Alex Albon believes Williams’ strong showing throughout the Dutch Grand Prix was its “strongest weekend” since his arrival.
After equalling his career-best qualifying result with fourth place, Albon endured a nightmare beginning to Sunday’s race.
Having already lost positions to both Fernando Alonso and George Russell, he dropped out of the points when Williams insisted on keeping him out on slick tyres whilst everybody else had made the switch to Intermediates amid an early rain shower.
However, Albon was able to claw his way back into the top 10 when the track dried and others had to come back in for another change of tyres, completing a “rollercoaster” opening to a chaotic grand prix.
“After the first five, six laps, I thought OK, well that’s the points gone straightaway,” Albon reflected. “But we really stuck to our guns, which I think was really important.
“You can argue we should have pitted earlier and gone for the Inter tire. But it was better to do what we did than for example George [Russell], commit, and then you’re in that terrible cycle.
“We then had a mammoth stint to do, 44 laps I think on the soft. You can only do that kind of stint when the car is good, and the car was very strong this weekend. Very easy to control the front deg, the rear deg, just with the tools and driving, I was always able to shift the balance where I needed it to be.”
Albon proceeded to make sizeable progress upon switching to the Medium compound, but his advances were halted by another deluge of rain towards the closing stages.
The Anglo-Thai driver believes Williams must investigate the timing of its switch onto the Intermediate tyre, having dropped two positions by pitting a lap too late.
Nevertheless, Albon survived an eventual rain and incident-induced delay to claim eighth position, leaving him to revel in experiencing the best feeling he’s had in a Williams car since joining the team last year.
“And we put on the Mediums and then we were making our way up the order,” he continued. “I was catching I think P5 and P4, I thought, this is perfect! Then they told me on the radio rain is coming in five minutes. I was like OK, not again!
“[We] need to review that second pit stop call. It’s so tricky, because I didn’t pit, and for the first half of the lap, I thought, perfect, I’ve actually overcut everyone right now, I’ve overcut the two cars in front of me, because sector one and midway through sector two, it was completely dry. And then within 10 seconds, it went from a slick to a full wet tire. And I was crawling in the last four corners. And then lost out to Lando and George on the undercut.
“It happens. It’s one of those things, it feels like we finished today slightly disappointed that we didn’t finish sixth, but we still finished eighth. It’s still an amazing result for us.
“We’ve been here on pace this weekend, there’s no mistake about it. It’s been our strongest weekend, it’s the best I’ve felt in the car in my time at Williams. And so there’s so many positives to take from here.”
While the consensus in the paddock was that Williams would drop through the order on race day, Albon asserts that the Grove-based side provided more than a match for Aston Martin and Ferrari all weekend.
The ex-Red Bull affiliate also took encouragement from being able to overtake Russell ahead of Formula 1’s return to Monza: a low downforce circuit configuration that should suit Williams’ FW45 package.
“I think we were on par with the Astons and Ferraris this weekend,” Albon claimed. “If you actually think about it, we did that first stint and we lost, in the whole stint, we lost maybe two seconds to the Aston and the Ferrari in front of us, and we were on 15 lap, 10 lap older tires than they were.
“We were very strong. We overtook a Mercedes, of course we had a tyre advantage, but to overtake a car around this track, you need a good second-and-a-half pace advantage to be able to do it, and we did it. So yeah, it gives me a lot of confidence going into Monza.”