Why Albon is better prepared for his second shot at F1

Alex Albon says he feels “better prepared” for his second stint in Formula 1 as he gears up to make a return to the sport with Williams. 
Why Albon is better prepared for his second shot at F1

Following a difficult 2020 campaign in which he struggled to live up to expectations alongside Max Verstappen, Albon was forced to spend 2021 on the sidelines as Red Bull’s reserve driver when the team opted to sign Sergio Perez. 

Albon played a supporting role as Red Bull won its first championship title since 2013 but the Anglo-Thai racer finds himself back in a full-time race seat for 2022, having been chosen by Williams to replace George Russell.

The 25-year-old is one of the few outcasts to get a second chance in F1 and he is determined to grab the rare opportunity with both hands as he looks to rebuild his reputation. 

“The year out definitely does help in terms of the way you have a better understanding of the way things work within Formula 1,” said Albon.

"If I talk specifically about performance, it’s what makes a race car fast, what made the Red Bull car fast. You learn these things as you go along and towards the end of 2020, I was starting to figure it out. 

Why Albon is better prepared for his second shot at F1

“Until I had that time on the sidelines… to really understand set-up philosophy and things like that, where you get a better understanding of how to get the performance out of the car, but also the confidence within the driver. You just have a lot of time to process it. 

“I looked at the data and the way Max and Checo communicate, learned from them as well because Checo obviously brought a lot of experience from his years in F1. 

"So I had the opportunity to look at why he’s so good at race pace - things like that. You can pick and choose. It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of things.

“At the same time, I got a lot of experience working on understanding the Red Bull car but it’s a different beast to the Williams,” he added. “There’s different things going on. 

“You can bring some things over but not a lot of things. There is that side to it. I am better prepared in that sense. 

“I feel like I am also more mature and mentally stronger than I was back then [in 2020].” 

Why Albon is better prepared for his second shot at F1

After spending 2021 predominately on the simulator aside from a bit-part DTM race programme, Albon anticipates it may take him some time to get fully up to speed, though he hopes F1’s rules reset will aid him. 

“I think the one thing that will take a little bit of time to get used to is purely the lack of laps,” he acknowledged. 

“I think if you look at it from Esteban [Ocon in 2020] and Fernando [Alonso in 2021], it did take a little bit of time for them to shake off the rust, let's say. 

“These cars are tricky to drive, especially on the limit. I think with the reset though it actually works out pretty well for me. There’s that element of everyone starting from a clean slate, so the playing field is more even. 

“Inevitably, there will still be that time where I need to use the six days of testing on my side more than anything else to really get comfortable with the car, as comfortable as I can do ready for the season.”

Driving the RB18 on the simulator until “pretty late” in 2021 has given Albon a useful baseline of what to expect from the new cars, though he conceded Williams’ 2022 challenger feels “very different”. Albon and teammate Nicholas Latifi shook down the FW44 for the first time at a wet Silverstone on Tuesday. 

Why Albon is better prepared for his second shot at F1

Despite retaining close ties to Red Bull - reflected by the sponsorship on his helmet - Albon “fully” views himself as being a Williams driver in 2022. 

Albon is completely committed to helping Williams in its bid to push further up the grid and will look to transfer his new-found development expertise across to his new team.

“I am going to give everything that I know,” he said. 

“But at the same time I am not an aerodynamicist. I don’t know what the rear wing looks like on the RB18 or anything like that. I just know the feeling of it. 

“The simulator is quite simple. You’ve got two wheels on the front of it and you’re inside a monocoque. It’s hard in that sense but I think what I will bring to Williams is the way that they work and the way they go about their business more than anything else. 

“On top of that the cars have characteristics they carry even if the rules change as much as they do from last year to this year, they always tend to keep their slight subtleties within the cars. 

“It’s quite a normal thing to happen. I think I have a good feeling of why the Red Bull was fast and I know how they exploited the lap time out of the car. 

“And I know why the Williams was quick in some places. It’s that balance of trying to use that knowledge that I do have to try and make us more competitive.” 

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