Williams driver Alex Albon intends to show the more steely side to his personality in Formula One.
The affable Albon is one of the most popular drivers but thinks that also comes with some misperception.
“I feel like (people) see me as a happy-go-lucky person, but I’ve earned a right to be here,” he said on Monday as Williams unveiled its FW45 livery for 2023. “To get to where I am with what I’ve gone through, I’m much stronger than people can imagine. I’m a hard worker, I’m a fighter, and I’m here to stay.”
He's in his second year with a Williams team which is rebuilding after finishing last in the constructors' championship. After scoring points in only three races, with a best result of ninth at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, he feels his motivation has never been higher.
“I want this more than anyone else. That comes with passion, that comes with fire," he said. “I believe that’s the real me. I’m strong."
Last September, Albon suffered appendicitis the day before the the Italian GP, had immediate surgery and overcame breathing complications. He was meant to be asleep for days but woke up watching his replacement Nyck De Vries on television.
“My thought when I came out of the coma was ‘Where did my teammates qualify?’ I wanted to be in that car more than anyone else,” Albon said. “I really felt like I let the team down and it felt like I should have been there.”
Albon was back behind the wheel just three weeks later in Singapore.
Work ethic and dedication make Albon an ideal team player, but also cost him in the past when he needed to be more ruthless.
The London-born Thai lost his seat at Red Bull to Sergio Perez after two podium finishes in 26 races alongside Max Verstappen.
Albon then spent a year out before Williams hired him for 2022 and extended his contract to a multi-year deal.
The hurt of being cut from Red Bull — and from F1 altogether — stung him into action.
“When you’re six years old, your only ever dream (is) to be a Formula One driver. So when you have that dream go away, there’s a sharp realisation that things feel like they’re falling apart,” he said. “You turn that energy very quickly into hunger and motivation to get back into the sport that you love. So it was great to have a team like Williams believe in me.”
Former powerhouse Williams is counting on Albon and his American teammate Logan Sargeant to haul the team back up.
Williams has won 114 F1 races, but the last of its seven drivers' and nine constructors’ titles was in 1997.
An overhaul saw Williams hiring former Mercedes strategy director James Vowles as its new team principal. Vowles held key engineering roles and helped Mercedes secure the constructors’ championship from 2014-21.
“It seems like James really wants this role and he’s really motivated to push this team along," Albon said. "He’s obviously carrying a lot of experience from Mercedes, which for a team like us I feel we’re going to take with both hands.”
Preseason testing takes place in Bahrain from Feb. 23-25 and the season starts there on March 5.
Albon is confident the FW45 will surprise people.
“You’ll see," he said. “It looks different, it looks faster."
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