“I never felt like I didn’t belong” in F1 ahead of “best year” in 2023


Williams struggled at the start of the year with an FW45 that was still lacking downforce compared to most of its rivals, while also being hard to balance across various circuit layouts and conditions.

But led by Albon, the team scored big on those few tracks that suited its car well, including the Anglo-Thai driver’s seventh-place finishes in Canada and Monza, to get ahead of fellow strugglers AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

Williams just managed to hang on and keep a resurgent AlphaTauri behind for seventh, with Albon scoring all but one of the Grove-based team’s 28 points alongside rookie Logan Sargeant.

Albon’s headline-grabbing performances have elevated his stock in the paddock, and with his contract expiring at the end of 2024, he is set to be an interesting player on the drivers’ market as several teams have vacancies for 2025.

It’s a far cry from his curtailed Red Bull stint that only lasted 18 months and led to a year on F1’s sidelines before being picked up by Williams. Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com/Autosport, Albon says he understands why he is now getting more recognition, even if he never felt like he “didn’t belong” in F1.

“I get it. I understand why it happens,” he says when asked if he finds it odd to be appreciated more now. “When I look at my career, I had a very good year one, which in some ways got me promoted a little bit too quickly. A little bit inexperienced and vulnerable in 2020.

Alex Albon, Red Bull Racing RB16

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Alex Albon, Red Bull Racing RB16

“Obviously, I had a year away and got my second opportunity back at Williams. But I never felt like I didn’t belong in Formula 1. I feel like as my confidence has gotten stronger and I’ve become more experienced, I’ve been able to really showcase myself.

He added: “I do find it odd, you’re right. I think there’s no such thing as a good driver in a bad team. For the same reason I like to mention Oscar [Piastri] and Lando [Norris], they’ve both had fantastic seasons. But if they’d never had that [McLaren] upgrade in the middle of the season, I’m not sure you’d be talking about them quite as much.

“It’s the same thing for us but on a smaller scale. Last year, I was having fantastic races in P16 but no one would talk about it because it would just be P16 and in the middle of nowhere. This year when I’ve had a good race it’s been in the top 10 and it’s been talked about so your stock naturally gets bigger.

“But that’s F1, you’ve got to be there at the right time.”

When asked to identify why he has been able to perform at his peak and find more consistency in 2023, Albon explained that comfort and experience made a bigger difference than outright speed.

 “I think in some ways it’s a given because I’ve had more laps under by belt, another year with the team,” the 27-year-old answered.

“I don’t think the raw speed has changed massively, but I’ve been able to get the car to suit me and to exploit the car. And I feel like I’ve been comfortable with the car every weekend.

“I know what the car needs to be quick. Everything just feels like it’s been connecting easier. And because of that, it’s easier to execute races as well and not make mistakes. I do think it’s been my best year.”



Source link