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F1

Why Albon could be F1's most important driver this year

Alex Albon was one of the standout performers last season as he helped Williams to a seventh-placed finish in the Constructors' standings. RacingNews365 questions whether another strong campaign could prove pivotal for the sport as a whole.

Albon Abu Dhabi
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Alex Albon has had a phoenix-from-the-flames career in F1 so far.

The Thai-Briton found his way onto grid with what was Toro Rosso for the 2019 season, only to find himself drafted into the Red Bull line-up as Pierre Gasly's replacement midway through the season.

Despite a few glimpses of what Albon is capable of, the best results often slipped away - including those two incidents with Lewis Hamilton in Brazil and Austria.

A year out of the sport in 2021 came after he was dropped by Red Bull, owing to the performance gap between him and teammate Max Verstappen.

Yet a move to Williams reignited his chances and last season, he demonstrated stunning form that now leaves him as F1's most important driver. Here's why...

2025 driver market

The grid for the new F1 season remains static from the end of last season in what is a highly unusual occurrence for the sport.

But with such stability comes a welter of contracts to run out at the end of the season - no less than 10 known to be expiring with Red Bull, Ferrari and Alpine all currently with at least one opening available.

As usually is the case with the silly season, which traditionally kicks in around the summer break, one key skittle must fall for the rest to follow and only when the kingpin tumbles does the picture become clearer for the entire sport.

In this case, you would expect Sergio Perez to be the trigger for silly season given his precarious situation with Red Bull after his struggles throughout last year's championship.

But it is often the case that the critical impact is made by which driver is signed rather than which driver is dropped and therefore the spotlight will be on which driver is Christian Horner's choice to partner Verstappen.

It is not out of the realms of possibility that Albon could be that driver given his performances last season.

Albon not only displayed sheer pace on track - enough to collect 27 points and 13th in the Drivers' standings - but also strong leadership off-track, working closely with the technical team to help push Williams' machinery up the grid.

It was a marked step for him given the improvement shown by the Grove-based outfit compared to the year previous. Most onlookers were expecting Williams to again prop up the grid, yet the FW45 found itself with plenty of pace, even if it was largely circuit-dependent.

Williams improvement?

The fact Albon now possesses a dual threat for teams to buy into is a major bonus. Added to this he has now cleaned up the frequent errors that hampered his progression with Red Bull and the case can be made for a return to the top of the grid.

For a team such as Red Bull or even Ferrari, Albon is probably the best-placed driver potentially looking for a move that can offer pace, experience, leadership and, most importantly, consistency. He is now a known quantity and would be an asset for every team currently in F1.

But to underline his stance as the 'kingpin', Albon must continue his trajectory from last year, push forward with Williams and only then can he present himself in a position of power.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, whether it be Albon's performance or Williams' improvement. The silly season overview will look entirely different if the team improves sufficiently to lead its driver to believe it can challenge for podiums and victories in the coming years.

It has strengthened its engine relationship with Mercedes and Team Principal James Vowles has been hard at work planning improvements to the management team and infrastructure - Pat Fry the notable name already to have joined.

So if the team could, for example, breach the top five in the Constructors' standings this term, Albon may be persuaded to stay.

Of course, the grid would still likely change with or without Albon's input but his likely step up from Williams means he will likely be the trigger point for silly season bedlam.

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