Alex Albon suspects key reason behind strong Williams qualifying

Thomas Maher
Alex Albon, taking part in qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Alex Albon, taking part in qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Alex Albon believes a scenario Williams trialed in the simulators coming to Zandvoort has rewarded them handsomely.

Albon qualified his Williams in a season-best fourth-place on Saturday, having been consistently near the sharp end throughout the entirety of practice. Underlining the speed of the car was teammate Logan Sargeant, who made it into the top 10 for the first time before crashing early on in Q3.

With Williams proving consistently strong, Albon said the weekend has come towards the Grove-based team right from the start of FP1 on Friday as the car gave him confidence from the very first lap.

Alex Albon: You need to feel at one with the car

Speaking to media, including PlanetF1.com, in the aftermath of qualifying, Albon couldn’t hide his smile as he revealed that he had expected to fall back as the weekend progressed.

“We’ve been good in FP1, 2, and 3. Of course, there was an element that we thought we were gonna start slipping back,” he said.

“Not more than anything other than the car felt good from the first lap we drove in FP1.

“Normally, when that happens, the others start to really chip away at it, and get their car in their window. I just felt like, ‘Oh, maybe we’ve just got our sweet spot early’. We didn’t really play too much with the car since FP1, and it made me feel confident.

“Then, when you have confidence at a track like this, which is so narrow, so uncompromising, and, at the same time, have mixed conditions, wet to dry, you really just need to feel at one with the car, and I have this weekend.”

It’s an unusual circuit for Williams to show strongly at, with their cars generally favouring low-drag scenarios in recent years – meaning Albon is questioning why.

“When you have these kinds of conditions, it’s not always about peak downforce,” he said.

“It’s just about having a car that’s drivable on the limit, and our car has been all weekend.

“It’s no secret that we’re not normally good at high-downforce circuits, we normally think about Spa or Monza. For me, that’s the unanswered bit.”

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Alex Albon pinpoints headwind as reason for Williams pace

Interestingly, Albon offered a theory for why Williams may be doing so well – suggesting that a strong headwind through the middle part of the lap is playing in their favour.

“The one explanation I do have, there’s been a really, really nice headwind in a lot of these corners,” he said.

“Turns 9/10/11 have always been terrible, corners where we’ve been losing two-tenths each corner.

“So I think that’s helped us a lot more than normal. We actually drove with these winds on the simulator. We do play around, and we knew this wind was good for us.”

But can Williams stay as high up in the order come race day? While the single-lap pace has been strong, Albon suggested the race could be much more difficult.

“I think our race pace was respectable in FP2, but it definitely wasn’t top-tier,” he said.

“All the top-tier teams are around us. There’s no driver that can hold them up. They’re all directly behind me, so it’s going to be a tough race.”

Put to him that the likes of Alpine are viewing Williams as a genuine threat due to their speed down the straights, Albon said the usual pattern has been changed for this weekend.

“It’s a lovely compliment, but it’s not true this weekend,” he said.

“We are not top of the speed traps, we haven’t been at all this weekend. We’ve actually been very, very midfield and I think the Alpines and the Ferraris have been running quite a lot less downforce than we have.

“We have to be quick on pure pace, or else we will get overtaken. I think in the long run, it’s beneficial.”

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