Alex Albon: The Silent Treatment
Before most people had taken the training wheels off their bicycle, Alex Albon was already a better driver than most adults when he was seven years old. At the time of this interview, the F1 driver is representing Scuderia Toro Rosso (weeks later being promoted to Red Bull Racing). Albon chats to us from the paddock about music, NASA, and in the politest way possible – why he doesn’t want to speak to anyone.
Alex Albon has been driving since he was seven. Instead of watching cartoons after school, Albon was riveted with his first go kart, carving out figures of eight in the fields near his Suffolk home, unwittingly shaping his future career.
“My dad got me into racing,” Albon tells Headliner ahead of the German Grand Prix on a blisteringly hot day in July. “I was seven when he bought me my first go kart. He took me to my first track when I was seven and a half, and that’s how it started. Back then, it was very father and son: my dad was my driving coach, my mechanic. Nowadays it’s not so much like that - the world of sport has changed a bit!”
This season, the 23 year old has had an entire team maintaining his Formula 1 Toro Rosso STR14 1.6 litre car. After wrapping up with Headliner, Albon goes on to claim sixth place at the German GP – a career-best (at the time) for the relative newcomer.
A Thai racing driver of English descent, Albon is driving in Formula One for Scuderia Toro Rosso, although he says he is more recognised as a Thai driver.
“Silverstone was a kind of second home race to me, so that was nice, having my family there to watch the race,” he says. “I was just in Thailand this week, and motorsport isn’t that big in Thailand at the moment – MotoGP and World Superbike are bigger over there, but it’s getting bigger.”
Albon enjoyed success in karting between 2006 and 2010, and has long been a fan of F1 racing driver, Michael Schumacher, and motorcycle road racer and multiple MotoGP World Champion, Valentino Rossi. Polite and well spoken, Albon is relaxed ahead of the race, crediting Toro Rosso with making him feel part of the family.
“At the beginning, it was very alien for me – it’s a new world, going into Formula 1, but Toro Rosso has a history of bringing new drivers through,” he nods. “So they really understand what new drivers need; and not just driving, but also feedback, and even help with the media – everything is new. They have made me feel very welcome. I feel a lot more settled nowadays in an F1 car; more relaxed, less nervous.”
If anything, Albon expected the driving to be a little bit more difficult to get used to: “The cars are – I don’t want to say they are easy to drive – but you get confidence from the car. It almost feels more like a computer game than a real car!”
Besides, Albon doesn’t have time to be nervous. This week alone has seen him race one day, fly to Scotland the next, followed by two days on a simulator, then on to Italy, and Thailand the following day.
“The thing which I didn’t expect was the involvement – how busy you are,” he admits. “I did expect myself to be busy, but that takes a while to get used to. Although it’s almost like you don’t have the chance to get used to it, you just do it!”
Toro Rosso has its own official Spotify playlist, helping fans (and perhaps drivers?) get in the zone before a race, revving them up with Papa Roach’s Last Resort or Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop. Phil Collins’ Easy Lover also features, because why not?
“I like my music – I do use it as a way to get into the zone. Although I’m not the kind of guy that needs to be pumped up, in fact, quite the opposite!” he laughs. “I like the relaxing, chill music: the calmer I am, the better I drive. So no Metallica or anything!”