2019 season, but ended up joining the then Toro Rosso. Albon talks about how his Formula One dream became a reality at a time when it was completely out of his mind.

Albon knew that he would only get a chance in one place and that was at Red Bull Racing or its sister team. The British Thai didn't have much in the way of sponsorship and all the other smaller race teams worked with engine suppliers like Mercedes, Ferrari or Renault (each with its own junior program) who often had a big say in how seats were allocated.

Albon takes the plunge

Toro Rosso was actually the only option. "I called Dr Marko, I think it was Hungary. I said 'hey, what's the situation'. He said 'no, sorry we don't have any space'. It was a 20-second phone call. And I thought you know what okay. I told him what I've done and that I'm ready for F1. He said 'no, if we find something we'll let you know but at the moment we're not looking for anyone, we know who we want'," Albon said in the podcast of Motorsport Magazine.

Albon resigned himself to focusing on an adventure in Formula E. He found an employer in Nissan and the deal was already done. In Russia, Albon spoke with Marko again, on the Thursday. "Dr Marko called me up into his office, and by that point I was already announced as a FE driver. He said to me on the Thursday, we want you to do Sim for the team next year as a reserve driver."

Combining F1 and FE (not)

At the time, Albon was the only driver in the top-five of the F2 standings without a deal with an F1 team and he was second in the championship behind George Russell. He didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to at least get a taste of the big time, as there was a chance he could also do track testing. He accepted the proposal and would also make his Formula E debut with Nissan.

A few days later, however, everything changed. In Russia, Albon had a very strong feature race which he won with more than ten seconds difference. Marko was impressed and had Albon come by again on Sunday (just three days later) for an interview in the hospitality. There the driver, who will race for Williams next year, was told by Marko that a permanent seat might be a possibility.

No Nissan after all

In the weeks that followed, Albon continued to prepare for his Formula E year with Nissan, while knowing in the background that he might end up racing for Toro Rosso in 2019. In Abu Dhabi, the signatures were finally signed and the deal with Nissan was finally torn up.

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