Alex Albon has given an insight into how F1 drivers manage to maintain friendships with each other off-track, something that he believes is a positive thing.
Many names on the grid have been racing together for several years, having competed in the same junior categories on their way to Formula 1. As such, some drivers have known one another for a long time.
Albon admits that the nature of their rivalries may have changed – given the different positions on the grid that they now find themselves in – but that their relationships have mostly remained the same.
Competitiveness “doesn’t change” over time
“For me, it’s different right now, because I’m in a Williams, and
Charles [Leclerc] is in a Ferrari and winning races,” Albon explained on
the Beyond The Grid podcast, when asked about how the rivalries have evolved.
“But, I would say that it’s
no different if you were Max [Verstappen] and Charles now as to when
they were kids. In karting, anyone can win, more or less. There is still
equipment that’s quicker than others, but it is pretty similar.
you go towards F1, [there] is a bit of a difference, because you’re all
competitive, but you’re all in different machinery, and there’s a
little bit of that going on.
“But everyone’s competitive. I
think when you’re younger, maybe it’s a little bit more teeth out,
elbows out kind of thing, and in karting, you can obviously push people
and nothing happens.
“Whereas, in racing, you get a front wing change and a bit more going on, so there is a little bit of that. But the competitiveness, the will to win, that doesn’t change.”
Albon questions why F1 friendships could be viewed in “bad way”
Despite the competitiveness when racing one another, Albon says that many of the drivers have built strong friendships away from the circuit.
However, the Williams driver finds it strange that some observers may view this in a negative way.
“We’ve been racing against each other since most of us [were] 12,” he said.
“All the way through to now. So that’s, for most of us, 12/13 years of racing together. I see them more than I see my family right now, just [with] the way that we travel so much.
“It would be a tough 12 years if you hated them, and you saw them every day! But, fortunately, we’re friends, and I think people maybe see that in a bad way.
“Like, ‘Why are these guys friends? It should be the olden days, when everyone hates each other and starts fist-fighting each other.'”
When asked whether it is refreshing that they can be friends, Albon added: “I like it, and I think that we are genuinely friends.”
© George Russell
How the relationship changes on-track
But, when pressed on whether they treat each other differently on circuit, Albon said: “Yeah, we do!
“That’s the thing; we are friends, we enjoy each other’s company, and we love bantering and winding each other up. Once it comes to the racing side, it’s kind of like everyone’s their own man.
“Once the helmet’s on, you park that friendship away. But you still have the respect, and you know that when the helmet’s off that you’re still friends again.
“It’s not like a reality TV show. It’s not like we take off our helmets and that’s it now, I unfollow you on Instagram and our relationship’s finished.
“We’re still friends. What happens on the track does happen, and maybe there is a bit of a text, ‘What was that for?’ kind of thing, but we’ll make up for it. We’re old enough.”