Alex Albon admits that AlphaTauri’s recent performance gains are “a little bit worrying” for Williams’ chances of holding onto seventh place in the championship.
AlphaTauri currently languish rooted to the bottom of the Constructors’ standings, having only accumulated five points across the 16 rounds to be held in the 2023 season.
The Faenza-based side sits five points behind Alfa Romeo, who are a further two points adrift of Haas in eighth place.
However, Williams, who have been confined to the foot of the standings in four of the past five seasons, lead the way in the battle to secure seventh position, with the Grove-based side notching 21 points to date.
But in a bid to overturn its fortunes, AlphaTauri introduced a seismic Red Bull-inspired upgrade package in Singapore, enabling Liam Lawson, deputising for the sidelined Daniel Ricciardo, to finish ninth.
Although both Lawson and team-mate Yuki Tsunoda trailed home outside of the points places at Suzuka last weekend, Albon is wary of AlphaTauri being a threat through the remaining rounds of the campaign.
“I think they’ve boxed themselves in. I’m really surprised by their tyre choice,” Albon said regarding AlphaTauri’s Japanese GP.
“They gave themselves only one Medium, one Hard and I think Yuki didn’t even have a new Soft so they were in a tricky spot the whole race and most probably gave up a bit too much for Saturday, instead of Sunday.
“The thing is we can be rest assured this weekend but they were quick in Singapore and they are going to be quick again in every circuit. I think their step has been quite significant and a little bit worrying.”
Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson echoed Albon’s concerns, agreeing that AlphaTauri’s upgraded car now has the potential to pip Williams to points.
When asked about Williams’ prospects in the closing rounds, Robson responded via Autosport: “I think Vegas will be interesting, because it’s new and it’s Vegas.
“I think that might suit the car reasonably well. But that said, it is such a big unknown. And what will the tarmac surface be like? I’m quite looking forward to going back to Qatar actually, to see how we get on there.
“But I think they’re all going to be reasonably difficult now with the AlphaTauri the way it is. It’s going to be tough to score too many more points.”
After being punted out of a top-10 position in Singapore in the closing stages by the recovering Red Bull of Sergio Perez, Albon’s chances in Japan were curtailed by a clash on the blast to Turn 1 on the first lap.
The Anglo-Thai driver was on the outside of a three-car squeeze that resulted in his car going airborne, inheriting substantial damage that swiftly ended his race.
“On my side, I just stayed [on my line],” he reflected. “I didn’t try and drift away. Sounds hard, but I tried to drive straight and unfortunately we made contact. It’s a racing incident.
“These kinds of things always happen. I think you’ve got the cars on the back starting on Soft tyres, they know one thing. They’ve got to make positions up on Lap 1, that’s why they started on the Soft tyre. But I mean if you get squeezed you get squeezed, there’s nowhere really to go.
With only 15 cars eventually reaching the chequered flag, Albon believes Williams suffering a double retirement represented a missed opportunity for the British squad.
“A bit of a shame with all the retirements happening,” he rued. “But obviously I took so much damage from that first hit, I was way down on downforce.”
Pressed on whether points would have been possible, Albon replied: “When I see Checo [Perez] DNF’ing, and seeing maybe, you know, a possible chance to try and stay ahead of one of the Alpines, yeah points were possible but you never know.”