Alex Albon's hard work in the Red Bull simulator has earned noteworthy praise from the team throughout this season, with Christian Horner acknowledging the difference the British-Thai racer has made in helping Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez set up for a race weekend.
So impressive and diligent was his work, that Red Bull went to bat for Albon in the driver market to help him secure a return to a race seat, as he joins Williams for 2022.
Red Bull have taken the time to explain what Albon's role throughout 2021 has been, outlining his workload and the difference he has made to their level of competitiveness this year.
"It's been surprisingly enjoyable," Albon told the official Red Bull website.
"To see the work you do in the simulator get transitioned onto the track is pretty rewarding. It's always nice to hear the comments from the drivers saying, 'Yeah, this was better'. You then know we did the right thing in the simulator.
"It's busier than when I was racing in F1. When you're driving in F1 and racing every weekend it feels kind of hectic, but now it's even more hectic!"
Having helped the team increase their downforce after the regulation changes over the winter, Albon explained that it's been a steady path of improvement throughout the season.
"At the start of the year – in terms of downforce – it was very low, and we've just been ramping it up each time," he said.
"Every time I drive the simulator, we've got more and more downforce in the car, and because of that, we have to track where the car is going in terms of balance and how to optimise the car."
Albon's main role is to help Verstappen and Perez dial in their cars over a Grand Prix weekend, essentially becoming a third car on track during Friday's practice sessions.
"During those sessions we're tuned into the track and we're listening to Max and Checo's [Perez] feedback and offering up our suggestions," he explained.
"For example, when Max comes into the car, he will say he wants, 'This, this and this'. What we do first is set the sim up to have the same issues as he does on track. So, if he's struggling with a loose rear end in Turn 2, we'll make the rear end loose in Turn 2 and then adjust it accordingly to make sure he's happy.
"We'll feed back our results to his engineer for him to make the changes. Then we'll also do the same thing for Checo."
With Albon counting down the days until he's a full-time racing driver again, he said that the experience of being Red Bull's reserve and simulator driver has helped him round out his experiences on-track.
"I've been at a track every weekend for the last six to seven months and there's an itch when you're at the track to race when you're not driving," he explained.
"However, it's been great for me to experience what goes into making the car quicker. Because, as drivers, we obviously spend so much time at a racetrack with the engineers and are completely focused on the driving, we don't see the bigger picture all the time.
"So, being involved with the whole process is good and I think it will certainly give me more experience going into next year."
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