How Albon pulled off the miracle of F1 strategy at the Australian GP


By extending the life of his starting tire set to 57 laps, the Williams rider jumped from last to 10th place, a gain even his own team could not have predicted before the race.

Others were fortunate enough to do the same, but chose not to.

Now, all teams will no doubt crunch the numbers and determine if an ultra-late hard stop is a viable option with the new generation 18-inch Pirellis, should the circumstances make such a bet worthwhile.

And it was a bet.

Albon was stuck at the back of the grid due to his exclusion from qualifying for failing to provide a fuel sample, so his team put him on a set of new hard C2 compounds for the start.

The idea was to outrun those mediums and then take advantage of any fortuitous circumstances, like safety cars.

Out of grid position, Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen made the same bet with new hardtails, while Sebastian Vettel, Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll opted for second-hand hardtails.

However, Sainz spun early and triggered a virtual safety car which allowed Stroll to stop, complete an obligatory lap with mediums and then return to the pits for the hards – it was a smart move that helped potentially opened the possibility of running without further. stop. His teammate Vettel, meanwhile, crashed.

The three riders who started on new hards stayed away and progressed in order while others on mediums clashed.

“We looked at our race predictions and we looked a bit sad,” Albon said. “It was a race where we took risks because we felt like whatever we did we were going to finish 19th or 20th.

“We entered the race by starting our run, taking a bit of time to build the tires in a nice window, and when you go last you can afford to do that.

Alonso, Magnussen and Albon were running sixth, ninth and 10th and were hoping a safety car could offer them a stop when Max Verstappen stopped on the track and triggered a VSC.

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

Photo by: Williams

The Alpine and the Haas both rushed into the pits, but unexpectedly the Williams didn’t.

Albon could still get a good pace with his original set, and the team went for the track position while hoping for another safety car giveaway later. So he continued – and continued.

“I was surprised we never boxed under the VSC or the safety cars,” Albon said. “I was like, ‘Okay, they know something that I don’t.

“And I thought one of the Haas was clubbing in front of me [Magnussen]and that was my point where I was like, ‘Okay, this is going to be a tricky race now’, because this DRS [from the Haas] saved me from being overtaken by the peloton behind.

“But once we looked clear, we went for it. We had much older tires than the guys around us, and we were more or less keeping pace with the McLarens. Every end we’re pulling away of the Alpines.

“It just got better and better, and in the end it was like qualifying laps for the last 25 laps of the race.”

The extra safety car never came and it became clear that Williams had a difficult decision to make. Albon was running a superb seventh, and the refueling would obviously make him lose the points.

Or would it be? As the final laps ticked down, the team could see a window where it might just be able to stop while still making it into the top 10, and that meant waiting for a pit stop on the penultimate lap.

It worked better than anyone could have hoped for. Albon dove into the pits with just one lap to go, and as he emerged on a set of softs – the only set to be used by a driver in the entire race – he was safely ahead of Alfa’s Guanyu Zhou. Romeo in 10th place.

It was a shrewd strategy and a bold move by a team that was encouraged by boss Jost Capito to take bets and roll the dice when there is little to lose.

“Obviously it’s completely unexpected,” Albon said. “But it really highlights all the work that’s been done at the factory and here on the track. That determination and drive, that’s where it gets you. It’s been an amazing day, and I’m happy to have been able to obtain this result for the team.

“What’s interesting is that the C2 tires really suit our car. We almost need to understand why, because it’s a bit unexpected, clearly, this result. Maybe we have to qualify, race , do it all on this tire. Bring 10 sets for the whole thing!”

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

Alex Albon, Williams FW44

Photo by: Williams

Team boss Capito confirmed the strategy was unplanned.

“It came during the race,” he told Motorsport.com. I think when you’re finally seventh, you want to enjoy it as long as possible!

“We don’t have the experience with the tyres, and that’s a problem. And we kept the two bonuses for each car, so we didn’t drive the bonuses at all, all weekend. We so had no real idea, we knew from the past that primes are really good for us, so we were hoping that would come out here as well.

“And before the race we said we just have to learn the tyres. So if we’re 18th and 20th on the grid, that’s no way to push too hard, but learn the tyres, and then see what happens when we go up the So we developed it. It was a great cooperation from the pit wall.

This was indeed a very unusual strategy, at least in the Pirelli era. However, Red Bull pulled off a similar trick at Monza in 2010, pitting Sebastian Vettel for new Bridgestones on the last lap and earning fourth place, so it worked before.

With Pirelli tires in play, we saw scenarios like Sochi in 2014, when Nico Rosberg got stuck on the first lap and stopped to get rid of his flat tires, and then was able to race the rest of the race on hard.

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Albon’s strategy even surprised Pirelli.

“I understood that they were protecting the position,” said Mario Isola. “They didn’t want to change before because they were worried about traffic. I will say it’s probably the first time in the last 12 years that I’ve seen a strategy like this, with one car racing for the whole race.

“Previously, Rosberg would change on the first lap and then he would race everything else. In this case it’s a bit different, because the start of the race is 57 laps.

“It was strange to see this approach.”

Alex Albon, Williams FW44, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22

Alex Albon, Williams FW44, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR22

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Although the last stop of the lap worked perfectly to get that invaluable point, Isola noted that Williams had a chance to do even better.

“I’m sure they did their math, but maybe stopping a few laps before they could try to push for the fastest lap as well – because with the soft tyres, it’s is possible !”

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