The team are leaving Le Castellet with a feeling of what might have been after finishing without points at the 2022 French Grand Prix.
Alex Albon eventually came home in P13 whilst Nicholas Latifi retired with 14 laps remaining after picking up damage whilst battling with Kevin Magnussen.
Both drivers had made a solid start to the race, with Alex climbing one spot on the opening lap and Nicky remaining P18.
The two drivers who picked up grid penalties for taking fresh power unit parts, Carlos Sainz and Magnussen, soon made their way through the field, making their way past our duo.
Nicky soon engaged in a battle with former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, getting past the Finnish driver on Lap 15, moving him into P15 for the time being.
On Lap 19, the strategy was changed in an instant when race leader Charles Leclerc lost control and hit the barrier, bringing out a full Safety Car.
Alex was immediately brought into the pits and almost ended up with a Ferrari in his sidepod after Sainz was unsafely released in pit lane – Nicky completed one more tour before he boxed.
We would be back in Green Flag conditions on Lap 21 with our duo in P11 and P15 respectively.
Magnussen found a way past Nicky three laps later before Alex engaged in a strong defence against the home favourite, Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman attempted an ambitious lunge on Lap 28 but overshot at the chicane meaning our No23’s mirrors shifted from being full of AlphaTauri to the green of Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin.
With tyre life and fuel levels to preserve, Alex had to increase lift and coast but continued to hold on to his position whilst his teammate found himself in a fight with Gasly and Magnussen.
On Lap 38, Nicky went for a move on the Dane into Turn 1, getting slightly ahead but they would tangle at Turn 2. Our No6 was forced to pit after suffering a puncture but just a few laps later, the decision was made to retire following damage to his car. A disappointing end to his afternoon following some good battles.
All our focus switched to Alex who was battling once again with Gasly as we entered the final 10 laps and, after some stellar defending, the Frenchman made his move, relegating our man to P13.
A later Virtual Safety Car to retrieve Zhou Guanyu’s stricken Alfa Romeo briefly neutralised proceedings before Alex safely crossed the line.
Our French Grand Prix race result
“It was tricky out there today but more enjoyable,” explained Alex Albon when we caught up with him post-race.
“We were in contention for most of the race and were looking close to the points - we were a bit down on pace and were using a lot of the tyres to try to stay close, and it just fell away from us towards the end.
“We'll look at the data and hopefully we can improve week on week as we were quite quick in qualifying. We'll look at it and see what we can do better for Hungary.”
Nicky shared a similar air of optimism across the other side of the garage, with Nicky saying: “There are a lot of positives to take from today. The pace was competitive, especially in dirty air, and I was racing cars that I haven’t been racing against all year so that’s been nice.
“I definitely don’t think I was at fault for the incident with Kevin, it was maybe more of a racing incident.
“The incident was a shame as our pace was strong and we were racing out of position against cars that we were quite a bit quicker than.
“Being further up in qualifying would have made a difference, but it’s nice to get racing again.
“I take the confidence in that pace from the upgrade and I feel that the season is getting back on track and we can make a proper start now.”
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Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, rounded out our reaction from Le Castellet by adding: “The hot conditions made for a tough race with all drivers needing to manage the cars and tyres throughout.
“The safety car was temptingly timed but did make for a tricky long final stint on the Prime tyres.
“Our cars were too close to each other to be able to stop both on the same lap and so Nicky did an extra lap, which meant that he didn’t get the full advantage of pitting behind the safety car.
“Both drivers managed the race well but unfortunately Nicky had to retire following a puncture and extensive car damage.
“Alex was able to battle to the end but had to manage his fuel and tyres against quicker cars and wasn’t able to fight for the points.
“It was good to get a lot of extra racing laps on the new package and all the data and feedback collected will help us at the remaining races.”
There was frustration for Logan Sargeant who was firmly in the fight for another Feature Race podium before his race came to an end during his pit stop. The Williams Academy Driver was unable to pull away from his box, forcing him to retire.
After starting from P20, Roy Nissany fought his way through the field to finish P9, picking up two points for his efforts.
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