Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW45. 18.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Race Day
Alex Albon lamented his Las Vegas Grand Prix race being an “endless cycle of pain” as he dropped from fifth to outside of the points places.
Williams had pinpointed F1’s inaugural visit to the Las Vegas Strip Circuit with its low-downforce track layout and cooler conditions as a venue that would suit its FW45 package.
The Grove squad delivered on those expectations in qualifying, advancing both cars through to Q3 for only the second time this year before locking out the third row.
But both Alex Albon and team-mate Logan Sargeant were unable to capitalise on the team’s best-starting positions in over seven years, falling to 12th and 16th respectively.
Albon had managed to maintain fifth place up until his first pit stop on Lap 16, but a Safety Car nine laps later saw him lose out to Sergio Perez, Oscar Piastri and Lance Stroll.
Upon the restart, Albon battled hard with both Stroll and George Russell, but a wide moment at Turn 5 in the closing laps saw him drop to his eventual finishing position.
“Not easy, I honestly don’t think it was as bad as it looked,” Albon reflected. “The Safety Car probably went against us today.
“We knew we were struggling with the graining. We did some things to try to help it, but we couldn’t really get away from it.”
Albon contends that the drivers who pitted under the Safety Cars in the opening stages and then midway through thwarted those running the conventional one-stop strategy.
“I think everyone who was on the same strategy to me struggled in the midfield, like Pierre [Gasly],” he noted. “Then the ones that pitted on the Safety Car were, don’t want to say ‘lucky’, but they were a bit more suited. So it was tricky.”
Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW45. 18.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Race Day.
The Anglo-Thai racer was one of several drivers to be hampered by the tyre graining that the teams had been anticipating being a problem with the colder track temperatures.
“I know how to look after the tyres, I know what I have to do to stop the graining, but you can’t do it because you’ve got a chain of seven cars right behind you,” he explained.
“You’re fighting every lap, you’re having to defend every corner. You’re getting the dirt on your tyres. It’s like an endless cycle of pain.”
Albon admits that overhauling Stroll once the second Safety Car withdrew to the pitlane heightened his hopes of a good result until he encountered issues with the tyres.
“I was enjoying it [the race] to a point,” Albon added. “I had a really good Safety Car restart, got back past Stroll. For about five laps I thought ‘this is great’. And then I could see the front-right [tyre] opening up and then the rear-right opening up, and I thought, ‘okay, we’re going to struggle for a bit’.
“Positives… the tyres cleaned up with two laps to go, which is a bit late,” he remarked.
The low-grip track surface in Las Vegas provided a major talking across the weekend, with a selection of drivers urging for improvements to be made for next year.
“I did two corners where I defended from Stroll and the grip I lost was incredible,” Albon revealed.
“So when you’re going alongside another car you have to brake almost the same as them but they’ve got newer tyres and they’re running more downforce so you start to micro-lock. And as soon you start micro-locking the front [tyres] just grain instantly, so you feel wounded as you’re racing.”
Keyword: Albon laments ‘endless cycle of pain’ in Las Vegas GP