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Analysis: How Albon made the most of his second F1 chance with Williams

Cast aside by Red Bull Racing at the end of 2020, Alex Albon knew a second shot in Formula 1 would be hard to come by. But after a year on the sidelines, he grabbed his redemption chance at Williams with both hands.

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

Photo by: Williams F1

Like Pierre Gasly before him, Albon found life difficult as Max Verstappen's teammate, especially given the Dutchman's particular driving style which the team had developed the car around.

While the Thai driver was retained by the Red Bull family as Sergio Perez came in to replace him, a season in the DTM only made him more determined to prove his worth.

Albon admitted being nervous going into 2022, but off the back of solid performance on track and signing a new multi-year deal at Williams, those early nerves made way for a sense of calm.

"I’d say there's a sense of calmness with everything," Albon told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview. "I guess the last two years, one of those years being very stressful, and the other one being nervous, and I guess gearing up for the year I didn’t know what to expect.

"I’ve signed a contract which is maybe one of the best feelings, long-term. It's a privilege in Formula 1, if I’m honest. I’m feeling very good, feeling proud of how things have turned out. It’s been a bit of an up and down rollercoaster in Formula 1 for me, and it’s nice that I feel like I’m building now.

"I'm excited to be working with the team focused on car development and what you'd consider the normal things, not worrying about having a drive.

"It’s a second chance, so you know that you have to deliver. Not many people get second chances, and I was fortunate enough to get one."

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

While with fresh investment and leadership Williams had hoped to use the 2022 rules reset to become a stable part of the midfield, the season didn't quite turn out that way. The Grove team again slipped to last as 2021's worst team Haas mixed it up with the midfield instead.

But a driver can only work with the equipment he is given, and Albon quietly got on with the job, taking the lessons he learnt at Red Bull to focus on specific areas he wants to improve in as a driver, despite his year away stunting his development.

Looking back on 2022 he feels like he achieved exactly that, saying he's "performing better" than he ever did at Red Bull.

"I had a lot of areas I wanted to focus on," he explained. "Talking about on-track stuff, I think qualifying was a bit more of a priority in terms of really getting on top of the tyres and getting clean laps. I kind of knew exactly what I wanted to do; it was just about doing it.

"It’s fine details. I feel like I got to that point where I really started to deliver really good qualifying results, and there’s other things like race pace, tyre management, and also the kind of set-up side of things which I learned, basically, through experience. Applying those things, I really think it helped me be a better driver than I was in 2020.

"Despite a year away, I still felt like I came into the season, maybe not on the very first race straight away, but very soon after that, driving and performing better than I did at Red Bull."

Alongside Nicholas Latifi, Albon became the team's de facto lead driver and secured half of the team's meagre haul of eight points in Williams' slippery 2022 car, with Latifi scoring two and Albon Italy stand-in Nyck de Vries grabbing another two.

But within the team his performance caught the eye, with Albon outqualifying Latifi by 19 to two and outracing him by 15 to four, which earned him a multi-year contract extension in the summer.

Alex Albon, Williams Racing,

Alex Albon, Williams Racing,

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

For this year Latifi has been replaced by Formula 2 front-runner Logan Sargeant, who had been earmarked for an F1 drive from 2024 onwards and will be thrown in the deep end a year earlier than expected.

If Albon was Williams' 2022 team leader through sheer pace and performance, then now he will have a bona fide rookie next to him as the pair aims to propel Williams towards a respectable berth in the midfield.

Albon is fully aware of the need to form a strong partnership with the American youngster given the undesirable position the team is in, and his long-term Williams contract has given him a stable platform to think about the bigger picture rather than just trying to save his F1 career race by race.

"It’s slightly different in some ways," he adds. "Of course, it’s about yourself, but the attention diverts more towards: 'OK, what do we need to do to really get this car up into that midfield section?'

"My focus a lot of the time is really about surviving in F1 or focusing on that kind of performance side on my side. Whereas now that I have that kind of stability and focus into the future, a lot of it is now turning its attention more to how we bring this team forward.

"Of course, I’ve got a new teammate as well. I want us both to work together to speed up the development, and to do that, you kind of need to get Logan also up to speed in terms of his development to be able to give the feedback and push in the areas that we need to push.

"Two people pushing for the same thing, that really builds synergy and teams start to have a good dynamic where you’re all pushing for the same thing."

After two seasons of relying on the Williams' inherent low-drag set-up - partly a euphemism for lacking downforce - to shine on high-speed tracks and struggle at others, the team's main goal for 2023 is deliver more performance on a consistent basis.

"It’s a tricky one, because the car can be much quicker with the right balance to it," said Albon.

"We were quite restricted on performance just because of how we’re tied in in some places. Certain tracks really expose us, like Brazil or Mexico.

"But I know for a fact what we need to do to the car. We’ve just got to find it, really.

"There’s a lot of different departments in the factory that we need to get moving and into the right direction together. And that’s going to be the aim."

With a fresh contract in hand and a solid footing at Williams secured, 2023 will be an important year for Albon. 

If Williams does start showing signs of improvement under new team principal James Vowles, a calm and more experienced Albon looks ready to capitalise on it.

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Alex Albon, Williams Racing FW44

Alex Albon, Williams Racing FW44

Photo by: Williams

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