One of the tightest qualifying sessions of 2023 had Williams Racing take P16 and P20 for Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant as Formula One trialled an updated Saturday format.
Just 0.011s separated Alex from his fourth successive Q2 in a session where the slightest mistake could mean the difference between a top-10 effort or being in the elimination zone.
Lap time deletions for track limits hindered our duo, as the stewards nullified both Alex and Logan’s opening runs to add pressure for the remaining Q1 minutes when Albono took a 1:18.917 and Sarge a 1:19.248.
Pirelli’s hard tyre was the only compound available to the drivers in the first qualifying session, and the close running it created meant just 1.1s covered the entire field when the chequered flag fell.
Our attention now turns to the race and maximising the strategy, with tyre degradation in the high temperatures sure to play a part in allowing us to improve through the order.
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“If you look at Qualifying, it wasn’t a bad session as we were right in the mix,” said Alex, before explaining that “one-tenth would have moved us up a few places.
“It’s frustrating to be so close to Q2, but it’s a bit more representative of our overall pace. It shows we’re making progress, but it’s also good to come to tracks like this as it helps us to understand our car and highlight the issues.”
Albono shared his thoughts on the trial of the qualifying format and how it affects Williams Racing: “Even the tyre compounds went against us, I believe, as the harder tyres have less grip, so soft tyres tend to hide our problems, whilst hard tyres expose us more.
“It was always going to be tricky, but ultimately, I believe the Alternative Tyre Allocation penalises us more than the top teams who can save on tyres and be better prepared for Sunday.”
Logan knew he had the potential to make it out of Q3 but maturely accepted that his lap wasn’t clean enough, saying, “I think if everything had gone perfect, we had a chance to go to Q2 today, but it was a messy lap.
“It was difficult going straight to Qualifying on the hard tyre as neither of us had driven it yet this weekend [due to the Alternative Tyre Allocation format of the race] and it wasn’t easy to put a lap together.
“Although I’m sure everyone struggled and had time to find today, I’m mainly frustrated with myself; I’ve been driving well all weekend, I feel like we had the pace to do something good and I could pick out at least half a second on that lap that was left out there.”
Sarge sees some positives from the qualifying format and how it will affect tomorrow’s grand prix: “With the tyre format this weekend, we’ve been so limited on laps. Strategy-wise tomorrow, we’ll be fine as we saved a set of hard tyres.
“A few people have used all their sets, which I don’t think will feel good for them tomorrow, but from our side, we have the tyres we need for the race so hopefully that will play into our hands.”
Williams Racing’s Head of Vehicle Performance, Dave Robson, also gave his thoughts on the trialled qualifying format and how it affected Q1: “It was incredibly tight today and we missed a place in Q2 by the smallest of margins.
“The Alternative Tyre Allocation worked fine today; there was a lot of on-track action in Q1, which made finding a gap in the traffic more difficult than usual.
“Alex and Logan were mostly in good positions although Alex had to complete the final couple of corners in the wake of the McLaren.”
Dave hadn’t expected to carry our recent form to Hungary and remained positive despite the result. He continued, “Considering that we expected to struggle here more than at recent tracks, today wasn’t too bad and with a very modest improvement in lap time we could’ve been considerably further up the grid.
“Every driver has a number of race tyres for tomorrow, but with differing quantities of new and used tyres available, it could make for an interesting strategic battle.
“Although overtaking is traditionally difficult here, there will still be opportunities to make progress and we have a race car that can do just that.”
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