After testing, Williams was regarded even by Albon himself as the slowest team in the 2023 field. However, over the race weekend the conditions, including a lack of wind, appeared to favour the car.
Albon sailed through Q1 in ninth place and was then left frustrated after front wing damage meant he couldn’t progress further, leaving him to start 15th.
In the race he rose to ninth place when Charles Leclerc stopped on track and triggered a VSC.
Albon pitted for tyres but only had a used set of softs left, and so was unable to hold off Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, who was able to take a fresh set for the final stint.
«I was always fighting the whole race,” said Albon. “I was always pushing on out-laps. I was always having to push more than I wanted to, more than I should be doing to save the tyres.
“So for example, when Pierre was right behind me, I’m basically trying to save as much as I can. I know I’m damaging the tyres, I know I’m actually giving up performance later in the stint.
“But I have to do it just to keep him behind. He came at me so quickly. On the final one, I couldn’t do anything. So to be fair, the fact that we’re racing Alpines is a great sign.
“I had to use a used set on that final run. It helps when you have a new set, the warm-up and everything, you’ve got a bit more peak grip.»
Alex Albon, Williams Racing FW45
Photo by: Williams
Albon admitted he was racing cars he hadn’t expected to be able to fight with: «We had our elbows out. I enjoyed my overtake on Esteban [Ocon], I must say. But it was good. It was really fun out there.»
Williams was running a low drag specification that gave Albon a boost on the straights, while making life harder for him in the corners.
«I had a very low downforce set-up this weekend,» he said. «Even across the cars, we tried something. It was OK, it made it tricky out there, but we had the straightline speed and we knew it was going to be a racy car.
«We’ve seen it before in a few races last year. I felt like the last 10 laps was like every race last year. Nothing new.»
Regarding future progress with the car, Albon added: «We need to assess our weaknesses, that’s the main thing. We know in terms of downforce level where there are advantages. We have kind of a different character to most people.
«We are slippery on the straights, and less quick on the corners. But we’re making it work, and I think we’ve got to do what’s good for our car right now.
«We still need to dial out some characteristic problems. That’s going to take possibly a little bit longer.
«But for now, the short term, we know where we can improve. There’s lap time there. We’re quick and stable.»