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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Albon: “Vicious cycle” meant slicks were quicker in the wet at F1 Belgian GP

Alex Albon says his slick tyres were overheating so much during the Formula 1 Belgian GP that he actually found performance when it rained and cooled them down.

Alex Albon, Williams FW45, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04

Spa was seen by the Williams team as a track that would favour the low-drag characteristics of the FW45 and give Albon a chance to repeat the points-scoring form that he’s previously shown this year at Sakhir, Montreal and Silverstone.

He jumped up from 15th to 10th with a strong first lap and ran as high as seventh before his early first stop.

However, with his focus on saving his tyres, and while struggling to maintain pace through the twisty middle section of the lap, he slipped down the order, eventually finishing 14th.

“It was a tricky race the whole race, because we're running that low downforce, which is quite fun in some ways,” he said. “And in other ways, especially when you go through sector two, it's not that fun anymore.

“And it just degrades the tyres so much. We saw it already on the wet tyres, we predicted a lot of deg for us. But it was a bit of a wake-up call just how much deg we did have, particularly on that medium tyre.

“And the other issue was to race the cars around me, I was basically having to over push in sector two, because as soon as I backed off one corner, as soon as I tried to manage the tyre in the places you need to, Turn 10, 11 and 12, I was immediately under fire, I almost immediately got overtaken by the car behind.

“I had to almost over push the tyre to stay in front. And then it's a vicious cycle, because you then degrade more. And you're already trying to save the tyre, but you're not allowed to, you don't have the freedom.

“It's not like Canada or Austria or Silverstone, where I felt like I could manage the tyre in a couple of corners. Here it was like they were up my gearbox the whole time. So I had to keep pushing.”

Alex Albon, Williams Racing

Alex Albon, Williams Racing

Photo by: Williams

Albon noted that he was actually helped when it rained for several laps in the middle of the race, and drivers either stayed with the dry tyres they had, or pitted for fresh softs.

"What's actually interesting to me was when it started to rain, it cooled my tyres down,” he said. “And it gave me more grip than I had in the dry. And so I actually caught them back up again, and actually had a resurgence of pace, which just shows you how much overheating we were doing."

Albon stressed that the team has to improve the car’s tyre usage for Monza, the next track where points are expected to be on offer.

“It's a frustrating one, because it was a weekend we thought we would do better at,” he said. “And I think we need to make sure we understand why we struggled so much this weekend.

“At the end of the day, this downforce [level] where we are, is going to be similar to Monza, and that's really going to be our next best chance to score points.

“So we need to make sure that we learn from this weekend. So then when we come back to tracks that are going to suit us, we don't have this happen again."

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Albon acknowledged that the car showed good straightline speed at Spa, but that didn’t balance out the tyre issues.

"That's positive especially for Monza,” he said. “Straightline speed is great, but it does degrade the tyres a lot. Sector two when the downforce is so important is really affecting the rear tyres. Basically sector two is so condensed that the tyre can't cool down, until you go to sector three."

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