Twelve months on: Albon reflects on 'most nervous' moment of F1 career

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Alex Albon will never forget his first race weekend in Formula One.

"I was so nervous coming into my first season," Albon tells ESPN on the eve of the 2020 season. "In terms of motorsport, [leaving the pitlane in Melbourne] was one of the most nervous moments of my career."

It was 12 months ago that a fresh faced Albon arrived at Albert Park as a Formula One rookie, racing alongside Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso, now named AlphaTauri.

By finding a seat on the grid, Albon had become the first Thai driver to race in Formula One since 1954, but there was nothing which could prepare him for the emotional rollercoaster that is a first race weekend.

"I had a spin in my first session and that took the wind out of me a little bit," he says. "It took a while to build it back up. But in saying that it's quite strange, once you get in the car everything goes away, you're there and doing what you know best."

Albon overcame his practice error in Melbourne last year to qualify an impressive P13, two grid slots ahead of teammate Kvyat, before going on to finish the race in 14th place.

He may not have scored points on debut, or even been the standout rookie at Albert Park, but it was a weekend which left Albon firmly believing he belonged in the sport.

"The weekend itself went really well," Albon recalls. "It made me feel comfortable to be in Formula One and from then on I knew I can do this. I knew I deserved to be in Formula One and I could do something special."

After the race in Australia, Albon's maiden season went from strength to strength. He picked up his first points a fortnight later in Bahrain, with a P9 finish, before a string of solid races saw him earn a mid-season promotion to Red Bull, at the expense of Pierre Gasly.

Now, Albon returns to Australia and prepares to start his first full campaign with Red Bull. His mindset has already shifted.

"Year one was very much about just being in the moment and seeing what it's like," Albon tells ESPN. "Now I've been through it, I know what to expect. It's not so much about finding my feet more now.

"I've just got to focus on myself, nothing out of my control is anything to worry about. I'm focusing on races as they come. I knew if I'm doing my best and I'm improving on areas I know I need to work on, the results will come. That's the way I go about my racing."

With teammate Max Verstappen alongside him, the man many are tipping to challenge Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton for the world championship, Albon's task is far from simple. But the 23-year-old isn't shying away from the challenge and believes he has a great opportunity to showcase what he can do.

"I see Max as one of, if not the most talented driver on the grid, which never makes it easy," Albon says. "I see it as an opportunity to learn from him and also the expectation is emphasized on him, about the championship, and I'm here to do my job and be in the mix, fighting as well."