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Alexander Albon

Interview: Albon backing Williams but feels he 'deserves podium and race win chance’

Alex Albon enjoyed a strong season at Williams as the Grove-based squad improved to seventh in the standings. The Thai-British driver is fully behind its recovery project but has asserted that he feels ready to compete higher up the pecking order.

Albon Brazilie
Interview
To news overview © XPBimages

This year's Formula 1 campaign marked a strong improvement for Williams who moved closer to the midfield after years of competing towards the rear of the standings.

Alex Albon scored 27 points to help the team score seventh in the Constructors' Championship, its highest result since 2017.

A lot of the points were scored at tracks that require a strong top speed to be competitive as what the FW45 lacked in downforce, it made up for in a straight line.

Albon brought home important points at a handful of races while Williams opted to switch focus early on to its car for next year after discovering limitations with its 2023 challenger.

“We’re on the right path,” Albon told select media including RacingNews365. “We had a peaky car this year.

“We had very specific corners we didn't like. We were very competitive in low downforce tracks. It meant it was hard for us to put everything together all the time.

“We had tracks like Monza, Canada, Vegas, that suit our car naturally. But then we definitely had bad races”

Albon points out areas for improvement

Albon highlighted that Williams knows where its weaknesses lie.

“Brazil is a classic example of a tricky track,” he said. “And then on the very same note, if we then go to Zandvoort, which is a track which we shouldn't on paper be quick at and we were fast.

“This year has been very interesting for us because more than last year, there's been such a huge focus on understanding our car.

“We know for example, from the first half of the year, I don't think we had a dry qualifying weekend in so long, it was wet, dry, wet, dry - in hindsight that suited us more than anything else.

“It meant the tracks were always cold and the tyres overheating was never an issue. We understand that now about our car, it's a big focus on next year, how we can improve the tyre cooling and focus on that aspect of the car.”

As it aims to improve its overall package, Albon understands that it may come at the expense of its straight-line advantage.

“We obviously understand that our car is competitive in a straight line. Can we keep some of that? No, in some ways. It's a huge benefit to have this car that's hard to overtake and quick on certain tracks.

“But then can we be adaptable enough? If we go into next year, can we go to tracks like Brazil or Zandvoort or Monaco and have a car that can also be quick around there?

“I find it quite exciting because we've achieved a good result, a result which we didn't really expect starting this year.

“And really this year, the sole purpose of it was to prepare for next year. From winter testing we already were starting to focus on next year. So time will tell obviously, we're not going to get it perfect straight away.

“We've been experimenting this whole year, we've given up a lot of FP1 sessions to focus on set-up ideas and compromises for the next year. So we're putting ourselves in the best position possible.”

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But as Williams continues to look to the future, Albon asserted that the team understands it won't be a fast turnaround.

“You have to take it two ways as a driver. Every driver has to be, in some ways, short-sighted. Our career spans, our competitiveness and our desires don't always match up to a team's long-term plan.

“But you also understand that completely. We're not going to turn the car over in a year and just be fighting with the Red Bull. There's so much that has to be done.

“James [Vowles] out of everyone understands just how far behind we must be in certain areas.

“It'd be silly for James to say 'Next year I'm going to be able to make a car that that's going to be fighting for wins'. That just doesn't happen.

“So the fact that he's realistic about it gives me confidence. But at the very same time, I feel like I'm driving well. I feel like I'm in a position where I deserve to be fighting podiums and hopefully race wins.”

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Albon praises Vowles

Ahead of the 2023 season, Williams announced that it had signed Mercedes' strategist commander James Vowles as its new Team Principal.

The Briton has played an important part in the squad's revival this year but Albon stated that his true impact will only be realised from 2024 onward.

“Being totally realistic, there's only so much stuff he could improve this year,” he said. “A lot of the car was designed from last year. We have quite a long build time with our cars.

“We're trying to make big steps, not small steps, we're not doing little upgrades every weekend, like you see with the top teams, because we have so much more to achieve.

“James is also with that same approach. So most of who he is employing and how he's structuring the team, next year is going to be the true year where we're going to see what James has brought to the team.

“Of course he's brought things to this team [already]. His character, as a person, the way that he talks and communicates with the team, tyre understanding, engine understanding and aero understanding which we've been able to implement this year.

“But there's only so much you can do. And so the biggest steps are going to happen in 2024 and beyond. I’m pretty confident about that.”

This year saw Aston Martin and McLaren make strong steps up the F1 pecking order but for Williams, it will be a hard task to replicate.

“We’re further back to begin with. And I'm an inquisitive guy. I asked James about that. It's important for me to know, how are we and where are we? Are we further behind than you thought? And is that growing or is that reducing?

“It's interesting, I think there's some areas especially where we're very strong as a team. I think we're a very strong race team, I think we execute very well. I don't think there are many times where we have a bad strategy, I think we take advantage of every moment.

“Apart from I think Melbourne, we’ve capitalised on [when] we've been able to score points. And then of course, there are areas where we need to improve and that we are far behind.

“So the attention from James has definitely been on the bigger areas and where the carrot is much bigger to focus on for the long term, we've attacked that straightaway.

“Just because we're different, it's not always a bad thing.”

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