After matching his career-best qualifying result, Williams’ Alexander Albon converted fourth on the grid into eighth in Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix.
While some drivers had pitted twice by lap 10, which helped Albon recover four places, he did not change tyres until lap 44 of 72 when he came in from sixth to swap his ageing soft compound tyres for a set of mediums. But more heavy rain prompted Albon to pit from third on lap 61 and switch to intermediate tyres which he ran to the finish.
“I think we were on par with the Astons and Ferraris this weekend,” he reckoned. “We did that first stint and in the whole stint we maybe lost two seconds to the Aston and the Ferrari in front of us. And we were on 15-lap, 10-lap older tyres than they were.”
Albon was 16.8 seconds behind Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso – who finished second – after the latter switched back to slicks on lap 11, and the gap had reduced before the Safety Car came out on lap 16. Following the restart, it grew by 9.386s over 21 laps before Albon pitted.
Carlos Sainz Jnr, the Ferrari driver in front of Albon, made his second stop on lap 11 and increased his gap over the Williams by 0.666s before the Safety Car appeared, then after the lap 22 restart pulled away by 2.12s before pitting on lap 41.
Albon said his “mammoth stint” on soft tyres is only possible “when the car’s good, and the car was very strong this weekend”.
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“It was very easy to control the front degradation, the rear deg, just with tools and driving. I was always able to shift the balance where I needed it to be. Then we put on the mediums and then we were making our way up the order.”
He was in sixth during his second stint and thinking “this is perfect” before he was informed more rain was on its way. Williams waited before pitting again, and Albon thought he had timed it well until the rain meant he “was crawling in the last four corners”. That allowed McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell to get ahead of him.
“It happens,” said Albon. “It’s one of them things where it feels like we finished today slightly disappointed that we didn’t finish sixth, but we still finished eighth, it’s still an amazing result for us.
“We’ve been here on pace this weekend, there’s no mistake about it. It’s been our strongest weekend, it’s the best I’ve felt in the car in my time at Williams and there’s so many positives to take from here.”
He added: “We were very strong and we overtook a Mercedes. Of course we had a tyre advantage, but to overtake a car around this track you need a good second-and-a-half pace advantage to be able to do it, and we did it. It gives me a lot of confidence going into Monza [this weekend].
“At the same time, it confuses me a little bit. We did a couple of set-up things this weekend which works, but I think they only work in high-downforce circuits. I don’t think you can get away with them in low-downforce tracks. So it will be interesting. We’ll take some learnings from this weekend and see what happens in Monza.”
Williams scored at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza the last two years, accounting for four of the nine grands prix which they scored in those two seasons. But they did not score at Spa last month despite their straight-line speed advantage frustrating rivals.
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2023 Dutch Grand Prix
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