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Formula 1

The ‘curveball’ behind shock Williams start at Silverstone

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Williams Formula 1 drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant reckon their surprisingly strong start to the British Grand Prix weekend is a result of others being caught out by “curveball” conditions so far.

Albon was third fastest in both practice sessions on Friday, just over two tenths slower than championship leader and pacesetter Max Verstappen, with Sargeant fifth in FP2.

A comparison of Albon’s best lap with Verstappen’s in FP2 shows negligible time loss everywhere except Turns 3 and 4, and the fast Stowe right-hander.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

Though Williams has overachieved at times this year, it has tended to come through well-executed qualifying sessions and strong race pace.

The team is not usually associated with one-lap heroics – something Albon acknowledged – and though that makes it tempting to suggest the pace could be genuine, both drivers felt the pecking order had been heavily influenced by certain variables.

“I’ll be lying to say it’s not surprising,” said Albon. “We’re not doing anything special.

“It’s strange. Without sounding too pessimistic it doesn’t feel great out there for us. But clearly it must feel worse for the others.

“The wind out there is a real pain. It really separates the balance of the car, for us we clearly seem to be coping with it much better than everyone else.

“Got to keep grounded and focus on ourselves but a bit of a strange one, to finish laps and see yourself in the top three.”

Albon reckoned there was an element of the upgraded FW45 flexing its muscle more at this track too.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

There are detail changes on the front and rear wings, following the big package that arrived two races ago in Canada, with Albon keeping the front wing for the rest of the weekend and Sargeant evaluating something that will be raced later in the season.

Albon reckoned the improved high-speed cornering performance is paying off more here after two races that put more of an onus on slower corners, a sentiment also expressed by head of vehicle performance Dave Robson, who called Silverstone a more demanding and varied circuit.

But the big emphasis was on the conditions, both the wind and temperatures – 27C air temperature in FP2 and 39C track temperature.

Albon said the wind results in a “very disconnected car”, with oversteer at parts of the circuit and understeer at others.

That makes it difficult to chase set-up changes because of shifts between headwinds and tailwinds even in the same type of corners.

“With the intense winds that we have, the high track temps that we had today, it definitely threw a bit of a curveball,” said Sargeant.

“Everyone had a lot of limitations. It wasn’t easy to drive. But we weren’t we weren’t too far away from where we need to be.

“It wasn’t comfortable. It was difficult throughout the lap, getting changes of balance. But we did our best to get the car in a good compromise for the majority of the lap.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

Conditions are set to change again on Saturday, with the air temperature a few degrees cooler and rain forecast, although Williams was already cautious about repeating the performance in qualifying.

Asked by The Race if this is the first time this year he’s had to manage expectations after practice, Sargeant said: “Definitely! You never know what everyone’s doing. So, it’s hard to say.

“I think we’re just making the best out of a difficult situation with conditions.

“And honestly, it’s hard to believe that a lot of people don’t have a lot in their pocket.”

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