Written by Gabrian Cornelis, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
The 2022 Formula One season saw the return of 26-year-old Thai-British driver, Alex Albon. In his last Formula One campaign, in 2020, Albon had a disappointing season, finishing seventh in the driver’s championship, scoring only 107 points. Eventually, Albon was demoted into the reserve driver role for Red Bull Racing, and Sergio Perez took his race seat for the 2021 season. Albon’s career hasn’t lived up to his expectations, or the hype around him when he replaced Pierre Gasly midway through the 2019 season has disappeared.
Fortunately for Albon, he has a second chance to prove himself in Formula One, driving for Williams Racing alongside Nicolas Latifi. In the last 13 races, Alex Albon’s performances have gone under the radar. Mainly because of popular topics such as the porpoising issues that teams are facing, strategy blunders by Ferrari, and the Leclerc vs Verstappen rivalry. So, everybody wants to know; has Alex Albon been performing this season?
Before we delve into his performance, we also need to understand the car that he is driving. Sadly, for Albon, the Williams Formula One car is the slowest machinery on the grid. Even with the new 2022 regulations, it doesn’t change the fact that scoring points are still going to be an uphill battle for both of their drivers. The poor Williams performance can be seen in the qualifying sessions, where both drivers have a combination of 21 qualifying one (Q1) eliminations, the most Q1 eliminations on the 2022 grid. The main problem for Williams this season was highlighted after the double-header in Spain and Monaco. In an interview done by The Race, Williams’s head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, said that the team can’t hide the aerodynamic issues of the car. He also said that they would like to set up the car a little bit lower to make it go faster, but there is a huge risk of enduring more porpoising. Eventually, Williams introduced a huge upgrade in Silverstone, but it still hasn’t given them the performance needed to score points consistently.
So, we can establish that the Williams car is not one which can see Albon get podiums or even finish in the points consistently. But Albon already knew that before he signed the contract, and his results have been good. From the last 13 races, there have been two stand-out performances from Albon: Finishing 10th in Australia with an opportunistic one-stop strategy, and ninth in the Miami Grand Prix. Before the Miami GP, Williams’s head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, was pessimistic about their chances of points. According to an interview with sportskeeda, he was worried about the extremely hot weather conditions of Miami that could hurt the tyres and also the car. But somehow, Albon managed to end the race in ninth position. Despite having a lot of luck due to Fernando Alonso incurring a five-second-time penalty, and the likes of Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, and Sebastian Vettel having race incidents, he still needed to have a clean race. Besides, Albon also doesn’t make many mistakes on race days. One mistake where he might need to take responsibility is when he made contact with Lance Stroll in the latter stages of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, while fighting for points. Finally, in terms of qualifying performances, Albon has out-qualified Latifi 11 times this season.
So, has Albon been performing or not this season? Yes, he has definitely been performing. Considering the car that he is driving, many could argue he has exceeded his expectations. From my perspective, this season is important for Albon to develop his skills without any necessary pressure. During his stint at Red Bull, he was put under immense pressure to match Max Verstappen, despite being in only his second Formula 1 season. Moreover, as a Red Bull driver, Albon had been more focused on the results than improvement, as Red Bull did not give him enough time to grow and develop. Also, let’s not forget that Albon took a year off from Formula One, and it is difficult to get back up to speed immediately, as was the case with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, so, there is still more to come from the Thai-Brit driver. It will be interesting to see what he will be able to achieve in the second half of the season.