By Alan Baldwin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Alexander Albon could be a surprise of the Formula One season, the Thai's Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said as testing started on Monday.
The 22-year-old British-born driver has moved up from Formula Two, where he won four races last year and finished third overall behind fellow F1 rookies George Russell and Lando Norris.
In 2016, he was runner-up to now Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in GP3, where they were team mates.
"I think Alex could become a positive surprise of the year because people don’t know him so much," Tost told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya.
"We observed him last year and also the years before. We must not forget he was successful also in GP3, he was together with Leclerc and could beat him a couple of times and in Formula Two he showed really some good races, good overtaking.
"I am more than optimistic that he will do a good job," added the Austrian.
Albon, the first Thai Formula One driver since Prince Bira in the 1950s, is teamed up with Russian Daniil Kvyat in a new for 2019 line-up at the Red Bull-owned team.
Kvyat previously raced for Toro Rosso from 2013-14, before being promoted to Red Bull Racing for 2015. He was then demoted again in 2016 after four races and dropped in 2017 after 14 rounds.
He spent 2018 as a Ferrari development driver before being recalled by Toro Rosso, who had dropped New Zealander Brendon Hartley and needed a replacement for Pierre Gasly after the Frenchman moved up to Red Bull.
"We all know that Daniil Kvyat is a very, very highly skilled driver," said Tost. "I think we have Daniil Kvyat back as we know him from the former times and therefore he will do a good job."
Both Toro Rosso and Red Bull have the same Honda engines this season and will be working more closely together in development.
Tost expected Toro Rosso, ninth of the 10 teams last year, to be further up the pecking order with Honda making progress on the engine side.
"I think that Honda has reached a very high level on the reliability side as well as on the performance side and I don't expect that we will have so many additional engine changes this year," he said.
"I am quite sure that Red Bull Racing will be able to win races with them and that we will also gain a lot of advantages out of this cooperation.
"I expect a successful season for Toro Rosso as well as for Honda."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)