Ex-Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer believes Alex Albon has run out of time to claim his Red Bull seat for 2021, adding that his lacklustre display at the Portuguese Grand Prix acted as “the final nail in the coffin”.
Albon’s difficult 2020 season continued at F1’s first-ever race at Portimao as the Thai racer slipped back from sixth on the grid and struggled to a disappointing 12th, while Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen lapped him on his way to claiming his latest podium finish in third.
Albon’s position at Red Bull has been the subject of intense speculation that he could be about to lose his drive for next season, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner saying Albon needed to perform well at the Algarve circuit and this weekend’s round at Imola in order to secure his place for next year.
But Palmer, who contested 37 races for Renault between 2016 and 2017, is convinced Albon will lose his seat at Red Bull for 2021.
“It was a horrible race for him, really, really horrible,” Palmer told BBC Five Live’s Chequered Flag podcast.
“He dropped back at the start on the Soft tyres, he should have had the tyres to potentially move forwards when you consider there were Medium runners behind, Leclerc ahead on the Mediums and the two Mercedes cars of course that struggled with the warm-up.
“But Albon plummeted out of the top 10 and then did he make an overtake again in the Grand Prix? I don’t think he did. He finished P12 behind Kimi Raikkonen.
“Raikkonen was up in fifth and the rest of the midfield basically all passed Raikkonen, including Sebastian Vettel at the end which knocked Kimi sadly out of the points.
“But Albon was behind him pretty much the whole race, behind an Alfa Romeo which qualified P16. He was just unable to make any inroads at all.
“It was a really, really tough race. He was lapped by his team-mate. When the pressure has been put on, he has probably had the worst weekend…I would say that was his worst race yet for Red Bull pretty comfortably. It feels awfully timed.
“I think that time has run out for him,” he added. “Unless Red Bull find in the data that he had a damaged floor, a damaged car or another mitigating circumstance for his drive, honestly I’d imagine that was the final nail in the coffin for Albon.”
But Palmer has tipped Albon to return to AlphaTauri alongside Pierre Gasly in a bid to regain his confidence as the Frenchman has done over the past 12 months.
“It’s so tough [for him] but I don’t think he will be out of Formula 1,” he explained. “I’m sure he will go back to AlphaTauri to regroup like Pierre Gasly has done.
“And then you never know what’s going to happen. He’s only in his second year in Formula 1.”