When Williams lost George Russell to Mercedes at the end of the 2021 season, it was easy to wonder about the team’s long-term chances of success having lost its talisman driver, just as F1’s new generation of technical regulations arrived.Alexander Albon into their vacant seat for 2022, it seemed like a mutually beneficial arrangement for all parties involved.
Pushed aside by Red Bull in favour of Sergio Perez for 2021 after his difficult 2020 season alongside Max Verstappen, Albon’s behind-the-scenes work developing the RB17B and running simulator session throughout race weekends to support the pair was invaluable. Team principal Christian Horner giving Albon considerable credit for his contributions to Verstappen’s eventual championship-winning campaign.
After the first six races of the season, even Russell was full of praise for his successor, who scored points finishes both in Australia and Miami.
“Alex has done an exceptional job,” said Russell ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. “There was obviously no secret he had a tough time that Red Bull. But I think all of us, even probably Max included, just knew how talented Alex was.
“We’ve all raced each other since 2011. He’s always been one of the very best, so it’s no surprise to me, and I think happy to see that he’s back in Formula 1, and that he has cemented his position.”
Having worked closely with the Thai-British driver on his return to racing in Formula 1, Williams’ head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, had even higher praise for the team’s newest driver when speaking to media including RaceFans ahead of last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
“I think, overall, his performance has been outstanding,” said Robson. “Particularly in the races. I’m very impressed with the way he handles himself during the race.
“Qualifying is always difficult because of the pace of the car. But in the race he is so calm and his ability just to get on with it, see the bigger picture and manage the stints accordingly, I think is really impressive.”
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With Williams’ FW44 lacking the same level of performance as many other teams on the grid, Albon has had to employ some unconventional strategies to try and create opportunities. Robson says this has only been made possible thanks to Albon’s racecraft.
“He can be pretty robust at defending and attacking when he gets the chance,” Robson explained. “But his robust defence is good and has allowed him to have some of the races that he’s had. So I’ve been impressed.
“I think even better than that is he’s still getting better, or we’re getting more used to understanding what he wants and how to work with him. So I think there’s more to come. If we can just get a bit more pace out the car to give him a better chance at qualifying, then I think we’ll see a step up in performance quite quickly.”
It is easy to overlook the fact Albon is, like team mate Nicholas Latifi, only in the third full Formula 1 campaign of his career. But Robson believes that through Albon’s race experience and the benefit of his time at Red Bull, he is able to provide Williams with the leadership they need during a time of great transition for the team coupled with the major technical regulations changes for 2022.
“I think Alex can provide quite an awful lot of that,” he said. “It would have been great if maybe the big rule change had come 12 months later or something – if we’d had a bit of continuity with him – because it’s difficult, particularly when the car is off the pace.
“He knows what he wants. The bit we’ve got to try and work out with him is how much of what he wants can we actually give him and how much are we just constrained by the rules and the tyres this year and that can be a little bit tricky. But in terms of understanding what he wants and him generally guiding the team from what he feels, then I think he’s got lots of really good experience and invaluable input. And I don’t think he’s at all far away with what he’s asking for.
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“Obviously, it’s been a bit of a bedding-in and learning period between us and him to understand and interpret what he wants into sort of an engineering sense that we can actually act on. That just takes a bit of time. But otherwise, I think he’s got an awful lot of valuable input. He’s good at leading the team in that regard.”
After two difficult weekends for the team, the question for Williams is if and how they can continue to develop the FW44 over the year ahead to try and ensure they can keep capitalising on opportunities to score points. Do Williams have anything major in the pipeline for the coming races?
“There’s always things planned,” Robson explained. “I think there’s a decent amount of stuff that looks good in the wind tunnel.
“The big question is with the resource limitation or the cost cap limitation – at what point do you commit what’s in the tunnel to the real car, or do you just hang on and hope there’s one more big step to come in the tunnel that you can capture. So that’s probably the stage that we’re at at the moment. There’s some good direction, some good bits that definitely would make the car faster, but we’re still just weighing up exactly when to commit that to manufacture.
“I think for the next couple of races, we’re back to more lower downforce type circuits that will be completely different. I don’t think there will be any major upgrades for these pair of fly-aways. And then it’s how soon after that do we decide to deliver the package – that’s something we probably could decide this coming week, actually. So there’s stuff on its way.”
Despite comfortably out-qualifying team mate Nicholas Latifi again last weekend in Monaco, Albon later described his own performance during the weekend as “scruffy”. Charles Leclerc was less than impressed by Albon refusing to yield for blue flags after pitting for slick tyres on the drying track. After rejoining the circuit with the Ferrari right behind him on intermediate tyres, Albon failed to allow the leader through almost an entire lap, to the audible frustration of Leclerc.
Albon would eventually lock up and run wide into Sainte Devote, allowing Leclerc through. It was the first of multiple incidents for Albon, who suffered a puncture after hitting the inside barrier at Rascasse before later receiving a five-second time penalty for cutting the chicane and gaining an advantage. He would eventually retire on lap 50.
“With Alex, we opted to play the long game on the full wet tyres and run it until the track was ready for slicks,” Robson explained after the race.
“We timed the transition pretty well and he found some good pace on hards until he went straight on at T1 and then punctured the tyre. His pace on the mediums after the red flag was again strong, but as he was now out of position, he couldn’t make any places. We retired the car when Alex reported some unexpected bouncing on the straights.
“It was a tough race, but we learnt quite a lot about the FW44 this weekend, some of which will be relevant to the next race in Baku.”
2022 F1 season
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21 comments on “How Albon’s “outstanding” race performances have impressed Williams”
3rd June 2022, 12:25
I must say that I am really happy to see Albon doing well at Williams. While his time at Red Bull did not deserve resigning him for another year, and Perez has shown he is better fit to that job by now, hardly anyone would think that Albon did not belong on the grid.
Will be nice to see how he develops over the next few years.
3rd June 2022, 12:56
I imagine that the man from the island is more impressed with young Mr Albon’s financial package.
3rd June 2022, 15:48
@proesterchen He isn’t a so-called pay driver per se, so I’m surprised I’ve seen this reference, even indirect, about him quite often.
3rd June 2022, 20:25
He’s a Red Bull driver because of his heritage. He’s currently driving a Williams because the 4 Red Bull seats were full for 2022.
3rd June 2022, 20:26
How do you think he found himself in the Williams seat this year?
4th June 2022, 9:49
@proesterchen He isn’t a Red Bull driver per se anymore since he’s fully Williams-contracted.
The only RB-related reference is his personal sponsor Krating Daeng, RB’s Thai division.
Besides, his previous F1 racing experience is why he got to Williams over the only other choice (De Vries), who doesn’t have any.
4th June 2022, 15:02
I’m not sure it’s particularly useful to make a distinction about which site of the ownership of Red Bull is currently paying for Alex to be in Formula 1. My understanding has been that he has mostly been a project of the Thai ownership family for obvious reasons, much like Yuki is pushed by Honda, but the Mateschitz side of things obviously wouldn’t baulk at a decent driver from the junior programme that also has a Thai connection.
Tobi Grüner of AMS (german) reported on Alex coming with a Red Bull financial package last year:
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
3rd June 2022, 14:37
He has been impressive, but during that time, latifi has had a load of criticism towards him which to a point make albon’s performances harder to judge. One thing I can say is that Latifi wasn’t good in the last 2 races, and albon was even worse than him. So lets hope he gets back to how he was.
3rd June 2022, 15:49
@thegianthogweed Albon was worse than Latifi in the last two races only through external factors.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
3rd June 2022, 17:28
and what are those? his own driving performance?
He damaged his car in spain and then had poor performance and kept getting track limit warnings followed by a black and white flag then a penalty and he finished 50 seconds behind latifi. Latifi was bad enough but hea was dreadful.
Then in Monaco, Latifi tapped the barrier but before the race began was not the worst time for that to happen and it didn’t cost him that much. Albon however did the same track limits, black and white flag and penalty thing as last race then wrecked his rear right wheel causing a puncture and then also was holding leclerc up for almost the entire lap. latifi also held up sainz, but not for as long. It is also likely that the damage albon gave himself contributed to his retirement. I would say Albon has been terrible the past 2 weekends.
4th June 2022, 9:51
@thegianthogweed Mechanic(s) caused the damage in Spain rather than him + he already excessive tyre wear before, so factors outside his control. Monaco GP is another matter.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
4th June 2022, 11:08
he ran wide over the kerbs after his first stop. Read his own words: “I picked up damage to the floor after my first stop which heavily impacted the car’s performance.”
The mechanics won’t have gone under his car and caused floor damage. You are defending him too much here. He caused his own issues.
5th June 2022, 10:37
@thegianthogweed Based on Williams’ post-race notes, he picked up the damage during his first stop when the car landed incorrectly, but oh well, irrelevant this long afterwards.
3rd June 2022, 17:48
He did an Outstanding job!… ignoring marshals blue flags.
3rd June 2022, 18:19
Indeed, there were some impressive races, but monaco is a low point.
3rd June 2022, 19:51
Exactly, he did an amazing job for RedBull
7th June 2022, 15:24
Thai-British half_blooded RBR donkey.
3rd June 2022, 20:31
Thai-British, Thai-British, Thai-British… Do you always add second nationality to all people like this, or only in this case? When a British athlete has second nationality, do you ever do this thing? British-Jamaican, British-Nigerian, British-Polish, British-Italian…? No? Then it’s weird seeing this need to claim even a Thai driver now when you have so many of your own. Yes, he’s got strong ties to UK, but he’s Thai driver so just let it be, respect that country and the driver’s choice.
Red Pill (@redpill)
4th June 2022, 9:27
Maybe because he was born in England, grew up in Suffolk and his father who is full British and has a British passport & citizenship and has also chosen to have a Thai passport and claim that as his nationality. So technically adding both nationalities with a hyphen is correct.
4th June 2022, 23:56
Dean, as noted previously, he was born in the UK, grew up in the UK, was sponsored for several years by the British Racing Drivers club and, until a few years ago, he was officially residing in the UK (though he is now domiciled in Monaco).
Furthermore, whilst Albon has chosen to use a Thai licence, Albon himself has said that he sees himself as being both British and Thai and indicated that, if he had the option, he would probably use both nationalities if the licence registration system allowed him to register as both British and Thai.
Using both nationalities is, therefore, a reflection of how Albon identifies with both the UK and Thailand and sees himself as having a shared heritage with both nations – so it therefore respects his own wishes to refer to both nationalities.
4th June 2022, 7:44
Funny, how excellent the drivers are, that get laid off by Red Bull.
Almost like a start of great things to come…
Not in F1 though, he wont move up from Williams, perhaps sideways.
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