Horner hoping maiden podium now 'opens doors' for Albon
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is hoping to now see a more confident Alex Albon over the second half of the Formula 1 season after finally ending his podium drought.
In his 18th race for Red Bull, Albon scored a top-three finish last time out in the Tuscan Grand Prix, putting behind him the near-misses in last year's Brazilian Grand Prix and the season-opening event in Austria.
The Thai-British driver has conceded to openly struggling with the RB16, yet has consistently retained the support of Horner and advisor Helmut Marko despite continued speculation over his future.
Horner, though, would like to believe Albon has turned a corner with his performance at Mugello that will now pave the way for more consistent results in the final eight races of this year.
"There has been quite a bit of external pressure on him this year, especially from the media," said Horner.
"He is such a nice guy out of the car but he is mentally very strong and what impresses me is that he is always able to come back and put in a performance, especially on race day. After a bad Saturday, he's always brushed himself down and come back strong on Sunday.
"In the last three races, he has started to make a lot of progress. Alex is a deep thinker and he works very hard. He is super analytical and very honest with his feedback.
"He is also a gritty racer and knows how to get his elbows out, which is one of the reasons he is a Red Bull driver. He has that never-give-up mentality and he keeps coming back even when the chips are down, which we expect from our drivers."
Citing "great bravery and racecraft" with his moves on Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo that helped him his third-place finish at Mugello, Horner would like to believe "the podium will be good for Alex".
"A big thing for all drivers is thinking you can do it but it is only when you actually achieve a podium or a win that you think 'Okay, I can do this'," added Horner.
"It is the realisation, and I really hope this opens the doors for him confidence-wise and that he walks tall as he deserves his seat and his place in F1."
Although Albon has still to be confirmed as a Red Bull driver for next year, Horner has indicated why it is likely he will be retained.
"He is also the first Thai driver to stand on the podium, and the first from that side of the garage since Daniel won Monaco in 2018, so he has achieved something great for his car crew," said Horner.
"He is very popular in the team, he has gelled very well with everyone and we all want him to succeed."
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