Alex analysis: Saudi round 2
Recap everything we learnt in Jeddah
11 Mar 2024
Est Reading Time
4 min
Two down, 22 to go.
After a difficult opening weekend in Bahrain, Alex crossed the Arabian Peninsula to go racing for a second time this season, taking on the fast-flowing streets of Jeddah.
He was racing this track for just the third time, and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix presented another tricky task for Albono, with our Thai racer having already suffered bad luck here in the past.
So was Alex able to buck the trend at the fastest street circuit on the calendar?
With the race taking place on Saturday due to the start of Ramadan, Alex rolled out for the opening practice session on Thursday afternoon and was able to clock up some valuable mileage.
Despite being a fairly unrepresentative session, our No.23 was able to complete 26 laps of the Jeddah streets, setting a 1:30.747 on softs to end FP1 as the 10th fastest driver on the grid.
As night fell, Alex rolled out under the lights for FP2 - typically the most accurate practice session of the weekend.
It was another solid session for Albono, who was again able to complete a long run of 28 laps and collect crucial data for Saturday’s race.
With the track getting rubbered in, lap times got quicker and Alex set a 1:29.789 to end the night in P14.
Following FP2, Albono was feeling positive, commenting, "The car felt good and from the moment we hit the track, it was in a good place.
"The race runs look sensible, so I’m pretty optimistic. We’ve got a good car and, like always, it’s going to be close, but I’m enjoying it out there. It’s a fun circuit.”
Friday presented a typically quiet start to the final practice hour of the weekend, with Alex eventually heading out 15 minutes into the session. It was an interrupted practice, with the Sauber of Zhou Gyanyou hitting the wall to bring out the red flag.
Recording another 13 laps of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Albono managed a 1:29.870 to head into qualifying in P17.
He made a positive start to qualifying under the floodlights, in what was another incredibly competitive Q1 - less than 1.4 seconds separated the entire grid. Setting a 1:29.107 on his second flying lap, Albono creeped into P15 and safely passed through to Q2.
Despite getting the most out of his FW46, Q3 eventually proved a step too for Alex - a 1:28.980 meant it would be a P12 start on the grid for Saturday's race.
Race day proved to be another difficult challenge for Albono, who battled his way to within touching distance of points.
As the lights went out in Jeddah, a close start saw Alex slip back to P13 as Magnussen was able to gain advantage in the opening stages.
Seven laps into the race, the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll hit the wall to bring out a full safety car and bunch up the pack even further.
Following the green flag, Alex’s progress took a hit as contact was made with the Haas of Magnussen, going wheel-to-wheel at Turn 4 – resulting in minor damage to Albono’s FW46.
Magnussen was handed a 10-second penalty for the incident but the damage was already done, as Alex dropped back to P15 and was left with a fight on his hands as a result.
Albono fought hard and battled his way up the grid. First, he pulled off a daring lunge into Turn 1 to go ahead of Yuki Tsunoda on lap 34 and into P14. And 11 laps later Alex used the same trick again to move past the Alpine of Ocon, and into 12th place.
Our No.23 continued to fight, chasing down Magnussen – but the Haas was just too far to catch in the remaining five laps.
Magnussen’s two 10-second time penalties meant Alex ultimately took the chequered flag in P11 – frustratingly close to the points positions.
Following the race he said, “it’s frustrating to not be fighting for points today, finishing just outside in P11.
"Haas did a great job with strategy using Kevin to hold up the group, which was very smart.
"Unfortunately, we didn’t have the speed and we were carrying front wing damage as well, so we struggled to progress through the field.
"We had a better race car than we showed today, so now the focus is on improving for Australia."
Things could have ended very differently on another day, and Alex’s P11 represents Williams’ best ever finish in Saudi – so there are still plenty of positives to take into Round 3.
The Albert Park Circuit is a track that Alex has seen some success at in the past (think “tyre-whisperer” in 2022) and Albono will be looking to take what he’s learnt in Jeddah to push for points once again down under.
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