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Albon: Mastery of F1's tyre "dark art" key to Australian GP Q3 surprise

Alex Albon says mastery of the "dark art" needed to get the most out of Pirelli's Formula 1 tyres was behind his shock Q3 run in Australian Grand Prix qualifying.

Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

The Williams driver proved to be one of the major surprises of a close fight for positions in Melbourne as he secured eighth place on the grid, just one spot behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

With him readily admitting his team does not have one of the fastest cars in F1 right now, Albon says that the performance owed almost everything to the way that he and his engineers got on top of tyre temperatures on a day when others appeared to have tripped up in the cooler conditions.

"This whole weekend has been an absolute nightmare on the first timed lap," said the Thai driver. "I mean, proper sketchy driving, feeling like you have to go out of your comfort zone to get a lap time out of it.

"But, when I came into qualifying, it felt great. And then, once you get that confidence, and once you get that feeling of grip, you can just push the limits.

"Then it was a very smooth qualifying session. If you actually look at every lap, we just go a little bit faster, a little bit faster, chip away with it, and that was the result."

Albon said that the difficulty everyone has had switching tyres on in Melbourne has thrown some unpredictability into the weekend, which is something Williams has always been able to capitalise upon.

"We came into qualifying maybe thinking we were the ninth quickest for this circuit, and we are always hovering around that ninth and 10th position," he added.

"But I think when the track becomes unique, and look at this weekend, everyone's struggling with the tyres, it is all a little bit strange, we can then spring up some surprises and do a good job.

Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Alex Albon, Williams FW45

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

"When the weekends are a little bit more routine and predictable, maybe we get exposed a little bit. But that's what we live for. We've seen it last year as well.

"We take advantage of the odd races and we capitalise when others struggle. It's the same for us here."

Albon said that the Australian GP performance had shown, once again, how hard it is for everyone to understand the characteristics of Pirelli's F1 rubber.

"It's such a strange thing," he said. "Since the very beginning of Pirelli tyres, it's a dark art. Sometimes to drive quicker, you have to drive slower. And, if you push the limits too early in the lap, you pay for it at the end, so it's not always that obvious.

"The lap I did in Q3 was one of them, where it felt like I was on the limit, but never went over it. It had good grip for sector three as well. And it just clicks.

"A lot of the time when you are hot in your first few sectors, you lose it because you push too hard. Today wasn't one of those days."

The impressive Q3 comes after an encouraging start to the season for Williams, which is the second most improved team this year, in performance terms, compared to 2022.

Albon said that the Grove-based outfit was fired up by the promise shown at this stage of the campaign, with a solid development plan in place for the car.

"The motivation, when you know that there's a chance for points every weekend, it's exciting," he said.

"I live for that. The team lives for that as well. There's a great energy in the team. Hopefully we can keep this on and apply the pressure with the upgrades we've got coming and let's see. But for now, we can take this victory, the mini victory. It's a victory for us."

Additional reporting by Filip Cleeren

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