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Albon explains wheel nut issue and penalty that ruined his Imola race as he assesses Williams’ 'reality'

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Williams FW46 Mercedes retires

Alex Albon has explained the wheel nut issue that led to his race ending early in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, with the Williams driver forced to make a second pit stop as well as receiving a time penalty.

Having started on the medium tyre from P14 on the grid, Albon pitted for the hard compound 10 laps into the event. However, after emerging from the pit lane, the Thai driver was heard to report over team radio: “I've got a problem, tyre isn't on properly.”

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Following a slow drive back to the pits, Albon’s car was then fitted with a set of mediums before being sent back out on track. Soon afterwards, though, it was confirmed that he was under investigation for an unsafe release.

That subsequently earned him a 10-second stop-and-go penalty and, having ended up two laps down, the team opted to retire Albon on Lap 51 of 63.

Reflecting on when he knew that his race was effectively over, Albon explained later on: “I was hoping for a Safety Car and then a NASCAR-style waving by! But nothing really came and then we fell two laps back after the penalty, so not perfect.

2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Albon forced to pit again because of loose wheel

“Pretty much out the pit lane, so as soon as I got up to speed and braked into Turn 1, [there was] too much vibration. The wheel nut… it wasn’t like it was totally off, but it was just a little bit of free play, so [it was] safe to come back but not safe enough to race.”

Despite the issue, Albon – who recently signed a multi-year contract extension with Williams – was left encouraged by the steps taken in terms of the car’s set-up, though he remains realistic about the squad’s position in the pecking order.

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“I’m generally actually really positive about the weekend,” the 28-year-old commented. “I think, on reflection, that was the best the car’s felt. Set-up wise, I think it was a good step from us, [it] made the car feel a bit more complete which is something we’ve been chasing all year so far.

“But the reality is everyone’s fast, the reality is that we are hovering around that ninth, 10th fastest car, and that’s about it.”

The day was not much better for team mate Logan Sargeant, who admitted after the race that he had struggled during his second stint whilst being lapped.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 18: 14th placed qualifier Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams walks in the

Albon and Williams' quest for a point in 2024 continues

“It was a weird one,” the American said of his afternoon in Imola. “Tried to start on the hard [compound], the tyre really got damaged early on in the race, and [I was] just trying to hang on in that stint, do some defending, trying to hurt some other people’s races to hopefully help later on.

“Then we went to that second stint and it was blue flag after blue flag, lots of dirty air. We’re having these big swings of performance, and it was all just coming from the temperature of the tyre.

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“We found a bit of clean air, the performance would come, then into the dirty air and we’d immediately start to struggle. [I] don’t really know what to say, I just did my best to tick over the laps as best I could.”

Williams remain one of two teams – along with Kick Sauber – yet to score a point in 2024, with their best result so far being P11 for Albon in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Sargeant frustrated after ‘big swings in performance’ on his way to P17 in Imola

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