What we've learnt so far: Rounds 1 & 2
Everything we have learnt from Alex's first two races in 2024
12 Mar 2024
Est Reading Time
4 min
And just like that, Alex’s time on the Arabian Peninsula has come to a close (for now…).
As we enter the first off-week of the 2024 season, let's look back on what learnings Albono and the team can take from the opening two races:
A new team… sort of?
It’s been something of a return to the drawing board for Alex, with our No.23 having to get to grips with a radically changed Williams car in the form of the FW46.
In his first two years with the team, we saw Albono typically drive a car that heavily relied on a high speed, low downforce setup to perform well at fast tracks such as Monza, Silverstone and Spa.
Going into Round 1 in Bahrain, Albono commented that the new direction taken by team with the design of its 2024 car felt like he had “changed team.”
Speaking post-testing, Alex said, “kinematically, the way the front of the car feels is totally different. It's all totally new, totally redesigned, so the feedback you get in your hands is totally different.
“We have a Mercedes rear on the car now, so that's very different. We have a totally different balance set-up philosophy, so there are loads of things going on and it all feels like it is going in the right direction.
"But it is strange. I have spent two years now developing and driving a car that has certain characteristics, unique characteristics.”
Early improvements
Despite these significant changes, Alex and the team have made it clear that the new direction is a positive one. It represents a major improvement on previous years, with a car that is set up to fight more consistently in the midfield across the 24 races.
During the opening stages of the race in Bahrain, Albono was quick to express on the team radio his surprise at how late he could brake into each turn – a big step forward compared to 2023.
An unlucky start
It is no secret that despite the improved package, Bahrain exposed some opening round issues with Alex’s FW46. We saw his steering wheel display a “car too hot” message during the opening stages, as Albono was one of a number of drivers that suffered from the Mercedes Power Unit overheating.
This meant he had to adopt some cooling measures, and was forced to drive off the racing line, hampering his race in the progress.
Fast-forward to Round 2 in Saudi, where Albono had experienced bad luck in the past. This trend would frustratingly continue.
A collision with Magnussen (for which the Dane was given a 10-second penalty) meant Alex was left with minor damage and lost two positions early in the race. As a result, our Thai racer was left in a dog fight to battle his way back up the grid.
In the mix for points
There’s no doubt that had the incident with the Haas not occurred, Alex would have been clear of Magnussen and right in the mix for points.
Regardless, Albono still battled his way to P11, outperforming the midfield rivals around him and coming within grasping distance of earning a point.
That finish also represents Williams’ best ever in Jeddah, reflecting a car that sits near to where the team was hoping to be, as well as another impressive drive by Alex.
Closer than ever
The midfield battle looks to be tighter than ever. In Bahrain, just one second separated the entire grid in Q1, and we saw just 1.4 seconds’ difference between the 20 cars in Saudi.
With qualifying so important to any success on race day, it will be vital that Alex is able to maximise the car’s potential, and start ahead of his midfield competitors.
Off-track antics
Finally, we’ve already seen Alex involved in plenty of off-track action so far this season.
Albono has given us a glimpse of multiple potential careers post-F1, adding commentator, paddle player and podcast presenter to the resumé.
Just don’t get him on any talent shows – after what could have been the worst attempt at an Australian accent of all time. Hopefully he gets some practice in when we head down under for Round 3 in Melbourne.
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