Williams admitted their competitive start to the Mexican Grand Prix weekend has taken them by surprise.Alexander Albon was second-quickest behind Max Verstappen in the opening practice session, a position he repeated in the final hour of running ahead of qualifying on Saturday.
The team’s head of vehicle performance Dave Robson said after the first practice Albon’s pace had been “quite a big surprise, if I’m honest.”
“It’s quite clear that Alex was very confident and happy in the car, right from the first lap, which makes a big difference,” he added.
Albon has impressed in his second season with Williams, scoring almost all of the team’s points and lifting them to seventh place in the constructors’ championship. Robson says he and the team have benefited from having a car developed in line with his feedback.
“This car obviously has had a reasonable amount of input from Alex over the last couple of years,” he said. “So I think the car is better than it has been in recent years.
“It still has issues, for sure [but] I think the car for whatever reason was just good straight out of the box, so the set-up work that Alex had done on the simulator clearly helped.”
“He has a good understanding when the car is working well, or when it’s not working in some corners but well in others, he’s quite capable of adapting to that without getting too frustrated,” Robson added. “So he is very good at making the most of what we’re able to give him and in the background that continual sort of medium-term development of the car is going on and he’s leading that and so as we bring the improved parts to the car, if it delivers what he has asked for, then inevitably he finds the lap time.”
While the car’s single-lap pace has been strong, Robson said the team must ensure it can perform over a race distance at the high-altitude venue where cooling is compromised.
“Here of all places, the race pace between the different cars can vary a lot, depending on how everyone is on top of the cooling,” he said. “So, I don’t think it’s necessarily just about having the most downforce or the best balance.
“Potentially on Sunday, if people don’t have the right levels of cooling, and struggle to follow, the race could be a bit different. So we’re going to have to figure that out.”
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