Red Bull Racing Formula 1 reserve driver Alex Albon says he is enjoying the “other challenge” of driving a GT3-spec Ferrari before its DTM debut and is comfortably preparing for it.
Albon, who was replaced by Sergio Perez in the Red Bull F1 line-up after last season, is contesting a part-time DTM program in a Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 painted by 48 Tauri and operated by the decorated AF Corse team.
The 25-year-old recently had his first impression of the Ferrari at Spa-Francorchamps and was back behind the wheel at the two-day DTM test at Hockenheim this week.
During a virtual press conference on the second day of the track activity in Hockenheim, Albon said that he first had to learn not to run over the Ferrari, but that he could quickly adapt his single-seat driving style to the GT3 car.
“GT races in general are different,” he said. “Eau Rouge is not the simple apartment I thought it was! But it’s a learning curve and you build on it. I enjoy it.
“It’s a different challenge and a completely different driving style. In the beginning a lot was overwhelmed because you have the muscle memory, so to speak, how to drive a few corners and how to drive.
“It’s almost like restarting this 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 is still time on the table to learn how to drive it and to get those extra tenths. I enjoy it.”
Albon set the second fastest time in the opening session of the Hockenheim test and placed behind Audi works driver Kelvin van der Linde.
His best overall time, a 1: 37.012, came during Thursday’s second session.
Despite being consistently placed in the top half of the field, Albon suggested that it was too early to have any idea how he could hold his own against the grid of experienced GT3 and DTM competitors in racing conditions. Monza is expected to host the season opening round in June.
“Everyone makes their own running plans so it’s hard to say too much,” he said.
“Even more than in the F1 test, it seems that everyone is a Mercedes [F1 team] in terms of you don’t know where everyone is in terms of their running plans.
“You can feel fast every now and then, when it comes to the first race, you will see what everyone has. But right now it was a pretty nice car to get used to just feeling the car itself.
“There was nothing strange or anything like that. I felt very comfortable straight away. “
Albon keeps an eye on sports cars despite F1 focus
When asked if he viewed GT racing as a potential long-term career option, Albon said it “wasn’t really” and identified his priority as returning to the Formula 1 grid.
However, he suggested looking at sports cars more seriously when the Grand Prix door closes completely.
“It’s good for now and keeps me sharp and capable of racing,” he said.
“If the F1 doesn’t work, we’ll see. But I definitely wouldn’t say no 100 percent. “
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.
Since this role has priority, Albon will miss the DTM laps at the Norisring, the Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim while his full schedule in the series has not yet been confirmed.
His DTM seat will be shared with the 2017 Super GT Champion, Nick Cassidy, who in turn is doing a Formula E drive with Envision Virgin. Although Albon was unable to finish the entire DTM season, he stated that he continues to be very committed to his sports car drive.
“In the end, of course, I have to take care of what I do,” he said. “I’m a racing driver and I want to get good results. You never do anything with half the effort: you always put in 100 percent.
“My part is about what I can do, and yet you want to do it well because there are a large number of fast drivers here. You run against the best people for what they do.
“It’s a different world, GT racing than single-seater racing, but I still want to make a good impression and do my job for all the opportunities I can get in Formula 1.”
Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 who covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, AWS’s GT World Challenge Europe and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among others.