Alex Albon rose to the occasion during the Saturday qualifying for the Zandvoort Grand Prix, landing an impressive fourth on the grid. Meanwhile, Logan Sergeant, Albon’s rookie teammate, recorded his best qualifying result of the season with a 10th place finish. A collision during Q3 critically impaired Sergeant’s ability to bag an even more commanding grid position.
Williams has a well-known reputation for presenting an efficient, slippery FW45 car – a factor that can be challenging for adversaries and a key consideration for teams when strategizing. Pierre Gasly from Alpine revealed that these aspects distinctly influence how they view Albon and Williams during strategy sessions. “We do consider the Williams slightly differently in our strategy [meetings]. Their cars just have such an advantage in straight-line speed that you don’t want to be stuck behind one of them, like I was in Spa,” stated Gasly.
However, Albon countered this assertion about Williams‘ superiority in straight-line speed at the Netherlands Grand Prix. Following the introduction of more downforce to the car during the summer (a move that has led to enhanced competitiveness on a broader array of circuits), Albon stated that the team is no longer leading in speed. He recounted, “We are not top of the speed traps. We haven’t been at all this weekend. We’ve actually been very, very midfield.”
Addressing Gasly’s comments about the team’s strategy during a conversation with F1 Initiative, Albon added, “It’s a lovely compliment, but it’s not true this weekend…And I think the Alpines and the Ferraris have been running quite a lot less downforce than we have.”
This has implications for their race strategy, as Albon suggested, “So, we can’t do a Canada [where Albon took seventh after being impossible to pass, creating a DRS train]. We have to be quick on pure pace, else we will get overtaken…Too much [top speed] doesn’t work for our car, we overheat our tyres, so we do need a bit of downforce on it.”
The GPS traces during Saturday’s qualifying validated Albon’s claim, with Red Bull and Ferrari drivers surpassing Albon in the primary straight during Q3, whereas Albon only held a slight edge over Russell from Mercedes and Lando Norris from McLaren. Despite the current setup, Williams may return to its top-speed form in low downforce spec at the following week’s venue, Monza – a potential treasure chest of points based on previous performances.
Regarding his expectations for Zandvoort, Albon anticipates a challenging course, mainly if the weather remains dry on Sunday. He evaluates Williams‘ race pace during Friday’s practice less favourably than their best competitors. He commented, “I think our race pace was respectable in FP2, but it definitely wasn’t top tier. And all the top-tier teams are around us. There’s no driver that can hold them up, they’re all directly behind me, so it’s going to be a tough race.”