Albon celebrates his best F1 finish on his Red Bull Racing debut

Alex Albon puts a move on Nico Hulkenberg
Alex Albon puts a move on Nico Hulkenberg

Alex Albon battled to his best ever finish in F1 on his debut for Red Bull Racing, while it was a different story for team-mate Max Verstappen at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Albon was handed a grid penalty in his first race for the team and started 17th, but battled through the field to finish a fine fifth. Verstappen meanwhile, who was expected to challenge for a podium in front of a huge Dutch crowd, collided with Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner, damaging his steering arm which forced him into a crash at the next turn.

The mood was sombre at the start of the race as the drivers and teams paid tribute to French driver Anthoine Hubert, who died in an F2 accident at the circuit on Saturday. Red Bull carried logos on their cars in memory of the 22-year-old GP3 champion.

And for Verstappen, the race was over before it had really begun as he went for a gap that was not there at La Source, closed off by Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo, eliminating the Dutchman as he tried to make it through Eau Rouge.

Albon managed to avoid the drama at the first corner, and was running in the top 12 after starting 17th. His charge into the points did not come until late on though, and amongst his victims were Pierre Gasly - the man he replaced at Red Bull - and Daniel Ricciardo - the former Red Bull man. Lando Norris' retirement on the last lap, with the Brit in fifth spot, handed Albon another place, before he made a bold move on Sergio Perez to secure fifth.

“I’m very happy," said Albon afterwards. "I had some good fun out there and I enjoyed this race a lot. I started off the weekend very nervous and if you had told me I’d finish the race fifth I’d be very happy, but I’m a bit more relaxed now.

Damage to Verstappen's car put him out on the first lap

Damage to Verstappen's car put him out on the first lap

"Once we pitted for the soft tyres, the car came alive and I was like - now we can do something! The last lap was really good, I had a good fight with Sergio where we were both on the grass and it made for some good racing. There are definitely some areas I need to improve on and over the next few days I’ll get my head down, do some homework and address them for Monza.

"I didn’t really feel too much pressure coming into the weekend, I think the media thought I was going to, but I’ve enjoyed my week with the Team. It’s been a good experience and a different way of working.

"Last night was very tough, us rookies knew Anthoine very well, so it’s been a stressful few hours and this morning felt strange. When you know a person and when they’re at the race track, it’s a very difficult atmosphere, so we dedicate this race to him.”

Verstappen said while his race was disappointing, the death of Hubert put it into perspective.

F1 paid tribute to Anthoine Hubert

F1 paid tribute to Anthoine Hubert

He said: "It was of course not a great end to the weekend but it’s not the worst thing that can happen in life as we have seen yesterday, so I cannot really call this frustration.

"I got a poor start, the reaction was not great and then I got wheel spin when I released the clutch. I tried to stay on the inside into Turn 1 but I think Kimi expected to be fully ahead of me and just followed his line. I don’t think you can blame anyone and I guess he just didn’t see me, once I was next to him and he was turning then we couldn’t back out. We touched, my track rod was broken so I went straight on into the barrier at Eau Rouge and the race was over.

"These things happen, it’s very unfortunate for the Team and we will of course try and do better next week."