Alex Albon admits he wasn’t realistically targeting a return to racing at the Singapore Grand Prix after his spell in intensive care, saying his recovery has progressed more quickly than expected.
The Williams driver missed the Italian Grand Prix after post-surgery complications having originally been admitted with appendicitis, and spent a spell on mechanical ventilation in the ICU. While stating his aim was to come back in Singapore this weekend, his return was only confirmed on Wednesday and he says he didn’t previously believe it was feasible.
“It was more bed recovery to begin with,” said Albonn, pictured at left, above, jogging the Singapore circuit on Thursday. “It’s quite a tricky one because you’re basically waiting for your lungs to recover and at the same time your body can’t move as well as it normally can. You can’t just jump back into normal training, you have to slowly build into it.
“It was Monday last week when we really started to push it and see what we can do. Treated it like a 9-5 job, training and recovery — recovery is important. Basically just throwing everything at it and day by day it was getting better and better.
“We got to a point where the recovery was going really well. I don’t think we truthfully had in mind that Singapore was on the cards, but just with the speed of the recovery it was a possible thing. We thought long and hard about it — ‘Shall we do it or not?’ But I feel like I am ready. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see where it’s at because driving around here is a bit of a different beast.
“In terms of setbacks, it’s a small one, really. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had very good doctors around me in Italy to get me back to a good place. I feel very fortunate. I only missed one race so it’s not a big deal!”
Albon believes the biggest challenge will be his overall fitness level rather than the operation itself, and expects Friday’s race simulations to tell him how tough his weekend is going to be.
“I’d say it’s more Singapore — it’s the humidity. It is the hardest race of the year, for sure. I think these cars are quite different — maybe not quicker, but they are physical in their own ways. They are so stiff it is a different toll on your body.
“On the surgery side, I’m not worried about that at all. I know I’m fully recovered. It’s more just the after-effects of being in intensive care, basically, and the toll that has on your body. But I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I’d be able to race.
“Mainly we’re looking at the long runs. The short runs, it’s quite a comfortable thing to drive these cars. But by FP2 especially you do have a really good idea of how it’s going to feel on your body for the race. I’m not planning to not race. Truthfully, I feel pretty confident in my body but nothing quite compares to the toll of driving these cars. That’s really it. As a driver, you’ll know straight away what your body can do.”
Albon says he has little recollection of the ordeal itself while in hospital.
“Luckily I was quite drugged up, so I don’t remember much of it. I just remember going into surgery,” he said. “It’s a relatively simple procedure — I think it only takes a couple of hours to be operated on. But you don’t understand time when you’re sedated. Obviously it was more the impact of the people around me, so when I did wake up I thought everything was done; that was the procedure finished. They said, ‘You’ve actually been through a little more than that…’.
“I was supposed to be in an induced sedation for two, three days, but in the end my lungs cleared out within 12 hours, so I was already up pretty much shortly after. It wasn’t such a big thing for me but it was for my family, who came to the race — they were a little bit in shock.”