2022 F1 driver rankings #13: Alexander Albon

2022 F1 driver rankings

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When Red Bull took the difficult decision to drop Alexander Albon from their senior team at the end of 2020 in favour of veteran Sergio Perez, they worked hard to ensure that they found him a race seat where he could return to Formula 1 for 2022.

With George Russell departing Williams to fulfil his destiny at Mercedes, Red Bull offered Albon’s services to the team. A young driver who had shown genuine potential with multiple seasons of experience with a race-winning team, Albon was an ideal candidate to replace Russell and help lead the lowly Williams into a new era alongside Nicholas Latifi.

By the end of the season, Albon had secured himself a multi-year contract extension after winning the respect and trust of his brand new team. But while he had put in some of the most memorable and impressive performances of any driver in the lower half of the field throughout the year, he also showed that he is far from the finished article in the cockpit.

Alexander Albon, Williams, Albert Park, 2022
Albon produced one of the drives of the season in Melbourne
Albon returned to Formula 1 with such a professional performance in Bahrain, it was as if he hadn’t spent a year away at all. He took the unremarkable Williams into Q2 at the first attempt, before finishing a respectable 13th. But the reality of racing for Williams hit harder in Jeddah, when he ran towards the back of the field in his uncompetitive car and then punted Lance Stroll in the closing laps, being handed a three-place grip drop for Melbourne despite protesting his innocence.

During his 2020 season at Red Bull, Albon faced valid criticism for his inability to overcome adversity and showing a lack of fight on track. But Melbourne proved that he was now a different, better driver. Starting from the very back of the field on hard tyres, he executed arguably the most ambitious strategy of the entire season, running all 57 laps of the race he was allowed on his initial set of tyres before pitting on the final lap, emerging just metres ahead of Zhou Guanyu and taking an outstanding tenth place finish to secure Williams’ first point of the season.

He followed this exceptional drive with another fine performance in Imola. After his brakes exploded in Friday qualifying, he lined up 18th on the grand prix grid. Running behind Pierre Gasly for the first part of the race before overtaking him without DRS, Albon moved up to as high as 12th in the latter part of the race, gaining a bonus position when Esteban Ocon’s post-race penalty was applied, to be classified just out of the points in 11th.

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Albon was beginning to gain a reputation for putting his Williams up into positions it probably did not deserve to be in. That perception was inflated even further when he managed to score two more points in Miami. Admittedly, he benefitted from a fair amount of luck, thanks to a well-timed Safety Car gaining him two places for free when Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher collided, before being gifted a third when Fernando Alonso was penalised after the race.

Alex Albon, Williams, Monaco, 2022
He made multiple mistakes in Monaco
But after a very strong start to the year, his next two weekends could only be described as poor. In Spain, he sustained floor damage from hitting a kerb following his first pit stop, which saw him plummet to the very back of the field, far behind other drivers and then picked up a penalty for exceeding track limits four times. But his race at Monaco was worse. A decent qualifying effort to line up 16th was made better by gaining three positions in the early lap, but he ran off the circuit at Sainte Devote, having to spin-turn back onto the track and losing all three places. Then, he repeated the error, losing more time, before clipping the barrier trying to pass Zhou Guanyu at Rascasse, suffering the damage that ended his race.

He shook off his poor double-header and got back to business. However, unforced errors aside, Albon was becoming hamstrung by Williams’ lack of upgrades relative to their rivals. That changed at Silverstone when he was given the luxury of the team’s first upgrades of the season, but a frustrating qualifying strategy left him eliminated from Q1, while Latifi guided the older car through to Q3 for the very first time. In the race, Albon was the innocent victim of a secondary crash triggered by Zhou’s appalling accident, sending him hard into the unprotected pit lane wall. Albon was taken to hospital for precautionary checks but was later released, his opportunity to gather data on the team’s upgrades vanished.

While ‘spec II’ of the FW44 was an improvement, it was not a major one. It took until after the summer break for Albon to be in the fight for points again. Making the most of his low-drag car, Albon squeezed into Q3 for the first time all season, securing ninth on the grid. In the race, he faced near-constant pressure, leading a parade of frustrated, likely faster cars through the Belgian countryside for a large part of the race. He kept his cool and led his pursuers home in tenth, his third and final points finish of the season.

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Another decent showing in Zandvoort yielded no points, but he knew his best opportunity of the season awaited him at the next round on the long straights of Monza. Unluckily, he came down with appendicitis after Friday practice, and would never get to race. However, replacement Nyck de Vries’ excellent debut drive to ninth suggest this was at least what Albon would have been capable of.

Albon later admitted he was never at “100 percent” physically for the rest of the season. His return race in Singapore was one of his worst, crashing out in the mixed conditions through an unforced error which marked the low point of the second half of his season. Then, in Japan, he clashed with Kevin Magnussen in the spray, damaging his radiator and putting an end to his race on a day when Latifi delivered the team’s final points score of the year.

Alex Albon, Williams, Suzuka, 2022
Albon was confident he had maximised his opportunities for points
He continued to flirt with the minor points places in the USA and Mexico, finishing ahead of multiple cars that should have been ahead of his. But by this stage in the season there was little he could do to fight for points other than hope for some unexpected chaos to present an opportunity.

As the season came to an end, Albon looked back convinced in his own mind that he was able to score points whenever he’d had a realistic opportunity to. He’d obliterated his team mate over the season – but that team mate just happened to be RaceFans’ lowest-ranked driver of the season. He had put in some outstanding drives, but his worst had also been among the most conspicuous lows of any driver.

Heading into 2023 with a new team principal and a new driver, Williams will take comfort in knowing they have Albon to lead them through their transition. By ironing out some minor kinks, he could feature much higher up this list next season.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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9 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #13: Alexander Albon”

  1. I feel sad for Albon for 2023. Looks like another disaster season for Williams

  2. It’s somewhat surprising that Albon’s shenanigans at Monaco were never investigated. He openly admitted to ignoring blue flags, thereby holding up the Ferrari, which helped (though to which degree is debatable) Red Bull win the race.

    Albon had some pretty strong races, but as noted he had numerous races where he looked lost, off the pace or just clumsy. While these rankings will always be a bit biased towards drivers in better cars, Albon in 15th seems fair enough. Of the people in the bad cars he was often the most convincing driver.

    1. @MichaelN I’m also still surprised about his actions never getting investigated despite his open admittance to arbitrarily ignoring rules, which is disallowed.

  3. This is car bias and less hype isn’t it? Russell was usually in the top 10 facing the same teammate while Albon is 13th after beating Latifi by a bigger margin?

    1. The williams was better this season than last year, and Latifi was far better last year than he was this year. I believe that Russell last year was better than albon has been, and yet latifi was closer to him.

      So I think it was more Latifi being bad that is making albon look better. He hasn’t really been that good.

      1. That’s a ridiculous claim. And twisting the narrative. Latifi was Russell’s benchmark. And Albon beat him by a bigger margin this year. How good the Williams car has no real value in this comparison.

    2. Well, it can be argued De Vries demonstrated that Albon’s performances weren’t exactly a heroic achievement

      1. Well, it can be argued De Vries and Albon demonstrated that Russell’s performances at Williams weren’t exactly a heroic achievement🤔

        Russell was phoning it in.

  4. I honestly thought that Albon was more impressive than Magnussen and Ocon this year. He didn’t have any really special qualifying moments like Russell had in 2021, but over the season, he was as strong in terms of performance as Russell was the season before. They both beat Latifi equally badly as well, so I think that if Albon doesn’t get a top 10 rating, he should be at at #11.

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