Alexander Albon was surprised to find he needs to push harder during a Formula 1 race than he used to have to in Formula 2.
Regular criticisms of modern-day F1 relates to the need to look after the Pirelli tires, which can suffer high levels of degradation and are prone to overheating when one car is running behind another. Fuel saving has also been referenced as source of driver frustration, but the fuel limit was increased this season and Albon says his grand prix debut in Australia allowed him to drive closer to the limit than he’d expected.
“What impressed me most was the driving,” Albon said, “In Formula 2 you’re driving at 90 per cent most of the time, to save the tires. In Formula 1 it’s more like 95 per cent, so generally you can push a bit more.
“The thing is when you’re following cars it’s really, really bad. Battling is really difficult and you can’t spend more than two laps in a row without overheating them, so I was just learning this.
“Following cars was actually better than I expected. Part of that was the new regulations, but it’s still not easy to overtake. I think Melbourne is the easiest example for this, but when you’re battling with other cars, maintaining your tires is more difficult to do.”
Albon impressed during his first qualifying session in Melbourne, but failed to make it out of Q2 and ended the race in 14th place, with the London-born Thai driver saying the focus from Bahrain this weekend will be on improving Toro Rosso’s grid position.
“A lot of the problems we had in the race wouldn’t have happened if we had got ourselves into Q3,” he said. “Lesson learned, that’s for sure, and it just shows you how tight the midfield is. It means getting a good position, in Q3, in front of the other guys, is vital. I just spent the whole race battling, not a single lap in clean air, so that just makes qualifying more important.”
Toro Rosso excelled at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix when Pierre Gasly qualified on the third row and finished fourth for what was the team’s best result of the season.