In 2022, Alexander Albon has the thankless task of having to follow in the footsteps of George Russell, who has led the Williams team through a difficult period for the past three years. But the Thai has so far managed this with flying colors, praises Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance.
“His overall performance was outstanding, especially in the races,” praises Robson. “I am very impressed with how he is behaving in the race.” In qualifying it was difficult for the Williams drivers to shine due to the car’s poor pace, “but in the race he’s so calm and his ability to see the big picture and manage the stints is really impressive.”
Robson also highlights Albon’s overall attitude: “He’s just happy to jump in the car and make the best of what he has available. We haven’t had great qualifying sessions lately, but on Sunday he just brings the perfect balance of being more aggressive attack and defense.”
“He just drives, knows how to manage the tires and just shows good races, which gives us a bit of flexibility in strategy,” said Robson. “We know he’s going to react and deal with it and do his best. And that’s probably what impresses me the most.”
A good example of this is the Formula 1 race in Australia, when Albon pitted with just one lap to go and was able to score an unexpected point. Along with two other points from Miami, he now has three points under his belt, putting him ahead of Lance Stroll, Guanyu Zhou, Mick Schumacher and his teammate Nicholas Latifi in the overall standings.
Despite two years of experience in the team, he sees no trick against Albon. The Canadian has a 14th place as his best result of the season and is 2:5 behind in qualifying and the race. And he’s flattered by the record as Albon could well have had a clean sheet in qualifying if he hadn’t been disqualified in Melbourne and his brake hadn’t exploded at Imola.
Albon with “incredible talent”
Of course, a comparison with his predecessor George Russell, whom Albon replaced at Williams and whose departure he cushioned with his performance, is inevitable. However, Robson does not believe such comparisons are fair or helpful. “They are different,” he says. “But Alex’s results are probably at least as good.”
“He’s incredibly talented, not just in terms of driving, but also how he brings the team together and makes sure we get the best out of every Sunday. I think he has a great future ahead of him,” said Robson.
“And it’s getting even better,” he adds. “Or we just have a better understanding of what he wants and how we have to work with him. So I think there’s more to come. If we have a little more pace so he has a better chance in qualifying then we’ll do it again quickly see a leap in performance.”
The future of both Williams drivers beyond the season is still unclear. Latifi’s contract expires after three years and given the performance to date, it could not be renewed depending on the options. Albon was released by Red Bull for 2022, but could be brought back if necessary – although Sergio Perez recently extended his contract until 2024.
De Vries impresses on debut
A possible candidate is Formula E champion Nyck de Vries, who was at a disadvantage against Albon in 2022, but was at least allowed to drive for him in free practice in Barcelona. And there “everything he did was very good”. “He didn’t make any mistakes,” praises Robson, pointing out the difficult conditions in which the Dutchman drove.
“Not only had he not spent much time in the simulator, we gave him the hard tires in the first run,” said Robson. “And then going straight to the qualifying mix is a difficult task for anyone. And you can see from the lap times that he’s done a good job.”
De Vries finished the first practice session in Barcelona in 18th place, even a tenth of a second faster than regular driver Latifi.
“The pace was there. And his ability to understand the tires and drive the outlap correctly was really impressive,” praises Robson and also certifies the Dutchman’s “extremely good” feedback. “He had very useful comments on the car’s balance that were consistent with the two racers.”
“For the fact that he only had an hour in the car, he did a really good job. He clearly has everything he needs to become an absolute top driver,” said Robson, who emphasized: “He deserves a place in the field , but many do. He made good use of his opportunity and should be happy and proud of what he has achieved.”