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Alex Albon and Williams shocked the Formula 1 paddock on Friday, after two impressive free practice sessions.
The Thai driver has been on great form lately, especially since Williams introduced a new aerodynamic package two races ago. He finished seventh in Canada, as he held off Esteban Ocon for a substantial amount of laps towards the end of the race. He had another great outing in Austria, reaching Q3 for the Grand Prix, but he was not rewarded with any points for his performance.
In Silverstone, Williams has been the big surprise in the field. Albon was able to finish both sessions in third position. When FP2 concluded, he was just two tenths behind the leading time set by Max Verstappen. The progress of the car was confirmed by Logan Sargeant, who was fifth in the second free practice session.
Alex Albon spoke to F1 TV after Friday’s practice sessions, stating that the car’s speed has come as a shock:
It was a bit surprising in some ways. I have to say unexpected, you know. We’re not playing around doing weird things, it was just a normal day for us.
Clearly, we crossed the line and we’re in the top three, so a bit of -in some ways- head scratching, but at the same time the car feels good. We’ve got an upgrade on the car that we’ve had for two races now.
At least on the simulator it’s shown to be a bit more effective in the high-speed than the low-speed, and we haven’t really had too much high-speed tracks the last few races – Austria and Canada aren’t really that.
It’s the first time we’ve seen the package working on a quick circuit and it’s looking quite good. But we’ve got to keep ourselves grounded, it’s [about] chipping away.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is still not clear for the teams and drivers, but Albon has excelled in both dry and wet conditions lately, as he has shown in qualifying sessions in both Canada and Austria, as well as the Sprint race last Saturday. But with the car performing so well today, Albon said that he prefers to drive in the dry tomorrow:
Tomorrow is going to be likely wet for a little bit. I hope it stays dry, I hope it’s similar weather to this, but let’s see what happens tomorrow. But still the focus is on Sunday, because overtaking here is pretty easy, so you need a good race car. Our race pace was actually OK; it wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad.
Taking a good result on Saturday will be crucial for Albon, who has shown during this season, as well as the last one, that he can defend his position very well. That is mainly thanks to the low drag design philosophy of the Williams cars, which makes them very fast on the straights.
It is a significant race for the team, which of course races on home soil. On top of that, it celebrates its 800th race in Formula 1, as it becomes just the third team to reach that number. For those reasons, it is running a special livery for this race only, with a Union Jack over the engine cover. Albon is also wearing a special helmet to celebrate his team’s historic achievement.
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