“Going to happen through the season” — Albon predicts other midfield F1 teams to copy tactics used by Haas in Saudi Arabia

Photo Credit: Williams Racing
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It’s almost 2 weeks on from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the topic of the tactics used by Haas continues to be one of the main talking points in the Formula 1 paddock at present.

With Kevin Magnussen picking up two 10-second time penalties for contact with Alex Albon and passing Yuki Tsunoda off track in the first half of the race, the Dane’s race was basically done regarding a chance to score a point.

So Haas cleverly got the 31-year-old to back the pack up in the first sector, thus allowing teammate Nico Hulkenberg to create the necessary gap to pit and rejoin in front of the Magnussen train. The point collected by the German means Haas now runs in P6 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Speaking about it on Thursday in Melbourne, Alex Albon explained that he expects this to continue throughout the season, citing Monaco and cutting the Nouvelle Chicane consistently as an example of where it could happen again.

The top 5 teams have a sizeable advantage, meaning points could be quite hard to come across for the rest throughout the campaign.

“I’m not upset about the context [of what Magnussen did]. I’m not upset about it as I think anyone would do the same thing. If you’ve got a penalty and you’ve got to get another car to score a point and it’s your teammate, it’s going to happen.

“Let’s say Monaco, you’ve got the chicane, the only place you can actually overtake there and you cut it every single time someone tries to overtake you, to build a gap would be very easy to do. I’m not sure if there is an answer.

“At the end of the day, how can you tell someone you’re driving too slow in a race? You can do it under a Safety Car, which is what people do obviously. [They] create a space to let a teammate pit or whatever or create that pit stop gap. 

“I just think it’s what’s going to happen coming through the season. Just because when you remove one driver, Lance had his DNF and a point comes on the table. Not to say we’re desperate, but we’re licking our lips quite a lot when we’re trying to get that point.”

Albon was in agreement with the idea of a driver getting hit with a drive-through penalty if someone overtakes off the track and maintains the position, or the driver having to give the place back immediately.

The Thai driver pinpointed George Russell’s actions at Monza last year. The Mercedes driver had just made a pit stop and cut the first chicane to stay ahead of Esteban Ocon. He was awarded a 5-second penalty but did not harm his race result at all. In fact, he pulled a gap of 5s within 3 laps to the Frenchman who had yet to pit.

“Yeah, a drive-through I think would work well.

“I don’t know how other drivers felt about it, but I distinctively remember George’s one in Monza. 5 to 10 seconds is still not really a punishing situation, especially when you’re a top team. You can easily pull out 10 seconds. If you do it early enough in the race, even more so.

“I mean, tyre deg, generally around most tracks, it can be 1-2 seconds a lap, so it only takes 5 laps to achieve it. Let’s see how it goes, but I’m sure… I do think it needs a review.

“I thought maybe just a stronger stance on it, you have to give the position back.

“I know it’s been an incentive to leave it up to the teams and the drivers to decide if they need to give the position back. But in such a clear-cut situation like that, a forced give the position back kind of situation could also work.

“But other than that, yeah, drive-through, why not.”

In Saudi Arabia, Haas decided not to pit Nico Hülkenberg behind an early Safety Car as they decided to roll the dice on strategy, along with Norris, Hamilton and Zhou. The German extended his medium stint and fitted hards on lap 34, coming back out in P10. However, it paid off thanks to Magnussen collecting penalties and then backing the other midfield runners right up in Sector 1 for over 15 laps.

Albon admits he would not be surprised if Haas’ rivals kept a car out behind the Safety Car during the season to help their teammate get a point or points.

“I need to review it, so I don’t want to give you a concrete answer, but I could definitely see a situation where you’ve got a Safety Car period, and everyone’s bound to pit but you leave one of your drivers out there. 

“You are reliant on a very similar situation to Nico and Kevin, where you basically have a wingman in that situation.“You could see that being a thing, but there’s a lot of things that have to happen to be fair for something like that to be considered. 

“None of the top teams would consider it, because they need both [to get] points for their team. But for the midfield, it would become a bigger talking point.

“If you’re looking for that opportunity, most midfield teams would do anything they can. 

“It’s like P6 to P10 right now, that’s over $35 million worth. A good sacrifice to make for that.”