Alex Albon is turning heads in the Formula One paddock given how he has consistently outperformed his Williams car this season. During Friday practice at the British Grand Prix he hauled his back of the grid FW45 challenger to third place in both sessions.
The car has definitely improved because Logan Sargeant who is one of two drivers without a point this season finished practice two in fifth place though was over 4 tenths slower than his team mate Albon.
Albon impressed in rookie F1 season
The British-Thai driver was always quick during his time at Red Bull and was promoted in his rookie yer in Formula One after the Sumer break in 2019 from Red Bull’s junior team to replace the underperforming Pierre Gasly alongside Max Verstappen.
Albon promptly delivered a string of 4/5/6th Grand Prix finishes in eight of the final nine races that season and was retained for 2020.
During the pandemic interrupted season Albon claimed two third place podiums and points finishes in all but four Grand Prix, yet because Red Bull for much of the season were in the hunt to chase down Mercedes, Albon’s results compared to Verstappen were deemed not good enough and he was dropped for 2021.
Having had a year out, Alex returned to the F1 grid with Williams and dominated his team mate Nicholas Latifi. This season he sits P13 in the drivers’ championship notably ahead of McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri and both Alfa Romeo drivers.
Brit storms to P3 at Silverstone
Following Albon’s impressive runs in Friday practice at Silverstone, Dr. Helmut Marko cautioned, “Let’s see how much fuel they had in that car,” said the Red Bull consultant who gave Albon his big F1 break.
“They must have turned everything all the way up,” he smiled.
Typically on a Friday team’s will do qualifying simulation runs with the most representative being towards the end of practice two which occurs around the same time of day as Saturday’s quailing session. Even so the drivers may have a couple of laps fuel on board rather than just the one for a push lap during Saturday’s track session which sets the grid for the Grand Prix.
“They look damn fast,” said a surprised Nico Hulkenberg of Haas adding that the pace of the Williams. “yep, it looks real.”
New Pirelli compounds mix it up
Team Williams’ boss James Vowels admits their drivers’ times in FP2 were simulated “qualifying runs”, designed I order that the team can get a “better understanding of our recent upgrades”.
Quelling the excitement over the Williams car’s performance Vowells added, “I’d like to bet that other teams had more fuel on board.”
Pirelli have taken the unusual step of upgrading their dry weather tyres mid-season this year due to the surprising leap forward in power the F1 cars made over the winter.
These new compounds are being used at Silverstone for the first time and Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes they may have had an effect on the previous “pecking order” or the F1 grid.
Italian media link Albon with Ferrari
This could explain the leap forward in Williams’ performance given that the 2023 season has been predominantly dominated by teams being able to get their cars in the correct operating window to optimise their tyre performance.
Yet despite his performance in Silverstone, Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur kick off rumours that Ferrari are interested in Alex Albon to replace one of their drivers who is out of contract in 2025.
Italian newspaper Corriere cello Sport reported, “In Austria, Frederic Vasseur spoke to Alex Albon about 2025.” Both Ferrari drivers contracts expire at the end of next year and there are doubts whether either will stay with the Scuderia.
Carlos Sainz has openly said if he has no contract from ferrari before the beginning of his final year he will start looking elsewhere for 2025.
Red Bull Thai owner interested in Albon
Charles Leclerc appears consistently unhappy with the team having again experienced poor reliability and failed pit stop strategies on multiple occasions this year.
The Monegasque didn’t take to the track at all during FP2 in Silverstone due to an electrical failure on his SF-23 car.
Of course there is always the possibility that Albon could return to his Red Bull family to replace the underperforming Sergio Perez. The Mexican’s future for 2024 with the team is in doubt given he has failed to make final qualifying the at the last four Grand Prix and is now a whopping 79 points behind his team mate Max Vestappen.
Albon’s Thai heritage plays well with the Red Bull majority CEO Oliver Mintzlaff who since the death of Dietrich Mateschitz manages the Thai majority shareholders sporting interests.
Marko: “we’re always in contact.”
Alex is believed to have a good relationship with the Red Bull Thai billionaire Chalet Yoovidhya whose family control 51% of the global drinks empire. Chalet was seen at the recent Austrian Grand Prix aspart of the Red bull VIP presence.
Helmut Marko is clearly impressed with th eresurgent form of Alex Albon as he noted, “We are taking note of this increased presence very positively.”
“Albon was always fast and he’s in top form at the moment,” said the Red Bull advisor and when questioned wether Albon was a potential candidate to replace Sergio Marko smiled and said, “We are always in contact with him.”
Should Albon make the top ten in qualifying at the British Grand Prix it will place him ahead of all the drivers from the non top teams with the exception of Nico Hulkenberg of the Haas F1 team.
It was so close between Max and Carlos in FP2
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 7, 2023