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Albon Enjoying “Different Challenge” of Ferrari GT3 Drive

Albon feels adaptation to GT3 car has been smooth; F1 the long-term focus despite new role…

Photo: GruppeC Photography

Red Bull Racing Formula 1 reserve driver Alex Albon says that he’s enjoying and comfortably adapting to the “different challenge” of driving a GT3-spec Ferrari ahead of his sports car racing debut in the DTM.

Albon, who was replaced by Sergio Perez in Red Bull’s F1 lineup after last season, is contesting a part-time DTM program in an Alpha Tauri-liveried Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 run by the decorated AF Corse team.

The 25-year-old recently had his first taste of the Ferrari at Spa-Francorchamps and was back behind the wheel this week for the DTM’s two-day pre-season test at Hockenheim.

During a virtual press conference held on the second day of track activity at Hockenheim, Albon explained that he initially had to learn not to ‘over drive’ the Ferrari but quickly managed to adapt his single-seater driving style to fit the GT3 car.

“GT racing in general is different,” he said. “Eau Rouge is not the easy flat I thought it would be! But it’s a learning curve and you’re building up to it. I do enjoy it.

“It’s a different challenge and a completely different driving style. To begin with, a lot of it was over-driving, because you kind of have this muscle memory of how to do some corners and how to drive.

“It’s almost like restarting that process. At the end of the day, it’s a car with a steering wheel and pedals, so you can adapt to it pretty quickly.

“Of course, there’s still time on the table to learn how to drive it and get those extra tenths. I’m enjoying it.”

Albon registered the second-fastest time in the opening session of the Hockenheim test, placing behind Audi factory driver Kelvin van der Linde.

His best overall time, a 1:37.012, came during the second session Thursday.

Despite consistently placing in the top half of the field, Albon suggested that it’s too early to get an idea for how he might stack up against the grid of experienced GT3 and DTM competitors in race conditions. Monza is due to host the season-opening round in June.

“Everyone’s doing their own run plans so it’s hard to say too much,” he said.

“Even more so than F1 testing, it seems like everyone’s Mercedes [F1 team] in terms of you don’t know where everyone’s standing, in terms of the run plans.

“You can feel quick right now and then once it comes to the first race, you’ll see what everyone’s got. But for now, in terms of just feeling the car itself, it’s been quite a nice car to get used to.

“There hasn’t been anything weird or anything like that. I’ve felt pretty comfortable straight away.”

Albon to Keep Tabs Sports Cars Despite F1 Focus

When asked if he considers GT racing as a potential long-term career option, Albon said this is “not really” the case and identified his priority as returning to the Formula 1 grid.

However, he suggested that he would be open to looking at sports cars more seriously if the Grand Prix door fully closes.

“It’s good for now and keeps me sharp and racing fit,” he said.

“If F1 was not to work out, we’ll see. But it’s definitely not something I would 100 percent say no to.”

Albon’s position as the third driver for Red Bull Racing requires him to be on-site at every Grand Prix during the 2021 season.

With this role taking priority, Albon is set to miss the DTM rounds at the Norisring, Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim while his full schedule in the series has yet to be confirmed.

His DTM seat will be shared with 2017 Super GT champion Nick Cassidy, who in turn has a Formula E drive with Envision Virgin. Despite being unable to complete the full DTM season, Albon indicated that he remains deeply committed to his sports car drive.

“In the end, of course I have to care about what I do,” he said. “I’m a racer and want to have good results. You never do something with half effort: you always put 100 percent into it.

“On my side it’s focusing on what I can do, and still you want to do well because there is a huge amount of quick drivers here. You’re racing against the best people at what they do.

“It’s a different world, GT racing to single-seater racing, but I still want to leave a good impression and do my job for any chances that I can get in Formula 1.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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