Albon “happy with the car” in Baku, Sargeant says first Q2 appearance “feels good”

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Alex Albon continued his strong qualifying run at Williams and will start P12 for Sunday’s race in Azerbaijan. He missed out on Q3 by 0.168s.

The Thai was pleased with the place the car was in throughout the day.

“I’m happy with the car, happy with the feeling of the car, happy with the pace,” stated Albon. “Generally, this weekend so far, it’s only been one day, but yeah, in that sense, happy.

“Then in the other sense, of course, we missed out on Q3. A tricky session. It was all happening with the red flags and everything, but I felt like as a team we did a great job.”

Albon’s first lap on his last set of tyres in the middle of segment of qualifying was somewhat compromised at turn 6 as he had a massive snap and the tyre temps spiked.

The Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was off the racing line but was awkwardly in front of the Thai as he approached the corner.

“I think I missed out possibly on that first lap, that last final run, first lap in Q2,” Albon explained.

“Looking back at it, I think Carlos was far ahead, but that kind of gap is exactly where these cars are struggling. You lose the aero, you have a little snap, and that snap carries through the whole lap. So you keep that tyre temp for the rest of the lap, and that’s where it goes away.

“So unfortunately I couldn’t optimise the tyre. My best lap was on the second push lap, which is not really when the tyre is at its best.

“But yeah, I’m still happy. I still feel like it’s a good day. It’s exciting to see. Every weekend we’re coming, it’s like, just fine margins. That’s really exciting.

“As a driver, it’s literally like you have one snap and that’s it. That’s the difference. I enjoy that. But unfortunately we got the wrong side of it today.”

Staying out of the carnage that can ensure around Baku is something Albon is well aware of. He expects tyre graining to play a big role on Sunday as well on the basis of Friday, however.

“There’s been a lot of graining so far this weekend. I think the deg is, even though the track is so smooth, the deg is quite high because of this graining.

“When some cars start losing a second around this circuit, you overtake if you’re even half a second quicker around the lap. It’s going to be interesting.

“If the DRS train becomes a thing, that’s when it gets a bit stale. But as soon as one guy makes a mistake or starts degrading, that’s when the chaos happens and we lick our lips.”

Photo credit: Williams Racing

Williams have tended to be the fastest car on straights in recent years due to a lack of downforce on their cars. However, this weekend overtaking will have to be done differently for them according to Albon.

“Surprisingly, we don’t actually have great straight-line speed this weekend. I think we’re kind of mid-pack, slightly ahead. So we’re going to have to do the overtaking on the brakes.”

All 20 drivers have now made it out of Q1 this year as Logan Sargeant delivered on the streets of Baku to qualify P15 for Sunday’s race.

The American racer had finished 1.3s adrift of teammate Albon in FP1, but he managed to reduce that to a tenth in Q1.

“Yeah, it was good. First Q2, finally, that feels good. Happy to deliver the lap in Q1 late under pressure. So that was a nice feeling.

“And yeah, I just went for it [in Q2]. I knew I needed to find something and made a few small mistakes and that cost me.”

“In the end, it’s good preparation for tomorrow and I’m happy with the jump I made from practice to qualifying.”

Sargeant also spoke about the mental side of things and how a different approach paid dividends today.

“[I was] not in a bad mental place. I was just a little bit too eager and wanted a little bit too much [in the first three qualifying sessions],” he said.

“Today I just stayed in the moment a little bit more and I knew that the pressure was on for that last lap and I’m just happy that I stayed in the moment and delivered.

“As I said, in Q2 I knew I needed to do something special so I just went for it, but it didn’t quite work.”

Photo credit: Williams Racing