If you heard my radio you’d say: ‘Who is this guy?’: Albon demanding more from Williams


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Alexander Albon has dyed his hair. Again.

The last time RaceFans sat down one-on-one just ten months prior in Paul Ricard, the perennially playful Albon’s head was a striking scarlet. Now, with the blue waters of the Monaco harbour shimmering in the light of the glorious late spring sun, Albon’s hair is now a brilliant blonde.

But that’s not all that’s changed about him in that time. He has also gained a contract extension, lost an appendix and added two more points to his tally at Williams – the team that helped reignite a Formula 1 career that was in danger of ending just two years ago.

So whether it’s the hair, the weather, the job security or a combination of the three, Albon’s trademark cheeky grin is on full display as ever.

If your perception of the 27-year-old has been formed from his ever-evolving hairstyles or his antics on social media, it’s easy to develop the wrong impression about Alex Albon as a professional. Whether it’s the roughly 600 photos of him making a peace sign at the camera on Instagram, his penchant for dyeing his hair a new neon shade on a monthly basis or rocking up to Miami with a helmet designed like a golf ball in tribute to his professional athlete partner, you’d be forgiven for assuming he is a driver who doesn’t take his racing as seriously as his fellow rivals on the grid.

But after almost 30 grands prix at Williams – the most he’s ever started with a single team in Formula 1 – Albon is now the talisman for the most under-resourced and overly-stretched team on the grid. When the helmet goes on, Albon is as serious a competitor as any of his rivals – and he is eager that no one gets the wrong impression about him.

“I think most people consider me as a ‘nice’ person,” he begins, “but at the same time, I’m also a very passionate person and racing means a lot to me. So when I go about my racing, performance – more than anything – is my main priority out of everything else that comes into a race weekend.

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“When I want to perform, there is no compromise in that side. So when you see me with my helmet on, or even with the people here in the team, I do think it surprises a few people.”

“Very analytical” Vowles impressed Albon
Albon isn’t alone in the room. He’s chaperoned, as drivers always are, by members of his team – some of whom were present the last time RaceFans spoke with the Williams driver. But two men who are no longer with them are former team principal, Jost Capito, and technical officer FX Demaison – two leaders who both wanted Albon to be “harder with the team” out of the car. To not be “too nice”.

Both figures may not be with Williams any longer, but Albon insists he has taken that advice on board and has been applying it in 2023, his second season at the Grove-based squad.

“People don’t really see that side of me too much. I think these guys could advocate for that,” he says, looking at the Williams staff around us.

“I remember speaking to Jost, taking those comments on board. I think just developing and maturing as a person as well, you kind of start to establish a bit more of a management mindset and personality in terms of what you want in the car, how do you get the best out of people – this kind of style.

“I think there’s an element that I do everything I can to get the best out of myself. And depending on the circumstances, the people that I’m talking to, the relationships I have with people in the team, sometimes I am that nice guy, sometimes I’m not. Depends what people need and how I get what I want out of the situation. Not to say I’m using people, but, at the end of the day, I want to score points, I want to get his team into podium positions and eventually win races. So that’s my main drive.”

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Where Albon stands out is how honest and authentic he is about himself. Few of his peers on the grid would be so willing to self-analyse their interpersonal work dynamics in such a way. Yet Albon has nothing he feels he needs to shy away from or keep to himself when it comes to people’s perceptions of him. If anything, he’s eager to correct any misconceptions about him as a driver.

Frustrating Miami raced prompted trenchant feedback from Albon
“I think if you speak to the team, you’d get a better idea of it,” he explains. “For example, if you had my radio for a whole race, you’d be like, ‘who the hell is this guy?’.”

Albon specifically highlights Miami as an example, a race where he finished just under ten seconds and four places outside of the points after spending most of the 57 laps complaining to his engineer, James Urwin:

“We’re gonna lose more time getting overtaken than we are anything doing this.”

“For me, this pushing too much is not good for the tyres. I don’t agree with this.”

“Okay, so don’t tell me to push!”

“In traffic, I’ve got nothing.”

It’s all far from the happy-go-lucky persona he presents himself online or when greeting fans in the paddock.

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“But I’m like that kind of the whole race,” Albon explains. “And so people pick up on it and go ‘oh, you seemed a bit frustrated’ and it’s a little bit like ‘no, I’m actually like that all the time, every session I’m driving’. So the team know that, but outside they don’t. And people don’t connect the dots.

Urwin and Albon ‘have a bit of a bicker’ at times
“That’s just who I am. We talk, we discuss. I fight back on a lot of things, but at the same time, we’re kind of having a little bit of a bicker – like a relationship. But I think it’s just that you see so much of me that’s friendly and happy that you don’t see the other side. Because also I don’t show it. I don’t advertise it – I don’t need to promote it.”

With Capito no longer around, Albon is racing under his fourth different team principal in his fourth season in F1 in the form of former Mercedes strategist James Vowles. Brought in with the clear objective of installing a similar winning culture to that which Vowles has been immersed in ever since Mercedes purchased the Brackley-based team, he has quickly become a far more visible and public-facing leader of Williams than Capito had been before him.

But in the just over three months since Vowles joined Grove, has Albon felt a shift in how Williams operate in that time?

“Possibly not as much as you’d expect,” Albon admits. “I deal on a daily basis, possibly, much more with the engineers and the factories, so on that side things haven’t changed too much. But with, you could call them, the ‘higher ups’, is it different? Yes.

“Just like more personality-wise than anything else, I have to say. Obviously Jost was a bit more of a flamboyant, high-energy kind of guy. James is very analytical – almost more like an engineer kind of style. You can tell he thinks a lot before he talks and all that kind of stuff. I feel like I have to up my vocabulary when I talk to James.”

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Vowles has made a clear effort over his first seven grands prix in charge of Williams to vocally praise, encourage or even calm his two drivers when necessary. With Albon’s team mate Logan Sargeant still settling into life as a rookie in Formula 1, Vowles has been eager to nurture his two young drivers while also showing them the faith he has in their abilities in the car.

‘People consider me a nice person but I’m also passionate’
“I feel like I can speak to James quite openly about the car and set up and he tends to really understand,” Albon says.

“He does some driving himself which, actually, I think it helps. It helps him understand what we say and how we communicate things. There’s a level where he can feel what we feel, which is good, especially when you’re trying to change philosophy or set up in the car or direction for next year. It’s good that he can understand why we struggle and how as drivers Logan and I have to compromise our driving styles to make the car quick, basically. So he’s been good to talk to.”

Albon is contracted at Williams until at least next year. Despite some mishaps at times – most notably during the opening laps in Melbourne when he crashed out while running in the top ten – Albon has continued to put his Williams higher up the field than many would have expected the FW45 to be, including a point in the season opener in Bahrain.

Turning Williams around to escape from the purgatory of the back of the order is no small task. As Vowles told RaceFans recently his vision for Williams is focused “not this year, but over the next years” and will require “complete ground-up, dig everything up, break it, structural changes.”

But the future in Formula 1 is volatile. The incoming new power unit formula in 2026, the influx of manufactures to the sport and possible new entries on the grid offer a wealth of opportunities. Not just for Williams, but for Albon too. However, he says that his focus is solely on Williams and helping Vowles bring them out of their years-long slump at the back of the field to find sustainable success longer-term.

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“It’s hard for me to look that far in front,” he says when presented with the prospect of 2026.

Williams is ‘attractive’ to manufacturers, says Albon
“When I’m looking at where we are as a team right now, we’ve still got to focus on ourselves. Some things we need to improve are, I don’t want to say ‘basic’, but we’ve got to work on some other things ourselves. I leave that kind of factory talk more towards James in that side of things.

“Honestly speaking, because all this stuff is so far in the future, it is going to be a big year. Clearly more manufacturers are wanting to come in – I think the sport’s never been as healthy. A team like Williams, I think, is quite attractive to these kind of manufacturers. So on our side, it’s still in the present day and I think everything helps you – the more successful we are, the more we can attract manufacturers and become our own team. But for now, I think we’re focussed on ourselves.

“Even now we share a lot of parts from Mercedes and that’s been very beneficial for us. So going to the future, we do need to improve what we have back at the factory to become this factory team. But at the minute, there’s no secret that a lot of the parts Mercedes makes. It benefits us. It is an improvement. So until we fix some issues and improve ourselves, then that’s when I guess the manufacturer talks can happen.”

Until then, Albon appears a driver at home at Williams. The team that gave him a second chance at a career in Formula 1, and who he has been fighting for to repay that belief in him every time he gets in the cockpit. Whether he is still in Williams blue come 2026 is unknown – much like what colour his hair will be.

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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2 comments on “If you heard my radio you’d say: ‘Who is this guy?’: Albon demanding more from Williams”

  1. I wonder what kind of free-time racing James does. An interesting aspect I didn’t know about him until today.

  2. Good interview, Claire ;).

    Most of the people think the car is everything in Formula 1, but IMO Alex Albon is, alongside Pierre Gasly, one of the examples of that being just partially true.

    They looked awful in a top drive but quite competitive in the midfield, up until the point you start to think “they do deserve another chance… do they?”.

    What people don’t take into account is that top teams often have top drivers in their pocket, so the difference between teams is caused by both cars and drivers. And thinking about the VER-ALB pairing, you might think if the best cars lap 1s quicker than the midfield… maybe half a second comes from hands and feet, contrary to the extended “90% car-10% driver” idea.

    Albon looks a good driver within the level he is in, but consistently beating Latifi and Sargeant is a heavily different thing from pairing Verstappen or another big fish. And my point is: the difference between best and worst car is not 9-10 times the difference between best and “less best” driver, but much less.

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