The only driver to get within a tenth of Max Verstappen in FP1, Alex Albon believes if he can find a couple more tenths then he’ll be in the fight for a Q3 showing in Mexico.
Albon impressed in Friday’s practice at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez with the Williams driver quick out of the blocks, finishing P2 in the weekend’s opening practice.
He dropped to 14th in the second session, 0.7s down on Verstappen, and concedes that was in part down to a scruffy lap on the soft tyres.
Can Alex Albon break into the top ten in qualifying?
It’s left the driver quietly confident of making it into Q3 for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix.
“I don’t think we were slow in the second session,” he told the official F1 website. “We had a good first run, better than expected, we just hit the ground running.
“A lot of drivers in cars out there weren’t optimised and I think we were in the window from the first lap we drove.
“We started FP2 in rhythm and we were quick on the test tyre, I just didn’t do a very good lap on the soft tyre.
“I don’t think we are a top five or maybe a top ten but I think we fight for Q3.”
He added: “Maybe I’ll eat my words but we have a couple of tenths in me, a couple of tenths in the car and then we’ll be okay.”
Asked whether he expected to be as quick as he was, he replied: “Definitely not but to be honest with you this is one of the circuits that it feels bad for everyone.
“With this downforce, it feels like we’re sliding around, kind of like a Monza circuit and we seem to not do too bad at these kinds of circuits.
“It’s a big step from last year, last year to this year the car feels completely different but let’s see.”
Williams ‘surprised’ by Alex Albon’s pace
Dave Robson, Williams‘ Head of Vehicle Performance, says the team also wasn’t expecting that pace from Albon.
“It’s quite a big surprise if I’m honest, we still don’t fully understand why,” Robson said. “I think it’s quite clear that Alex was very confident and happy in the car, right from the first lap which which makes a big difference.
“The debrief is going on now so I’m not exactly sure whether they’re able to pick it apart, but it’s definitely a surprise. A nice way to start the weekend, but a bit of a surprise.”
His teammate Logan Sargeant finished Friday’s running half a second down on the Thai-British racer in 17th place.
Williams, Robson revealed, now have the decide between prioritising one lap pace or race pace ahead of Saturday’s running.
“That’s something we need to try and work out tonight,” Robson added. “Here of all places, the race pace between the different cars can vary a lot depending on how everyone is on top of the cooling.
“So I don’t think it’s necessarily just about having the most downforce or the best balance potentially on Sunday. If people don’t have the right levels of cooling and struggle to follow, the race could be a bit different so we’re gonna have to figure that out.
“Qualifying is important. Overtaking if all the cars were well managed is not easy here, so I think we’ll have to take a view after FP2 on where we think everyone else is and how they’re lining up for race pace, and then we’ll decide how to cut our pace.”