Prior to race day in Melbourne, Williams’ 2022 Formula 1 season felt as if the team was back in its wilderness years.
All the progress and promise shown since Dorilton’s takeover appeared to have been quashed amid a spate of crashes and penalties, and just one Q2 appearance in six attempts.
But Alexander Albon’s remarkable last-lap pitting strategy in the Australian Grand Prix returned Williams to the points for the first time since last year’s Russian Grand Prix and injected some promise into an otherwise bleak start to the season.
Albon qualified 16th before he was later thrown out of qualifying after his Williams team was unable to provide a sufficient fuel sample.
This meant he started on the back row of the grid alongside the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, who collided with his Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi in qualifying.
Albon diced with Stroll, who he eventually fell adrift of, but elected to stay out on his hard tyres through both safety car periods and found himself seventh on the final restart.
He was able to hold this position before finally pitting for soft tyres on lap 57 of 58. Albon emerged just in front of 2022’s sole rookie Zhou Guanyu to secure 10th place and the first point of his F1 return.
Team boss Jost Capito revealed the team’s strategy was pinned on a red flag occurring in the final laps that would have allowed Albon to hold seventh place and switch tyres, rather than drop outside of the top 10 which was initially predicted.
But as his rivals became bottled up and formed a multi-car train behind Stroll, Albon was able to lap quick enough to build a gap to drop himself back inside the top 10.
“He is very good with the tyres and I think that our car is very good with the hard tyres and we’ve seen that before,” Capito said when asked by The Race about Albon’s monster 57 lap stint on the hards.
“But actually, we were waiting for a red flag and that’s why we went that long.
“When you are in that position you have to take some risk. Then we’ve seen from the speed if we wait and keep this speed, then we could even get to 10th, 11th with a regular pitstop at the end.”
Capito added Albon is an “excellent race driver” and said performances like Sunday’s are “why we got him”.
“I am extremely happy for the team,” he also said.
“That’s one because of the point [scored], but I think even more important is that the car and Alex and Nick has shown the speed.
“The race speed was excellent, was really good. So [that] gives us confirmation that the car is quite OK and [we] can continue working on that car. Yeah, happy for the team and the team deserved it.”