Williams reveal adds further credit to Alex Albon in Canada ‘drive of champions’

Henry Valantine
Alex Albon smiling. Melbourne, April 2023.

Alex Albon smiling. Melbourne, April 2023.

Williams team principal James Vowles revealed a sensor issue for Alex Albon meant he was driving “blind” regarding tyre temperatures in Canada.

This made his “drive of champions”, as Vowles described it, all the more impressive, as the Williams driver put in a mammoth stint of 58 laps on a set of hard tyres to come home seventh, his best finish for the team to date.

This result earned him the fan-voted Driver of the Day award, and Albon yelled with delight as he crossed the line at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after holding off a long train of cars within DRS range behind him.

But even though the Thai-British driver was able to hold onto his tyres for so long, he was doing so without the help of knowing how hot they were as the race progressed – usually a key indicator for the teams in how they plot their strategies.

Because of that, he and the team were unable to see if the surface of the tyres were overheating at any point during the race, meaning he was “blind” as to whether or not to manage grip at any point, which added even more of a flourish to a sterling drive from Vowles’ perspective.

“You may have spotted on television we were taking bodywork off on Alex’s car just prior to the race – that’s never a comfortable position to be in.” the team boss said in his post-race ‘Vowles Verdict’.

“There was a problem, not one that would have affected reliability, but one that definitely did affect us on performance and data.

“We have sensors that are pointing towards the rear tyres that tell us what’s going on. They’re IR [infrared] sensors, so they’re non-contact, but they give us basically infrared on what the tyre temperature is on the rear axle.

“They’re very, very useful to be able to understand in the race what we’re doing with the tyres, and especially when you’re trying to do what we did, which is a very long stint.

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“You want to see how those tyres are performing; are you falling out of the window? Do you need to put more energy in?

“Those were missing all race, which is just another testament to what Alex was really doing out there because he was, as we were, just blind on those tyre temperatures.

“He still had internal tyre temperatures, but the external was missing, and what we were trying to do on the grid is fix that in the short period of time that we had available, unfortunately, unsuccessfully.”

Williams arrived in Canada with a multitude of upgrades for Albon’s car in particular, with the same improvements set to be added to Logan Sargeant’s FW45 in the next two races, as they look to claw their way back towards the midfield.

With the amount of variables in play during what was a frenetic Canadian Grand Prix last time out, Vowles was full of praise for the job Albon did with his new-spec car.

“Had there been another Safety Car or VSC, you would have seen us stop again,” Vowles said.

“As it turns out, we were on the right strategy and Alex did really a tremendous job.

“The way I described it to him was really ‘a drive of champions’. Make no mistake, when you have a stack of cars behind you that are clearly much quicker, with your tyres going away from you, is an extraordinary drive and he did incredibly well with it.”