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Alexander Albon

Exclusive: How Albon is plotting to help restore Williams in 2024

In an exclusive chat with RacingNews365, Alexander Albon details how Williams plans to emulate McLaren and Aston Martin and make a big leap towards the front of the grid.

Albon Singapore
Interview
To news overview © XPBimages

The Alexander Albon and Williams comeback arc has been one of the more interesting stories to come out of Formula 1 in the last two years.

Once a Red Bull castaway, Albon has changed the narrative for the better around his career with his outstanding performances at the wheel of one of the slowest cars on the grid, with some of the groundwork first laid during the George Russell years before his promotion to Mercedes for 2022.

When Albon came in to replace his good friend, Russell, it was immediate how much of a positive impact he could have on the team after the loss of its lead driver.

A slightly below-par 2022 has been followed up by a mightly impressive 2023 campaign in which Albon has single-handedly scored all 23 points for the team - more than Russell did in his three years at Grove - and is a Q3 regular as the team rebuilds under the leadership of former Mercedes man James Vowles.

The FW45 is the best Williams package since perhaps the 2017 car which was the first designed under the higher downforce aerodynamic regulations, with Albon believing crucial decisions made in pre-season set the team on the right course.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Albon: We're not fundamentally changing the car

"The upgrade package that we had on the car for Canada was already, by February, being designed and in some parts being made," Albon exclusively tells RacingNews365.

"We didn't have many upgrades coming this year. In fact, Canada was really our last major one. So when you do it like that, it frees up more time to focus on next year's car."

The team has big ambitions to emulate the turnaround in fortunes of Aston Martin and McLaren, who have utilised the Aerodynamic Testing Restrictions to their respective advantages and produced cars that can challenge for regular podiums.

"I've [been] working on next year's car since April," continues Albon.

"This largely consists of simulator work, to try to mitigate some of these constant balance issues we've been having for the last four or five years.

"That's been a big focus for next year.

"If you listen to Lando [Norris] and Oscar's [Piastri] comments, they're not saying that the car itself has improved in terms of the balance.

"They just say there's a bit more downforce to the car and they've made a huge step, but not in the way the car drives."

On the face of it, cosmetic changes to the cars can look like a team has produced a brand new car for its drivers in place of the old specification.

But Albon explains how they still often have the same "DNA" when driving them, owing to how a team works behind the scenes.

"It's car DNA. I think every team has it. Speaking about it to Lando and hearing how they felt their car in 2021 to 22, that's the case for most teams," he says.

"The way that teams are organised, the culture, the philosophies, they're just ingrained. It's amazing how the regulations can change so much.

"I can only compare to Nicholas [Latifi's] comments. He went from the 2021 cars to 2022 cars, and he said 'the car feels exactly the same' - same limitations, same positives, same weaknesses, but same strengths.

"The world of F1 is quite unique in that way, and that's why it's also so hard to change it. Because it can be so ingrained that, to get the change, you can't leave any stone unturned. You have to explore every avenue."

The way that teams are organised, the culture, the philosophies, they're just ingrained

- Alex Albon

Albon: You need to think long term

Team Principal James Vowles predicts that Williams success is still a five-year project, having recently secured an important increase to their capital expenditure which will enable it to invest more in facilities after "under-investment" over the last 20 years.

Part of that is also starting work for the following season earlier in the year, so it can effectively get a head start on rivals.

"It shows the ambition of the team. It shows where we think we need to improve, and that just doing upgrades through the year is not really going to get us to that point," Albon points out.

"Aston Martin is a great example of designating time and focusing on giving yourself a bit more of a buffer to improve the car. You need to think more long-term.

"We don't want to be finishing eighth in the Constructors', we want to be finishing fifth or fourth and that takes a big leap forward," explains Albon.

"I don't think McLaren did much to their car from pre-Silverstone, then they've just come in and hit the ground running.

"It seems like the top teams are still doing micro-updates, but the midfield teams are just putting in these big ones.

"A lot of that is due to the cost cap, but also for the midfield teams it's more efficient to do it that way."

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