Albon and Sargeant intrigued by Baku Sprint challenge as Williams predict ‘more uncertainty than normal’
Williams drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant are interested to see how Formula 1’s revised Sprint format plays out when it is used for the first time at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Unlike the previous two seasons, the six F1 Sprint events in 2023 will feature standalone Saturdays, with an extra ‘Sprint Shootout’ introduced to set the grid for the 100-kilometre Sprint race.
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That means the Sprint elements are now detached from the remainder of the event, with Friday featuring a one-hour practice session and standard qualifying hour, setting the grid for the Grand Prix itself on Sunday.
Previewing the weekend, Albon said: “Going into Baku, the main talking point is the new format, with the need to get it right on Friday more important than it’s ever been. The team has done our prep on the sim, and it’s a familiar track, so let’s see how the weekend goes.”
He added: “Most corners are low speed 90-degree corners, so the requirements of the circuit are quite consistent. If the car is good in one corner around here it tends to be good around the whole lap, and vice versa.”
F1 rookie Sargeant, who claimed a second-place finish on the streets of Baku in last year’s F2 Feature Race, shared similar feelings to his team mate.
“I’m super excited to be getting back in the car this weekend in Baku,” said the American. “It’s been a long three weeks that we’ve used to put in a lot of hard work to keep learning and preparing for this round.
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“It should be an interesting weekend as it’s a tough circuit and my first Sprint event. I’m looking forward to taking on the challenge and hopefully having a good weekend.”
Leading on from the drivers’ remarks, Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, Dave Robson, believes the Sprint tweaks will only add to the excitement and uncertainty of an already challenging race weekend in Azerbaijan.
“The format of the weekend is a little bit different to the Sprint events of recent years with Saturday now a self-contained day and Friday evening qualifying alone setting the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday,” he commented.
“The streets of Baku always provide an exciting event and this year will be no different. The circuit is challenging for the drivers and the engineers and with very little time to set the car up ahead of Friday evening qualifying, there will be more uncertainty than normal when the cars enter parc ferme.
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“The FW45 should be well suited to the layout in Azerbaijan, but we will need to be agile and pragmatic to get the most out of it given the track resurfacing, the cooler temperatures and the lack of free practice time.”
Williams sit at the foot of the F1 constructors’ standings after the first three races on one point, which was scored by Albon at the season opener in Bahrain.