Albon: Tightest midfield ever makes F1 exciting, not ‘boring’

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While Max Verstappen's reign at the front of the pack might paint a picture of F1 monotony, Alex Albon begs to differ, arguing that beneath the shadow of the Red Bull charger’s dominance lies one of the “tightest grids” ever seen in the sport.

After enjoying another banner year in 2023 during which he claimed 19 wins out of 22 races and collected his third world title, Verstappen picked up in Bahrain where he left off in Abu Dhabi last November.

Armed with another dominant machine designed by Red Bull, the Dutchman was in a league of his own all weekend long at Sakhir and in Jeddah.

Ahead of the start of the season, F1 fans were desperate for Red Bull's rivals to close the gap in the offseason and there was genuine optimism that Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes had managed to do just that.

But that has since turned out to be an illusion, with fans on social media calling for the title to be handed to Verstappen already amid a “boring, boring” opening two races.

Albon laments such comments, insisting that even discounting the runaway leader, the current field boasts unprecedented competitiveness, with the tightest midfield battles ever witnessed.

“In some ways, it’s a bit of a shame to see comments about Max and it being a boring season, because it’s totally not that, at least from my perspective,” the Williams driver told the official F1 channel.

“Because you take him out of the equation, you have one of the best grids, the best fields, the tightest grids ever in Formula 1. And even if you include Max, still it’s the tightest field in Formula 1.”

For Albon, the fight for scraps behind the leader is where the true essence of F1 lies – a relentless duel for every inch on the track, where even the smallest error can spell disaster.

“It’s hard because it’s the leader, so everyone focuses on the leader. But the racing at the back is so intense. We pitted two laps too late in Bahrain during the race and we lost six positions, went from 11th and finished 15th. So it’s tight.”

The Anglo-Thai racer says Williams’ FW46 is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. However, the British outfit’s rivals have kept pace.

“We kind of improved six, seven, eight tenths to last year,” said Albon.

“Massive jumps. Race pace, even more massive steps. But you look around your shoulder and it’s the same people you’re fighting for the same positions.”

Nevertheless, Albon noted that the team has solved a major weakness embedded in its 2023 design: its sensitivity to wind.

“I always find wind is more of a balance amplifier,” he explained. “So let’s say you have a corner where you have front locking or understeer, that wind will only make it worse.

"For the same reason, if you have a bit of oversteer here and there, that wind is only going to make it worse. So you’re just pulling the car apart. It kind of really highlights issues in the car.

“The [FW]45 had a lot of issues. When the wind was behind us it was a nightmare and we’ve seen massive steps for this year.

“The only thing I would say to that is, everyone’s made a step. So that midfield is quite frustrating because the top teams have made a step, the bottom midfield teams have made an even bigger step, but they’ve all made the same step.”

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