Alex Albon’s personal coach breaks down incredible run to P10 in Australia

Alex Albon made a strong return to Formula 1 in 2022. The Thai-British driver was replaced by Sergio Perez at Red Bull in late 2020 and took a year off from the sport. He’s returned for 2022 with Williams and has shown his full value at the top table.

Albon has outpaced teammate Nicholas Latifi in the first three races, although Latifi is entering his third season with the team. The Williams car isn’t the fastest on the grid, but Albon has maximized its potential in the opening laps of the season.

Albon’s impressive form was most evident last time out in Australia, where he completed 57 of the 58 laps on a set of hard tires to go from P20 to P10.

Directly at Albon’s side as he returns to Formula 1 is Irishman Patrick Harding. Laois native Harding is Albon’s personal trainer and this week we caught up with him to summarize the strong start to the season and this incredible ride in Melbourne.

He said that starting from the back presented an unexpected opportunity to roll the dice with strategy and that Albon’s racing skills were crucial to the outcome.

“The position at the back gives you a lot of freedom”

There have been many impressive drives in Formula 1 this season, with Charles Leclerc dominating so far. That being said, it’s hard to beat Alex Albon’s protégé at the Australian Grand Prix to a point. After running almost the entire race on one set of hard tires, Albon pitted on the penultimate lap and held off Zhou Guanyu in 10th place.

Albon’s personal trainer Patrick Harding is from Laois and spoke to him balls this week to look back at the opening rounds of the season.

Of course we had to ask him about the Albert Park race. The Williams struggled to keep up with the pack in the opening races – but Harding said that unexpectedly played into the team’s hands. He told us that Albon’s time to get used to the new tires without battling with other cars allowed him to run on the hard tires for so long at the Australian Grand Prix.

In terms of strategy in Australia, being at the back probably helped him because we knew that with these new Pirellis it takes a little longer for some heat to get into the carcass.

Being way down the field for the first couple of races and not being in that scramble meant he had time to bring those tires in. Him, with that pace on lap 57 still turning green in sectors, meant starting from the back might have been an advantage.

Albon and Williams also found advantages in other unexpected areas.

The former Red Bull man was ruled out of qualifying due to a lack of fuel, meaning he had to start from P20 in Melbourne. Patrick Harding told us that the team saw an opportunity to use an alternative strategy to midfield runners.

The position at the back gives you a lot of freedom. There is zero expectation. In terms of strategy, it gives you a little joker.

The perspective Alex had was, “We need to do something different.” If we used the strategy that everyone around us is using, we’d probably just end up in the same position. So if you start at the back you might as well throw out an Hail Mary and see if it works instead of sitting in your comfort zone and finishing P18 or P19.

He restrains himself in such situations, his attitude is always, “Well, if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.”

After completing 57 laps on the hard tyres, the late pit stop left Albon with a flat out lap on the soft tyres. He came out from close quarters in Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo and held off the rookie for the final point after an intense final lap.

Harding told us that race day is the best part of Albon’s package and that manifested itself in Australia on Sunday – especially on the final lap.

You know, race day is probably the most powerful part of his tool kit. So when it comes to a Sunday, I never worry about how it’s going to go. I know he’s a racer at heart and we saw that in terms of his tire management, in terms of his race strategy, in terms of just staying cool, especially on the last lap.

The pit stop wasn’t the quickest and with a 0.3 lead over Zhou there wasn’t much in the final lap. Just being able to keep a cool head and bring him home in P10 is huge for the team.

Paddock cameras captured a beautiful post-race moment as Albon and Harding embraced after one of the best rides of Albon’s career.

Finding points at Williams has been arduous in recent years. They mainly relied on chaotic races like last year’s Budapest and Monza GPs to earn points. Albon, who manages to finish P10 thanks to pace and strategy, will give the team a huge boost.

Harding even suggests that a point for Williams right now is as good as a podium when Albon was at Red Bull.

Albon didn’t just impress in Melbourne.

In fact, Harding told us he believes the lap that got him into Q2 in the Bahrain season opener was one of the best of his entire F1 career.

I would say that those two laps Alex did in Q1 in Bahrain qualifying were probably two of his best qualifying laps of his F1 career. Especially the second round. Coming into Q2 with the state of the car was incredible.

That’s in his three best qualifying sessions of his career, the others being Silverstone at Toro Rosso and matching with Max at Suzuka when he was only at Red Bull for a couple of races.

The hope is that Alex Albon and Williams can regularly battle for points in the upcoming races.

It certainly seems like a tough question, but if Albon can continue to maximize the opportunities that present themselves, they could still cause a few more surprises.

SEE ALSO: Q1: What Melbourne taught us about Sergio Perez’s place in the title fight

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