Alex Albon has a complicated relationship with the country he was born in.

He will be draped under the flag of his mother’s birthplace, Thailand, this weekend at the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, having chosen not to represent Britain, where his father is from.

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Albon, the first Thai F1 driver in the world championship’s modern era and only the second to ever represent the country - after Prince Bira - takes great pride in his roots and had the honour of being the first driver to fly the flag of Thailand on an F1 podium after finishing third at the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix. 

The Williams driver holds dual British and Thai nationality and classes the UK as his home. After all, he grew up in Surrey, and he currently splits his time between Milton Keynes, near Red Bull’s headquarters, and Monaco. 

Both countries are close to his heart but with no option to race under both flags, Albon ultimately sided with Thailand. 

“I still consider myself as Thai, truthfully,” the softly-spoken Albon tells in an exclusive interview. “My mum is Thai, I spent a lot of time as a kid in Thailand. 

“There is a part of me that does feel British as well. If there was a way to have a dual nationality racing licence, as there is in a passport, I would do it. But obviously it doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.” 

This weekend will mark Albon’s third British Grand Prix.

With no F1 race in Thailand, you might think Albon would class Silverstone as his home race, but he sees things differently. 

“I would call it a second home race,” Albon says. “It’s as much of a home race as Singapore is. 

“But I have a close connection with the UK and with Silverstone. I live 25 minutes away from Silverstone, at least my family do. 

“Strangely enough, I haven’t actually driven that many times around Silverstone. But I live close by.” 

Asked if he feels accepted by British fans despite choosing to race under the Thai flag, Albon replies: “I do, definitely. Firstly, that’s partly due to how big F1 is in the UK. But yes, I do feel like that. 

“Especially when I am in England, it’s where I get noticed the most and I see a lot of people that are passionate about the sport, which is great.”

Albon believes his stronger affiliation to Thailand has its advantages.

“I think I’m in a good place because I don’t get attacked too much by the British media,” Albon jokes with a smile. 

“Well it depends, either I’m called the London-born Thai if I do a good job, or I’m not British at all if I do a bad job!” 

Battling his best mates in F1 

Albon forms part of F1’s ‘Twitch Quartet’, a group consisting of some of the sport’s most popular (and highly-rated) young drivers on the grid in George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc. 

The four of them got the nickname from spending much of the COVID-19 lockdowns entertaining their followers by live streaming video games on Twitch. 

Albon, Russell and Norris in particular are extremely close, having been long-time friends since their days spent racing in the junior categories. The trio locked out the top-three in the 2018 F2 championship before all making their F1 debuts the following year. 

While Russell and Norris have gone on to land drives at Mercedes and McLaren, Albon finds himself closer to the back of the grid at Williams, who are targeting an F1 revival after years of struggles. 

Russell and Norris’ performances in the last few seasons have seen them earmarked as potential world champions of the future. Albon has aspirations of joining his best friends in the battle for F1 silverware. 

“I mean that’s always the plan, you have to dream big,” he says. “It’s no secret that every driver, once you’re in F1, the next goal is to be a F1 world champion. 

"Of course George looks like he’s made that big first step forward. Lando too, and he’s doing an amazing job. 

“We’ll need to be a bit quicker to be fighting for the championship but at the minute I’m really happy with where I’m at. It might take a little bit longer but that is the plan.”

Asked if he believes he can beat them to a world championship in a straight fight, Albon replies bullishly: “You have to believe that, or else there’s no point racing.” 

A redemption year 

Albon is on the path to redemption after spending a year on the sidelines having lost his Red Bull drive to Sergio Perez at the end of 2020 following a difficult season as Max Verstappen’s teammate. 

During 2021, Albon played a key behind-the-scenes role at Red Bull in the development of Verstappen’s title-winning RB17B. He subsequently earned a return to the grid with Williams for this season, taking the seat left vacant by Russell. 

Along with Red Bull, Russell was known to have lobbied with Williams for Albon to get the drive. 

Albon has not let Williams down. Despite being tasked with the daunting responsibility of continuing the brilliant work carried out by Russell between 2019-2021, the 26-year-old has flourished. 

Albon claimed an unlikely first point of the season for Williams by making an ambitious tyre strategy work in Australia, before bagging another two points for the British outfit in Miami with another impressive display. 

His performances drew praise from Russell, who believes Albon has “cemented his position” in F1. 

“I believe it’s going very well and I want to stay, that’s my goal,” Albon says. 

“The season has started off really well. As a team, we’ve not necessarily been where we’ve wanted to be, but we’ve made the most of our opportunities to score points when it didn’t look possible. 

“The racing side of things has gone really well. There was a little bit of a feeling that it was a redemption year in a sense, that’s how I wanted it to be. 

“I want to prove to people what I can do. So far at least, obviously it’s still very early in the season, but it’s been going really well. I definitely can’t complain.” 

Albon credits his experiences during his tough time out of F1 for ultimately shaping him into a more complete driver, as well as helping him to mature. 

“I don’t want to make it sound arrogant but I feel like I’ve always been a good driver,” he explains. “It hasn’t come from nothing. 

“George and I would be fighting for championships together in junior formulas and I’ve always felt like, given the right chance and the right opportunity, I can show what I can do. 

“Of course 2020 wasn’t the most amazing year, but it wasn’t an easy year in terms of the experience that I had or the confidence in the car that I had. 

“I feel like this year now I feel much more confident in driving, I feel the connection in the team, we’ve straight away gelled very quickly and because of that it looks like it has come from somewhere. 

“But truthfully, it just feels like just being in the right place at the right time. With the year out as well, I feel like I’ve matured and gained experience where I feel like I’m a better driver than I was before.

“To get a seat for next year, you have to remind people,” adds Albon. “You can’t have a bad year in any F1 season. 

“So yes, there is always that feeling where you are going into a year where you haven’t driven before, there’s that, ‘will I get up to speed okay?’ 

“I know with Fernando [Alonso] and Esteban [Ocon], when they came back after their time out, it took a bit of time to understand. But thankfully for me there was a bit of a reset with the car, with the regulations and that played into my favour a bit. 

“There is that element, but I feel like this year has gone, so far, better than I expected it to go. Hopefully I’ll continue to get better as the chemistry between myself and the team gets stronger and stronger.” 

What does the future hold? 

Albon is desperate to make the most of his rare second chance at F1, having been forced to watch from the shadows last season. 

But a route back to a top team is unclear, with Perez’s new two-year contract seemingly closing the door for a return to the Red Bull fold. 

Perhaps it is more likely that Albon’s impressive form will attract the attention of the teams that occupy the upper midfield.  

As far as 2023 is concerned, Albon is set to stay at Williams. He may even remain there beyond and spearhead the team’s long-term project to return to the front. 

“On my side, I only look at things very short-term,” he says. “Because if you think about, ‘this does this, this does that, in the future they crossover’, you think about things which have no effect on what your future is doing. 

“I really just focus on the present time and for me, I see myself as a Williams driver. My job is to extract the most out of the car and develop the car in the best way possible, so that we are fighting for points more regularly and moving up in the championship. 

“That’s really how I see things. Of course things go on around [you] but it’s really about what you are doing in the now, and that’s my focus. My focus is on doing the best job possible.”