Instead, when Pierre Gasly was unable to unplug himself from a mire of mediocrity, Albon became the choice on merit to replace him at the Red Bull A-team mid-season. Since then, he has scored the points the team had targeted, and while challenging Verstappen at this stage seems one step beyond, that’s hardly anything to be ashamed of.
So has he done enough to convince his boss, Christian Horner, that he deserves the seat full-time for next year? As I write, that remains to be seen. But Albon has come a long way in a short time and the best could be yet to come.
George Russell, age 21, team Williams
It’s hard to judge the reigning Formula 2 champion, who beat both Norris and Albon to claim his crown. The reason? Williams is undergoing the most depressing slump in its long history – and that includes the era when Frank Williams ran second-hand customer cars on a shoestring back in the 1970s.
Even a comparison with team-mate Robert Kubica means little given the Pole’s unique situation of returning to F1 against all odds after almost losing an arm in a rally crash. Even in the worst car on the grid, there’s no hiding that Kubica isn’t – and couldn’t be – the driver he was.
So how has Russell performed in his rookie season? In such circumstances, he’s done everything that has been asked of him. Like Ocon, he’s on Mercedes’ books, but at this stage, he wasn’t even considered for Valtteri Bottas’s drive for 2020.
Long term, a seat at the Silver Arrows team has to be his aim. He’s lower in the pecking order than Ocon right now, and there’s the Verstappen factor to consider, too – but all he can hope for is some semblance of team revival during his second season at Williams, in 2020. At 21, he’s got time – but in an era when racing drivers are like policemen and seem to be getting younger, Russell won’t have long. He will be impatient for his next move.