Albon: Qualifying laps in final stint secured surprise F1 point

Alex Albon says a series of "qualifying laps" were needed to secure the Williams team's "unexpected" first point of the 2022 Formula 1 season in the Australian Grand Prix.

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

The Anglo-Thai driver carried a three-place grid penalty into the Albert Park weekend after contact with Lance Stroll in the previous Jeddah race, but had to start the race from the back of the grid anyway as his car lacked enough fuel to provide a sample after qualifying meaning he was disqualified from the session.

Starting the race on hard tyres, Albon completed a mammoth 57-lap stint on his original rubber, gaining track position by staying out during multiple safety car and VSC periods.

He ran seventh, holding Esteban Ocon's Alpine at bay, before pitting on the penultimate tour to complete the mandatory tyre swap.

His switch onto soft rubber allowed Ocon, Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) and Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) through, but Albon had built enough of a margin over Bottas's team-mate Zhou Guanyu to still finish 10th.

Albon explained that he'd saved his tyres early in the race, because "when you start last you can afford to do that" and improved his pace as the laps ticked by to score the first point of his F1 return after spending 2021 in the DTM.

"It just got better and better and by the end of it, it felt like qualifying laps for the last 25 laps of the race," Albon said when asked to explain his race by Autosport.

"Obviously it's completely unexpected, but it really highlights all the work that's been done at the factory and here at the track.

"That's what determination and motivation - that's where it gets you. 

"It's been an amazing day and I'm glad I could get this result for the team."

Alex Albon, Williams

Alex Albon, Williams

Photo by: Williams

Albon admits he was "surprised we were never boxing under the VSC or the safety cars" and expected to be swallowed up by the pack when he didn't follow Kevin Magnussen's Haas into the pits under the VSC required following Max Verstappen's retirement.

But his pace during the final stint proved Williams' strategy correct, and after the race Albon confessed the team needs to understand why the FW44 seems better suited to the hard compound.

"I thought, 'Okay well they know something I don't'," he said.

"One of the Haas' boxed in front of me and that was my point where I thought, 'Okay it's going to be a tricky race now', because that DRS was saving me from being overtaken from the pack behind.

"But once we got clear air we just went, we were on much older tyres than the guys around us and we were keeping pace more or less with the McLarens. At the very end pulling away from the Alpines.

"What's interesting is that C2 tyres really suits our car. We almost need to understand why because it's a bit unexpected, clearly this result.

"Maybe we need to qualify, race, do everything on that tyre. Bring in 10 sets for the whole thing!"

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Albon added that the result "feels just as sweet" as his two podiums with Red Bull in the 2020 Tuscan and Bahrain grands prix after a difficult start to the season for Williams.

"It's a much needed result," he said. "I feel like when you have a tough start to the season you want to switch that momentum and have positivity with what you're doing.

"It's hard when you don't get good results, it is a tough time but it motivates me, it motivates the team to get that point on the board and now we're hungry for more."

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