Alex Albon fell narrowly short of a points finish at the 2022 United States Grand Prix following a long stint on hard tyres, ultimately passing the chequered flag in P12 whilst Nicholas Latifi crossed the line in P17.
In the scorching Texas heat, both our drivers enjoyed a clean start at Circuit of the Americas with Alex completing the first tour in P9 and Nicky in P16.
After an early spin for Nicky, our duo both visited the box for their first pit stops, switching their used medium compound tyres for a fresh batch.
On Lap 18, a full Safety Car was deployed as a result of Valterri Bottas’ spin at the penultimate corner that saw him beached in the gravel.
Both our drivers took the opportunity to pit again under this period of caution, fitting the white-walled hard compound which would see them through to the end.
We wouldn’t be racing for long after the Lap 22 restart owing to a huge incident between Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso that thankfully saw the pair emerge unscathed and remarkably saw the latter continue.
A clean second restart on Lap 26 allowed our pair to settle into what would be a long final stint – Alex in P14 and Nicky just one spot behind.
Our Thai racer engaged in a good battle with Daniel Ricciardo and, after a few laps of warning shots, he finally licked the stamp and sent it on the Australian around the outside of T12 on Lap 31.
Runners further up the field would begin to pit and fall behind our pair and with 20 laps to go, we were running P10 and P13.
The Williams Racing No23 soon began an on-off relationship with P9 after a slow stop for Sebastian Vettel saw him jump up, only to be passed by Lando Norris before Esteban Ocon made his mandatory switch onto a different compound, returning our man to the two points paying spot.
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With 10 laps to go, the Alex Albon train last seen in Belgium began to form and our man put up a resolute defence against no fewer than four cars at times.
However, as his tyres began to fall away, opportunities befell his competitors and the first to get by would be Vettel.
Within the final three laps, Alex would fall behind Yuki Tsunoda and Ocon before the chequered flag in P12.
Behind that, Nicky had been engaged in battles throughout, which included a five-second time penalty after an incident with Mick Schmacher and he ultimately crossed the line in P17.
After the race, the stewards deemed Alex had left the track and gained an advantage, handing him a five-second time penalty, however, Alonso later received a 30-second penalty meaning Alex retained P12.
“We really fought today and gave it everything we had,” Alex shared when we caught up with him post-race.
“I had a tricky start with a flat spot into Turn 1, nursing the fronts for the first 10 laps with huge vibrations, so we had to pit early but then we were offset.
“It was a shame, but I don’t think we had the pace for points today, but we were very close.
“It was tricky out there and we tried our best and were aggressive on strategy but with the tyre degradation, I was hoping to try repeat something like in Spa and hold them off but the tyres took another step of degradation and once this happened, I tried to fight but just couldn’t hold them off anymore.
“Points might have been too much to ask for but we gave ourselves a good opportunity.”
Nicky offered his take on a hectic United States Grand Prix, sharing: “The car was better than I was expecting it to be today, that’s not to say it was still tricky to drive.
“I made a mistake at the beginning of the race with the spin getting caught out with the balance in the high-speed corners.
“I didn’t manage to do any high fuel race running beforehand so I was exploring as I was going along.
“We got back into the race with the Safety Car but in the end, I was fighting cars that were much quicker behind me to hold them off which was detrimental to my race but beneficial to help the team.
“The penalty I received was justified and I have no issues with it. It wasn’t intentional as I tried to brake as late as I could, but I committed to my braking point, locked up and couldn’t get the car to turn.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, completed our reaction by adding: “It was a tough race today with both drivers having to pit earlier than planned due to flat-spotting their tyres.
“Alex locked-up badly at Turn 1 of the first lap and struggled throughout the first stint, but to make the strategy work, we needed to get some laps done before we could pit.
“He was able to recover later in the race with a well-managed stint on the Prime. As we have seen many times before, he is a very good racer and can defend brilliantly when required.
“He was able to hold on to a points-scoring position until just a few laps from the end despite suffering with some driveability issues in the final stint.
“It was a frustrating end to the race but given where we were after the early first stop, it was a good recovery from Alex and his team.
“Nicholas had a more frustrating race and struggled more with his car. However, he was able to race the faster cars that pitted behind him, holding them up from catching Alex.
“We thought that the FW44 would struggle in these conditions and at this circuit, and it has certainly been a tricky few days.
“Whilst it was a shame to get this close to the points, the result nonetheless represents a good weekend from the team in Austin and back in Grove.
“We now turn our attention to Mexico where we will look to build on what we did here in Austin.”
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