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Albon hails ‘massive job’ from Williams to get ready for China after Japan woes

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 18: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams Racing during previews ahead

Alex Albon has praised Williams for their efforts in ensuring that both their cars are ready for the Chinese Grand Prix, with the Thai driver having crashed heavily last time out in Japan in what was the team’s third big incident in just two weeks.

The troubles started for the squad two race weekends ago in Australia, where Albon suffered a crash in Free Practice 1 that left the chassis so significantly damaged that it could not be raced. With Williams not having a spare chassis available, the decision was taken for Albon to drive team mate Logan Sargeant’s car for the remainder of the weekend, leaving the American on the sidelines.

EXPLAINED: Why Williams will be worried about Albon's Suzuka shunt – and what it could mean for the rest of the season

Sargeant then crashed himself during first practice at the next event in Japan, which resulted in him missing second practice while the team set to repairing the damage. Come Sunday, the squad’s fortunes continued to take a turn for the worse when Albon collided with Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap of the race, causing him to hit the barriers.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s event in China, Albon stated that he has quickly bounced back from the crash and hailed the work done by the Williams squad to prepare for going racing in Shanghai.

'We know what we've got' - Alex Albon on Williams' challenges in China

“Accidents happen, I didn’t put too much effort or thought into the crash itself,” said Albon. “Moving on into this weekend, obviously the main thing is just the work that’s been done back at the factory to get the cars ready.

“The team have done a massive job to get all the parts ready for the weekend, and let’s see how this one goes. I think it’s an opportunity weekend, and we’ve brought the parts now ready to go racing.”

READ MORE: Ricciardo and Albon give their views on first-lap clash at Suzuka as stewards opt against further action

Team boss James Vowles recently suggested that Williams’ crash damage could have an impact on their ability to bring upgrades later in the season. For Albon, though, this is something that he is not focusing on too much right now, with the 28-year-old instead looking at the more immediate future.

“I’m focused on the present. I don’t think it should affect us too much,” he commented. “I feel like we know what we’ve got, we’ve understood our car quite well. It’s still a bit of a learning curve, what we’ve got with the car, but we’re into race five now, we have a good feeling with it.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams climbs out of his car after

Albon crashed out of the Japanese Grand Prix following a first-lap collision with Ricciardo

“There’s a couple of things [that are] kind of more knock-on effects, delays on certain upgrades and whatnot which are a bit of a shame. But I would say, only bar Melbourne, I think we’ve had a car that can fight for points, so hopefully we can have a good one this weekend.”

As well as marking the first time that F1 has raced in China since 2019, this weekend will also see the first Sprint event of 2024 take place. Asked if this could be an opportunity to steal a result, Albon responded: “It is, exactly that.

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about the 2024 F1 Sprint format

“I’m hoping some of the top teams [are] a little bit less in favour and feel they need a bit more preparation, and that’s where the smaller teams can capitalise on that. We spent a lot of work in the simulator trying to make sure we’re as ready as possible. There’s only so much you can do around here, but yeah, let’s see what happens.”

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Logan Sargeant of United States driving the (2) Williams FW46 Mercedes on

Sargeant is hoping for a clean weekend in China

On the other side of the garage, Sargeant is expecting a learning curve during his debut visit to the Shanghai International Circuit but, like Albon, is hopeful that the team can potentially benefit from the weekend format.

“I think for sure it’s a bit of an unknown, to be honest,” the 23-year-old remarked. “I haven’t raced here before, first time here, so a big learning step for me, but for the team as well. The last time they were here was with the old generation car and the track has changed since then, so there’s a lot to get on top of.

READ MORE: Sargeant hoping his Williams has no major damage after late gravel trap trip at Suzuka

“But nonetheless, I think having a Sprint weekend still offers opportunity, a chance to keep building throughout the weekend. Having the chance to change the car before qualifying as well is also quite nice, and hopefully we can just put ourselves in a good position.

"I think the field’s going to be as tight as it always is, and it’s going to come down to those last couple of tenths in that second part of the midfield.”

After a difficult opening phase of the season for both himself and Williams, Sargeant is keen to have a clean weekend in China. However, given the team’s recent run of incidents, he admits that there may be some caution applied too.

'A big learning step for me' - Logan Sargeant on making his Shanghai debut

“We still come here [where] we have two cars, we have the spares, but we don’t have a spare chassis, so still have to be a little bit I guess you could say cautious. But, at the same time, it’s kind of that position where you still need to be committed” he added.

“But yeah, I’m definitely excited to be here, I’m excited to try and have a few clean weekends for the team and hopefully get a couple of good results.”

NEED TO KNOW: The most important facts, stats and trivia ahead of the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix

Despite the recent struggles – and having to sit out the Australian Grand Prix while Albon raced in his car – Sargeant continues to feel confident in the squad and what they can achieve.

“I think Japan, although it didn’t go as we wanted, was a good step forward,” he conceded. “Especially on the Sunday, we had a really good chance to do something good. Unfortunately it just unravelled and didn’t go the way we wanted, but nonetheless it showed the potential’s there to have a good result and we just need to lean on that and try to do better this weekend.”

Williams are yet to score a point this season, leaving them in eighth place in the constructors’ championship as things stand.

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