Albon: ‘I never felt like I didn't belong in F1’

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Alex Albon says that even at the peak of his early struggles in F1 with Red Bull, he never felt that he was unworthy of a spot on the grid.

In the cutthroat world of Formula 1, where only the most exceptional drivers can thrive, Albon's
journey to the pinnacle of motorsport has been far from straightforward.

After a promising formative half-year with Toro Rosso that earned him a promotion to Red Bull Racing in 2020, Albon endured a difficult spell at the Milton Keynes-based outfit alongside Max Verstappen.

Facing question about his suitability for Formula 1, the Anglo-Thai racer refused to let the setbacks define him as a driver. He put his resilience and determination to good use in 2021 during his year on the sidelines before Williams brought him back into the fray in 2022.

The 2023 season presented its own challenges for Williams. The FW45 remained a work in progress, struggling with downforce and balance.

Despite these limitations, Albon shone, showcasing his driving skills and extracting the maximum from his mount, achieving performances that earned him the respect of his peers and elevated his profile in the paddock.

His contributions single handily helped Williams secure seventh place in F1’s Constructors' Championship, ahead AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, and Haas.

They have also positioned the 27-year-old as an interesting player in the drivers’ market beyond 2024 when his current contract with Williams expires.

Albon insists he “gets” the praise thrown his way but also finds it a bit “odd” as doesn’t recall ever feeling out of his depth in F1.

"I get it. I understand why it happens," he said at the end of last season. “When I look at my career, I had a very good year one, which in some ways got me promoted a little bit too quickly. A little bit inexperienced and vulnerable in 2020.

"Obviously, I had a year away and got my second opportunity back at Williams. But I never felt like I didn't belong in Formula 1.

“I feel like as my confidence has gotten stronger and I've become more experienced, I've been able to really showcase myself.

“I do find it odd, you're right. I think there's no such thing as a good driver in a bad team. For the same reason I like to mention Oscar [Piastri] and Lando [Norris], they've both had fantastic seasons.

"But if they'd never had that [McLaren] upgrade in the middle of the season, I'm not sure you'd be talking about them quite as much.

"It's the same thing for us but on a smaller scale. Last year, I was having fantastic races in P16 but no one would talk about it because it would just be P16 and in the middle of nowhere.

“This year [in 2023] when I've had a good race it's been in the top 10 and it's been talked about so your stock naturally gets bigger. But that's F1, you've got to be there at the right time."

Albon's early struggles forced him to face adversity head-on, but he has emerged stronger in the process, proving without doubt that he belongs at the highest level of motorsport.

As for taking his game to the next level in 2023, Albon attributes his improved performance and consistency in 2023 to a greater sense of comfort and experience, rather than a significant boost in raw speed.

"I think in some ways it's a given because I've had more laps under by belt, another year with the team," he explained.

"I don't think the raw speed has changed massively, but I've been able to get the car to suit me and to exploit the car. And I feel like I've been comfortable with the car every weekend.

"I know what the car needs to be quick. Everything just feels like it's been connecting easier. And because of that, it's easier to execute races as well and not make mistakes. I do think it's been my best year."

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