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

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Alex Albon described a “cruel cycle” where the slick tyres performed faster in wet conditions during the Belgian GP at Formula 1. Williams Team had anticipated the FW45’s low-drag features would play to their advantage on the Spa circuit, providing Albon with an opportunity to match his previous point-earning performances this year at Sakhir, Montreal, and Silverstone.

Despite a solid start, advancing from 15th to 10th place and reaching as high as 7th before his first pit stop, Albon’s concentration on tyre preservation and his struggle to maintain speed in the winding central part of the circuit led to a drop in his ranking, ending up at 14th place.

He commented on the race, “The whole experience was challenging due to our low downforce approach, which was exciting in some aspects, but significantly less so when going through the second sector where it contributed to high tyre degradation. This was evident even on the wet tyres. The level of wear, especially on the medium tyres, was alarmingly high.

Another problem was that to stay competitive with my rivals, I had to over-exert in the second sector. The moment I eased off at any corner or tried to manage the tyres around Turns 10, 11, and 12, I was instantly under threat, with the following car almost immediately passing me.

This created a relentless cycle where I had to overstrain the tyre to maintain my position. This caused more wear, and even though I tried to conserve the tyres, I wasn’t given the chance. Unlike at Canada, Austria or Silverstone where I felt I could manage the tyres in some corners, at Spa, I felt under constant pressure to push.”

Photo: Williams Racing, Alex Albon

When rain came during the middle of the race, Albon observed an unexpected benefit. “Interestingly, when it began to rain, it cooled my tyres and provided more grip than in dry conditions, allowing me to close the gap and regain some pace, which highlights the extent of overheating we were experiencing,” he said.

Albon emphasized the need for the team to enhance the car’s tyre usage before the next race at Monza, where they hope to earn more points. He expressed disappointment over their performance, saying, “We had expected to perform better this weekend. It’s crucial that we understand why we faced such difficulties.

Given that we’ll be operating at similar downforce levels at Monza, which represents our next best chance to score points, it’s important we learn from this experience. When we return to tracks that favour our car, we need to prevent a repeat of this weekend’s challenges.”

Albon recognized that while the car exhibited impressive straightline speed at Spa, it didn’t offset the issues with tyre wear. He noted, “It’s a good sign for Monza, straightline speed is a plus, but it significantly wears down the tyres. The lack of downforce in the second sector is particularly tough on the rear tyres. The second sector is so compact that the tyres don’t get a chance to cool down before moving to the third sector.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Tyre Degradation

What issues did Alex Albon face at the Belgian GP?

Albon faced significant tyre degradation issues during the Belgian GP. Despite a strong start, his attempts to preserve tyre life and maintain speed through the twisty middle part of the Spa circuit led to a decline in his ranking. He had to push his tyres hard to maintain his position, causing more wear.

How did the rain during the race affect Albon’s performance?

The rain during the middle of the race actually helped Albon. It cooled his tyres and gave him more grip than he had in dry conditions, allowing him to catch up and regain some pace.

What are Albon’s thoughts on the car’s performance at Spa and the future race at Monza?

Albon noted that while the car demonstrated good straightline speed at Spa, it did not compensate for the tyre wear issues. He emphasized the need for the team to improve the car’s tyre management before the next race at Monza, where similar downforce levels will be in play.

What was the “cruel cycle” Albon referred to in the Belgian GP?

Albon described a “cruel cycle” where he had to overstrain the tyre to stay competitive with the surrounding cars. The moment he tried to manage the tyres, he was instantly overtaken. This led to more tyre wear, even though he was trying to save the tyres, putting him in a relentless cycle of overexertion and excessive wear.

How did the Williams team initially perceive the Spa track?

The Williams team initially saw Spa as a track that would favor the low-drag characteristics of their car, the FW45. They thought it would give Albon a chance to match his previous point-earning performances seen at Sakhir, Montreal, and Silverstone earlier in the year.

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