Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi will line up alongside each other in P17 and P18 for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after a red flag triggered a frantic final few minutes of Q1 where neither Williams Racing driver could improve their times.
Heavy traffic thwarted the laps of Albono, Nicky, and most the grid, resulting in disappointing early exits from Quali for our pair on the busy Baky City Circuit.
The session featured yellow and red flags which made it difficult to get clean laps in, and the early banker times of 1.44.719 for our No23 and 1.45.367 for our No6 were the laps that counted.
Nicky followed Alex out of the pits after the red flag halted the session but neither driver went faster as a last corner mistake for AA23 and a gearshift issue for NL6 together with the busy track cost our duo valuable time.
Although he didn’t make it to Q2, Alex found the positives from his Saturday: “I think we had a good qualifying session and, as a team, we maximised everything we could.
“We did everything right; we had a decent car, and we did the best job we could. Getting into Q2 looked difficult today but, with the red flag, we found ourselves fighting on the heels of it again.
“It’s frustrating to be so close to it and miss out,” said the Thai driver. He continued: “I am 99% sure that if I didn’t make a mistake in the last corner, I would have benefited from the slipstream that I had chosen to take, and we would have got into Q2.
“It’s one of those things, but I think procedurally and how we went about it; we couldn’t have achieved much more today.
“There’s hope here as there’s always a little bit of action and chaos, so we need a little Baku madness to happen!”
In the sister FW44, Nicky lamented the repeated stoppages: “A typical Baku qualifying session with yellow and red flags. I didn’t get a representative lap on the first set of tyres.
“On my fastest lap, the car missed a few shifts on a couple of corners, so I was in the wrong gears which didn’t really help. I had a big chunk of time to find but I knew I could find it on the second set.
“Sadly, that wasn’t possible with the red flag and then the restart right at the end. It would have been nice to put it all together to try and get the best out of the car.”
The Canadian is aware of the lottery an Azerbaijan Grand Prix can bring as he finished by saying: “Full focus on the race tomorrow as anything can happen.”
On a technical note, Dave Robson, our Head of Vehicle Performance, detailed how the two drivers found improvements from Friday: “The car was better today despite the hotter conditions in FP3.
“Both drivers had good runs in FP3 and were able to finalise their setups ahead of Qualifying.”
Dave explained how the stoppage created difficulties for the final runs, saying: “The late rush after the red flag meant that nobody was able to prepare their tyres and manage the track position well for the final lap.
“Alex was well positioned on his final timed lap and, with a good tow from Alonso, could have made Q2. However, Alonso failed to complete his lap and Alex was left in 17th.
“Nicholas had a gearshift issue, which cost him crucial time in the first run. In the final post-red flag melee, he couldn’t get a good track position and so was unable to improve.
“We are checking the data from Nicholas’s car, but we don’t believe that there is anything wrong and that the gearshift strategy performed correctly in the circumstances.
As with Alex and Nicky, Dave knows that Baku will be a race where Williams can pick up places, concluding: “Tomorrow will likely be a long race with plenty of incidents and therefore opportunity.”
Formula 2 was also in action with an equally incident-packed Sprint Race featuring three safety cars. Logan Sargeant picked up points with a P6 finish as Roy Nissany avoided crashes from drivers around him to reach the top ten.
Ollie Gray was also in action as Britsh Formula 4 held the first race of the weekend with the young Brit scoring a P6 finish to close the gap on second place in the championship to just three points.
PWP: Will you call it right?
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