It's all change at Toro Rosso next season as Alexander Albon takes Brendon Hartley's seat to drive alongside the returning Daniil Kvyat.
Albon’s arrival was confirmed Monday just hours after it was announced the Thai-British driver had secured a release from Formula E team Nissan e.dams just two months after signing to race in the electric series.
He had finished the Formula Two season in third place, driving for the team’s non-electric outfit DAMS.
The 22-year-old will replace Brendon Hartley, who was 12th in Abu Dhabi on Sunday in his final F1 race with Red Bull’s junior team.
The New Zealander had a difficult full rookie season, scoring just four points as he was 19th out of 20 drivers on the grid.
So many people to thank - Red Bull for giving me a 2nd chance, JP Driot for giving me the possibility in F2 and everyone at Nissan e.dams for allowing me to follow my dream. Also to my sponsors,my family,my trainers,Gwen Lagrue and Dan Chapman.Going to give this everything 2/2 pic.twitter.com/h4FkxG5hLz— Alex Albon (@alex_albon) November 26, 2018
Like Hartley did in 2017, Albon has received a second chance to impress the Red Bull bosses, having been dropped from the team’s junior programme in 2012.
“From then I knew my road to Formula One was going to be a lot harder,” Albon said. “I worked really hard and tried to impress every time I got in the car, and I have to say a big thank you to Red Bull and Dr Marko for believing in me and giving me a second chance.
“I’ve always been motorsport mad and since I first got in a car it’s been my dream to be in Formula One. To be given this opportunity is just incredible.”
Congrats @alex_albon ! Sounds weird but you were one of my heroes as a kid and I always looked up to you, still do because you’re much taller 😂. You deserved this more than anyone... see you on track soon! 👊 pic.twitter.com/MmO8uf16fX— Lando Norris (@LandoNorris) November 26, 2018
Albon went into the final F2 races in Abu Dhabi last weekend as the only driver with any hope of overhauling championship leader George Russell, but he was 14th after stalling in the chaotic opener and then eighth place meant he was leapfrogged by Lando Norris. All three drivers will be in F1 next year.
“The way he is able to overtake many of his rivals in the races shows that he is ready and matured to race in F1,” Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said.
“Scuderia Toro Rosso is very much looking forward to 2019, as with Daniil and Alex we have two young, very strong and competitive drivers.”
Kvyat is back for a third spell with the team, having been given an F1 lifeline after Pierre Gasly was promoted to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.
The Russian started out with Toro Rosso in 2013 and moved up to the main team in 2015, but was replaced by Max Verstappen in early 2016 and dropped altogether before the end of the following season.
Force India are the only team yet to confirm their final seat, though Lance Stroll is testing for the team in Abu Dhabi this week ahead of his expected move from Williams.
These three started 2018 as @FIA_F2 title contenders...— Formula 1 (@F1) November 26, 2018
They finish it as the top three in the championship, with an #F1 seat for 2019
The #RoadToF1 has never looked so promising! pic.twitter.com/CA7SiPV9zX