Alexander Albon: “We can go to the French Grand Prix with a sense of optimism”

by Paul Hensby

Alexander Albon is ready to get back to racing this weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix after feeling that his maiden Canadian Grand Prix was ruined on the first lap.

Albon was in the middle of a three-wide battle heading down into turn one on the first lap, only for Sergio Pérez on the inside and Antonio Giovinazzi on the outside to squeeze him into an every decreasing gap, with the inevitable contact causing the Thai driver to lose his front wing and relegate him to the back of the pack.

Ultimately, his chances of points were gone and the team opted to retire him to preserve his engine late in the day, but at least he experienced the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the first time in his career.

“I’m really looking forward to racing at Le Castellet because it feels as though I haven’t done a race for a month, given that my Canadian Grand Prix was over on the first lap,” said Albon.  “There’s not much to say about it except that at least it’s another box ticked, in that I’d never driven the Montreal track before.

“I really enjoyed the circuit and the city, so I hope to have a better time there next year.”

In comparison, Albon has raced many times at the Circuit Paul Ricard in junior formulae, including in FIA Formula 2 in 2018.  Although he would prefer racing on street circuits, he is excited to return to the race track this weekend, particularly in Qualifying, where the high-speed Signes corner is expected to be a thrill.

“Paul Ricard is actually a track I know fairly well, as I raced there quite a bit in the junior formulas, making it one of the circuits where I have driven the most,” said Albon.  “It features on the calendars for lots of categories.

“It’s a very modern facility with big run-off areas and coloured stripes, where the paint man went a bit crazy! It means we leave behind the street circuits that I love best.

“Last year, I qualified second and retired with an engine problem in the feature race and went from last to P7 in the second race. I enjoyed driving the track and the Signes corner should be impressive in an F1 car, so I’m sure I’ll feel it on my neck. It’s one of the highest energy corners on the whole calendar. On a qualifying lap it should be fun, especially as it’s a bit cambered.”

Albon believes the Paul Ricard track will suit the STR14 better than the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve did last time out, and he goes into the weekend optimistic of a good result and a return to the points.

“I think this track will suit our car better than Montréal, Ricard has some similarities with Barcelona and we were quite competitive there,” said Albon.  “So, we can go to the French Grand Prix with a sense of optimism.

“I like that part of the world, the scenery is great, so let’s hope they’ve sorted the traffic getting in and out!”

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