Williams misled Albon to keep his spirits up in one-stop slog to seventh

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Alexander Albon says his Williams team tried to prevent him from realising how long his final stint would be on his way to their best result of the season so far yesterday.

The team moved up from last place in the constructors’ championship, passing AlphaTauri, thanks to Albon’s drive to seventh place in the Canadian Grand Prix. Albon was the only one of the team’s drivers to use their new upgrade package last weekend which he said brought them closer to the midfield runners.

“To be honest I do think we had similar pace to the McLarens the whole weekend,” said Albon. “I think realistically, where we were, we had to do something different to them, as they were in front, to get the points.

“We’ve had very good pace this weekend, it’s just to still get points is difficult. You’ve got the eight cars – the Astons, the Red Bulls, the Ferraris, the Mercedes – and the final two positions normally it feels like it’s the Alpines now.”

While many drivers in the midfield made two pit stops, Albon only changed his tyres once during an early Safety Car period, then ran a set of the hard rubber for 58 laps to reach the end of the race as a queue of rivals built up behind him.

The team has used similar single-stop tactics to good effect several times before with Albon. However on this occasion they deliberately told him he had fewer laps to complete than was the case. Albon revealed he discovered the true lap count when he saw it on one of the video screens around the track.

“We had to stick to the one-stop,” he said. “When the guys told me I had – I don’t know what it was, 35 or 40 laps, they even told me ’20’ just to make me feel better – I looked at the TV screen and I was like, oh my god, I hope that’s not real.”

The strategy of making an early pit stop and running to the end plays to the strong straight-line speed of Williams’ recent cars. However Albon said keeping Esteban Ocon and a train of rivals behind while on badly worn tyres was challenging.

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“I’ve done these races a lot now and I can tell you they’re not that fun. We’re good at defending, we have a straight-line car. In these situations it’s all about you’re obviously in a big tyre deficit but at the same time saving the tyres to make the key corners count.

“[I was] making sure I positioned the car in Esteban’s dirty air to try to make him hurt his tyres, hurt his traction. So you’re driving a race that’s very much in your rear-view mirrors, even though obviously you’re trying not to make mistakes.

“The other thing is obviously when the tread comes down, the tyres start to cool down quite a lot and you have to start pushing. And by the end of the race the carcass is almost, like, you see white parts where you’re right down to the canvas. And you’ve got to push flat-out.

“It feels like qualifying for the last 20 laps. At the same time, you can’t afford to make a mistake. There’s this real balance going on. But that’s what we’re paid for.”

Albon, who scored Williams’ only other point this year in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, believes their gains have been overshadowed by the progress of some rivals.

“We go under the radar,” he said. “A lot of our good races get completely unseen by everyone because honestly, it’s a boring race for most people. It’s just how it is.

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“We’ve got our TV time, I think, today. When I saw the screens, I was always there. It’s great and if anything it just shows the progress we’re making.

“I know I’ve said it before, but everyone talks about the Aston, how much they made a step forwards. You could even argue, [if you] look at Barcelona, you see it as a disappointing weekend but we were still far more competitive than we were last year.

“So I’m really positive for the team. I think we’re on our way, we’re on our journey. I feel like we’ve still got a couple of years ahead of us. But it’s great to be able to do these kind of results.”

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2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
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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9 comments on “Williams misled Albon to keep his spirits up in one-stop slog to seventh”

  1. Makes his performance even more impressive.

    And I get some of the psychology too. I’ve been in races where I had a huge pack of cars behind me and besides being stressful/not fun, you almost feel embarrassed or like you’re somehow not being sporting doing everything you can to keep so many, much faster cars behind you. With a few laps left, I wouldn’t feel that way. With 15 let alone 25+ laps left, it feels crazy.

    The other problem for Albon was that, usually, when one car gets by in F1 (and my little touring car series too), the dam usually totally breaks and everyone gets by. For them it’s usually cause when your tires are that worn or hot, getting off line and dirty tires or spiking the heat in the tires just for a second leads to them falling totally off the cliff and within a few corners everyone is by.

    1. AND “But that’s what we’re paid for.” Good report, great drive.

  2. Good interview and article, some interesting insight.
    Williams have been my team to root for this year. Who doesn’t love an underdog?

    1. Coventry Climax
      19th June 2023, 13:08

      The majority of fans, I’m afraid.
      Human psychology: It’s safer to hide behind and inbetween the numbers than be vulnerable among the few.

      1. I disagree, it’s fairly well known that most people love to see an underdog doing well, just as many love to see a favourite do badly. We enjoy seeing the unexpected, and it appeals to our aspirations.

        Look at the number of stories about the weaker third prince slaying the dragon using cunning and trickery, David and Goliath and similar stories…

    2. Overdogs perhaps.
      Agree – good article.

    3. I always rooted for Williams and Sauber and Jordan because they were true independents (with a few breaks for Sauber). It feels a bit different now that Williams is owned by some hedge fund, but they’re still the underdog whose only business is racing.

      I think Vowles has done a great job finally stabilizing Williams. I didn’t have much faith Lowe would succeed. Much of his success came after joining teams whose car was already a good final product and he seemed to move too often. One of Vowles’ most important qualities has been his ability to give team members confidence.

  3. Albon has been really impressive since he’s joined Williams.. probably as impressive as Russell was during his time there.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a call from Ferrari or Red Bull within a season or two.

    1. Not a GR fan, but Russell was qualifying his car way further up the grid than it deserved to be in a car that was solidly worse than the current Williams. Albon’s biggest strength has been his ability to effectively use the car’s straight line speed to hold onto a points fish once every 6th or 7th race.

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