In Formula One’s return after the summer break, Williams Racing returned to the Top 10 thanks to a strong drive from Alex Albon which he ranks as one of his best.
Our Thai racer converted his P6 grid spot into a P10 finish after maximising the raw straight-line speed of our FW44 and maintaining a solid defence in the closing stages whilst under immense pressure.
After starting on the third row, the No23 would get bogged down at the start, dropping back a couple of positions before the first corner.
An opening lap collision between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso saw the Brit tumble down the order before eventually pulling over, handing one position back to Alex.
On Lap 2, Nicky dipped a wheel in the gravel at T6, sending him around and tagging Williams alumnus Valtteri Bottas in the process – a racing incident that saw the Finn stuck in the gravel but our man was able to continue.
With Hamilton and now Bottas stricken, a full Safety Car was called and the team took the opportunity to box Nicky for a new front wing.
Racing resumed on Lap 5 and eventual race winner Max Verstappen would get by his former teammate Alex in the middle sector, having struggled to get by on the Kemmel Straight – he wouldn’t be the only driver to find passing Albono tough this afternoon.
Nicky would get by Mick Schumacher and Alex would jump back up to P7 on the following rotation, storming by Daniel Ricciardo. But his tyre condition would soon become critical and we brought him in at the start of Lap 11.
With fresh hard tyres on his machine, Alex set about climbing back up the order and soon swooped by Schumacher through Eau Rouge – a stunning move that was sadly not shown on the main TV feed.
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Having passed Sebastian Vettel, the retiring four-time champion would get back past again shortly after, as would Esteban Ocon, filing our man down to P9.
Some good tyre management allowed Alex to once again blink first, pitting for the final time on Lap 27 for new mediums.
Crucially for Alex, Nicky put in a storming lap to come out just behind his teammate and ahead of the charging Lance Stroll.
Our Canadian would keep his compatriot behind him well into the middle sector, giving Alex so much-needed breathing room.
With 10 laps to go, our duo were P10 and P17, our first point since Miami was within touching distance.
Nicky would box one final time, putting him P18 on his return to the circuit whilst further up the order, quite the train was forming behind Albono.
Despite their best efforts, there would be no way through for the likes of Stroll, Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu or Ricciardo who could not break Alex’s resolute defence.
Our finishing positions at the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix
“This was one of the tougher races I’ve done in my career and also one of my personal bests,” Alex explained post-race, adding: “We did the best job we could today and it’s a good feeling.
“On the lap to the grid, it was clear that tyre degradation was going to be really high and hotter track temperatures than we have had the rest of the weekend made tyre wear worse.
“On the final stint I was thinking about three-stopping, but we held on, kept Lance [Stroll] behind and then it was about not making any mistakes.
“I think, as a whole, we executed the weekend from FP1 onwards well, maximised the positive of our car being quick on the straights, and made no mistakes.
“We experimented, made the best of the tyres in qualifying and maximised the results potential in the race, so I’m very happy.
“As a team, we had a complete weekend and that’s what it shows; when you don’t have the fastest car but you do everything right, you can still come away with a point or two.”
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It was a tough afternoon for Nicky, for whom a potentially promising afternoon was undone early, stating: “I went a little off the line in turn six, there must have been a lot of marbles from the junior categories and I understeered right off.
“It felt like driving in the wet on slick tyres. I dipped the wheel in the gravel, and it spun the rear around which caught me by surprise quite a bit.
“I thought I would go straight into the gravel and come back on slowly, but instead I spun across the track as a result and made contact with Valtteri [Bottas].
“My race was compromised from there as that set of tyres we needed to make the two-stop work were damaged. One to forget but we'll try and bounce back In Zandvoort.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, completed our Belgian Grand Prix reaction by sharing his insight from the Pit Wall: “Tyre degradation today was higher than we had anticipated, which meant at least two stops were required.
“Nicholas’s race was largely determined by the collision with Valtteri [Bottas] early in the race, which required him to pit for a new front wing.
“His start set of tyres were also damaged and so we chose to complete two further stops using a Soft tyre for the final stint.
“Alex had a difficult start and lost places initially before recovering on the opening lap. We chose to pit him relatively early at each stop to give him the best chance of holding track position and using his straight-line speed advantage to defend.
“We asked a lot of him in the final stint and he was under a lot of pressure from the cars behind for the whole of that stint.
“He drove very well and played his hand without fault to deliver another hard-earned point.”
Earlier in the day, the F2 Feature Race saw Logan Sargeant pick up valuable points thanks to a strong P6 finish, whilst Roy Nissany came home in P19 and Zak O'Sullivan finished P13 after a real race of attrition in F3.