Alex Albon has admitted that the midfield battle has become "frustratingly close" in 2022, making it more difficult for Williams to consistently find themselves in the mix.
The British-Thai driver scored his first point of the season at the Australian Grand Prix, after the team gambled on the unusual strategy of running the same set of Hard tyres for 57 of the 58 laps.
This enabled Albon to take the chequered flag in P10, scoring Williams' first top 10 finish in 10 races.
To the untrained eye, the team appear to have made little progress from last season, with Albon and teammate Nicholas Latifi sharing just one unlikely point following the opening three rounds.
But Albon has protested that the team have actually taken a big step forward for 2022, only their step has proved not to be as great as the rapid progress of Haas and Alfa Romeo.
Albon: I was gapping midfield cars in Australia
"It's almost frustratingly close for us, because it seems like Alfa and Haas have made that step up and they've joined the midfield battle," explained Albon, speaking to the F1 Nation podcast.
"We're not further away from the front than in previous years, it's just that those guys have joined the pack and so it almost looks like we're struggling, but Alfa and Haas have done a great job."
Despite being on old Hard tyres, Albon says he even found himself pulling away from Williams' rivals during the latter stages of the race, as he kept himself on the tail of the midfield-leading McLaren cars.
"It was nice to mix it [with them] and when I was in that group of cars, I guess part of me was mostly looking in my rearview mirrors, but then, very quickly, I was losing them and I was pulling away from them," he said.
"And I was like: 'Oh, okay, here we go. We're gapping them!'. It was really good."
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Albon feels like a team leader at Williams
Albon's point will only help him continue to settle in at his new team, where he was faced with the task of filling George Russell's gargantuan boots.
But after a season spent in the simulator helping to perfect Max Verstappen's World Championship winning Red Bull, Albon is now cementing his place as Williams' lead driver, ahead of Nicholas Latifi.
"It's a different position than I was in with Red Bull and I feel, more than anything, like I am a bit more of a team leader," he continued.
"I feel like I have to use my experience in the best way possible and develop the car with Nicky. I guess I feel like I've had a year to mature. I don't think I could have done that in 2020 or 2019.
"I feel like I'm in a better position now. So I am enjoying it. It's a new challenge for me."
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