Report: Strong race pace sees the team finish just outside the points in Imola
24 Apr 2022
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AA23 crossed the line in P11 with Nicky in P16
The team rounded out what had been a tough Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend by finishing just outside of the top 10.
Alex Albon secured a P11 finish after keeping Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton at bay for well over half of the total race distance, whilst Nicholas Latifi crossed the line in P16.
After rain earlier in the afternoon, the iconic Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari had dried sufficiently to ensure an intermediate tyre start for every driver on the grid.
Our pair gained three spots at the race start before the Safety Car was required to allow Carlos Sainz’s beached Ferrari to be recovered from the Tamburello chicane gravel trap.
We were back racing on Lap 5 and climbed another place soon after when damage forced Fernando Alonso to retire.
Alex was soon all over the gearbox of Pierre Gasly, but with a damp track, the DRS was not enabled and going off of the dry line proved treacherous.
The threat of rain was ever-present, but with a drying track, the decision was soon made to change to medium compound tyres, with Alex one of the first to make the switch on Lap 17.
Nicky would follow him into the box one lap later, where a long stop for Hamilton allowed our No23 to make the jump on the seven-time World Champion.
“Well done boys” was the call over the radio after a smooth stop, and just one rotation later the Thai driver gained another place, getting the move done on Gasly into Turn 2.
Running in P12, Alex was informed that the car immediately in front of him, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, was carrying a five-second time penalty, meaning all he had to do was stay close or make the move.
It developed into a real midfield battle for the remainder of the race, but Alex’s superior speed on the straight kept him ahead.
He crossed the line a little over one second behind Ocon to secure that P11, just five seconds behind Lance Stroll who occupied the final points-paying position.
Nicky came home in P16 after battles with Zhou Guanyu and Mick Schumacher throughout the second half of the race.
We now look ahead to Miami
“I’m really happy with the result today,” Alex said after the race, continuing: “We maximised the opportunities and overtook some cars on track with the pace we had.
“We had a new rear wing configuration for the weekend which really helped us hold position, and was particularly important in the second half of the race when battling with Gasly.
“It’s a shame that we missed out on points by one place, but we are taking opportunities, doing things differently and showing that we can battle higher up despite not having the fastest car.
“I was hoping DRS would be enabled a little earlier; we had six or seven laps where we were faster than the cars ahead and, with our downforce levels, we could have got past straight away if we’d had DRS.
“By the time it was enabled I was wishing it hadn’t been! Overall, another weekend with plenty of positives for the team to take onwards to Miami.”
Across the other side of the garage, Nicky reflected on making another step forward, saying: “It was definitely a very tricky race and I think everyone expected that when we saw the rain coming down ahead of going to the grid.
“It was very similar conditions to the start of the race here last year so I’m pleased we managed to get to the end of the Grand Prix this year!
“It was important for me to get that experience and continue to build my confidence in the car, as I still feel that it’s not quite where it needs to be yet.
“I think we made some steps doing that though which is positive, and our pace at the end on the medium tyre was relatively strong.” Dave Robson watched on intently from the pit wall all race long and was pleased with how the weekend finished.
“Today’s mixed conditions made for some difficult decisions,” said our Head of Vehicle Performance, adding: “But we took our opportunities well and can be pleased with the result.
“Alex drove really well, spending his entire stint on the Medium tyres both in the dirty air from Ocon and with Gasly constantly applying pressure behind.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t get a few more places when we first switched to the Medium tyre as the car was working really well at that point.
“However, it was a good recovery from a difficult weekend. Nicholas showed some excellent pace on the Medium compound and drove a strong and well controlled race.”
In Formula 2, Logan Sargeant finished P7 whilst Roy Nissany was left to rue what could have been after hitting the wall whilst in the net-lead midway through the Feature Race.
The Israeli racer had enjoyed a sensational start, taking the lead from his sixth-place spot on the grid following his best-ever F2 qualifying on Friday.
Finally, Zak O’Sullivan was able to put Saturday’s disappointment behind him when he picked up six points for his P7 in the Formula 3 Feature Race.
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