Alex Albon was left feeling confident of Williams’ one-lap pace after Friday’s practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix, but admits that the team was “struggling in the race runs”.
Albon finished inside the top 10 during both practice hours at the Suzuka circuit, setting the eighth and seventh-best times respectively.
However, high track temperatures, humidity and Williams’ tendency to favour low drag conditions as opposed to technical complexes of corners contributed to high tyre degradation of race simulations, which is a worry for Albon this weekend.
“It was okay the low fuel pace feels good, we kind of expected that,” he said. “That leaves long-run pace that we are struggling with, so we need to figure that out.”
Albon then said it was down the straights where he was finding pace, but his lap time was compromised in the high-speed corners.
“We’re good down the straights, giving up a little bit in sector one and sliding around a little bit more, which is the reason why tyres are struggling a bit more,” he added.
“It’s why in the short runs we kind of get away with it because we are able to cool the tyres down a bit more in the out laps and all that kind of thing.”
As the weekend continues, more rubber should be laid down, gripping up the circuit, which should aid Albon’s tyre degradation fears.
However, when put to him, the Anglo-Thai driver was still wary of the issue materialising later in the weekend.
“When the track grips up, tyre life goes on, less sliding on the circuit so everything goes in the right way,” he said. “But we need it to grip up quite considerably.”
Logan Sargeant (USA) Williams Racing FW45. 22.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, Japan, Practice Day. – www.xpbimages.com, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
Albon’s team-mate Logan Sargeant, still in search of a points finish in his rookie season, was able to sample Suzuka for the first time in Friday’s practice sessions.
The American finished 19th in the opening session and 20th in FP2 as he acclimatised with Suzuka, but he still enjoyed his first taste of the iconic circuit.
“It was really cool, to be honest,” he said of his first time out on track.
“Not easy at all, particularly sector one, but a lot of fun. Just a lot of work trying to dial in the car.
“To be honest, I feel like it’s not easy to get everything you need around here. So it’s a work in progress, but a good step forward from P1 to P2.
“I just need to link the first sector up, that’s most where my time loss is and from a car point of view, a few tweaks to try and have a better balance from low speed to high speed.”
Beyond his acclimation to the circuit, Sargeant reported similar tyre degradation feedback to Albon along with his assessment of Williams’ long-run pace.
“It’s just quite high deg we’ve experienced today and it hasn’t been easy to sort of, you know, have a consistent balance throughout the long runs,” he assessed.
“So that’s been the trickiest part, but on low-fuel runs, you know, grip is high and it feels pretty good.”