How Albon got 4th place

Qualifying for Zandvoort’s 2023 Formula One race saw a remarkable turnaround which has left motor racing abuzz with excitement. Not only did both of the team’s drivers finish in the top ten, but they also made it through to Q3 in the Netherlands.

This was all the more remarkable as one of the Williams drivers, Logan Sargeant, made his first ever Q3 appearance, marking a significant milestone in his career. Equally impressive was the performance of Alexander Albon, who secured a place on the coveted second row of the grid, putting him in fourth place for the forthcoming race.



Even the more seasoned members of the Formula One fraternity expressed their amazement at the Williams team’s unexpected achievement. George Russell, who will be starting in third place next to Albon, expressed his delight:

“I’m really happy for Williams and for Alex. I flew down here with Alex and I asked him what his expectations were. And he said, ‘I think we’re going to be bad. I think he was wrong…”

The Williams team’s success seemed to defy conventional expectations. The Williams FW45 car was best known for its ability on circuits with long straights, where it could exploit its top speed advantage. The Zandvoort track, however, presented a stark contrast with its high downforce nature, a characteristic that seemed at odds with the Williams car’s strengths.

The question that naturally arose was how Alexander Albon was able to maintain such an impressive pace against such odds. When asked, Albon responded with a sense of humour, saying “I can’t do that”, followed by a chuckle. However, keen observers of the pre-race practice sessions would have noticed Williams’ consistently strong performance. Alexander Albon’s name appeared in the top six in all three sessions.


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Optimum setup by Williams

According to Albon, the car’s strong performance was down to finding the optimum set-up early in the weekend. He explained,

“The car felt good from the first lap of the first session and when that happens the others usually work their way up because they have their car in the right window”

This approach of maintaining the initial car set-up from the first practice session seemed to instil a remarkable level of confidence in Albon, which proved instrumental in their successful qualifying result.


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Conditions helped

Albon also acknowledged the important role played by the wind conditions. He noted, “There was a nice headwind in a lot of the slow corners. We always have problems braking for slow corners, but everything feels better with a headwind because it pushes you into the road ahead”.

Albon emphasised that the headwind conditions effectively masked their typical challenges, while the tailwind sections played to the car’s inherent strengths in the high-speed corners.

Despite their triumphant performance, Albon admitted that he had initially anticipated a more challenging position due to the team’s strategic decision to run a lighter car. This strategy was aimed at gaining valuable insights into the car’s behaviour at different fuel loads. Albon explained, “Last year we had the problem that we were surprised by the fact that the car feels so different when you cut the fuel.”

As a result, the Williams team opted to run a lighter car set-up in order to better understand the car’s tyre behaviour under these conditions. This strategic approach proved fruitful, improving their understanding of tyre management and contributing to their strong qualifying performance.


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First Q3 for Sargeant

As for Albon’s teammate Logan Sargeant, his journey to Q3 marked a significant milestone in his Formula One career. Despite a crash in Q3, Sargeant’s successful progression through Q1 and Q2 demonstrated his growing familiarity with the car and the track. Sargeant’s Q3 debut was marred by an unfortunate accident when he lost control of his car at Turn 2 and collided with the tyre barriers. However, he remained unharmed and displayed a mature perspective, acknowledging that setbacks are part of the sport and expressing his determination to learn from the experience.

Sargeant’s optimism was not unfounded as he had already seen promising progress throughout the weekend. He reflected on the impressive performance of the car in dry conditions and the positive dynamics during the long practice sessions. Despite some challenges in the wet, Sargeant remained focused on the positives and his own growth as a driver.


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First F1 points the target

Looking ahead to the race, Sargeant expressed the team’s collective determination to make the most of their strong long run pace and potentially secure valuable points. He reiterated that his goal for the race was to score his first F1 points.

Sargeant’s recent progress was also examined in the context of his overall development as a driver. He recognised the steady progression he had made over the European season and his increasing comfort in extracting performance from the car. Sargeant acknowledged that the Q3 mistake, while regrettable, was an integral part of the learning process.

He acknowledged the complexity of the ongoing race weekends, which were often characterised by unpredictable weather conditions that required drivers to adapt quickly.

Looking forward to the race, Sargeant remained hopeful of dry conditions, given the team’s strong race pace at Zandvoort.



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Albon not overconfident for F1 race on Sunday

While Sargeant was aiming for his first points, his team-mate Albon, who finished a remarkable fourth, was reflecting on the challenges ahead. Despite the promising qualifying result, Albon remained cautious about the race, acknowledging the intense competition in the midfield and the difficult nature of the Zandvoort circuit for overtaking.

Dismissing the notion that his team’s car was particularly adept at overtaking due to its high top speed, Albon insisted that the car’s performance depended heavily on maintaining a competitive pace throughout the race. He noted the need to strike a balance between speed and tyre management, particularly in the context of potentially high tyre degradation due to overheating.

Williams’ rivals in the Formula One landscape also recognised the significance of their performance. Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff praised the resurgence of Williams, noting that they deserve to be at the forefront of the sport. Max Verstappen shared his excitement at the increased competitiveness brought about by having more teams at the front of the grid.


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The ‘Vowels effect’?

Former Williams driver George Russell, who will drive alongside Albon in the upcoming race, acknowledged the positive influence of Williams team principal James Vowles. Russell praised Vowles for his role in steering the team’s resurgence. He also expressed his satisfaction at seeing Williams regain its competitive edge, underlining the importance of diverse competition in Formula One.

The surprise success of the Williams team in qualifying at Zandvoort marked a significant turning point for the 2023 Formula One season. Alexander Albon’s remarkable fourth-place finish, coupled with Logan Sargeant’s Q3 debut, underlined the team’s progress and determination to challenge established norm

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