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

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

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

Williams found themselves in a world of pain when Alex Albon was pitched into the barriers at Turn 3 on the first lap of the Japanese Grand Prix. The British team need to assess the severity of the damage back at their factory at Grove – but just how difficult is the situation they find themselves in after a third big crash in two weeks?

OK, take me through it – what happened at Suzuka?

Albon got a run on the RB of Daniel Ricciardo – who was being swallowed up by his rivals after a slow getaway – around the outside as they approached Turn 3.

READ MORE: Verstappen leads home Perez for Red Bull one-two at Japanese GP after early drama

Ricciardo drifted right to take the racing line, having covered off Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll on the inside, but in doing so, he clipped Albon, sending both into the barriers, which at this corner at Suzuka are formed of stacked tyres.

Is Albon OK?

Yes, he escaped unaided and was uninjured. “He’s obviously mentally frustrated by what happened, but physically he’s fine and that’s the most important to me,” said Williams boss James Vowles.

2024 Japanese Grand Prix: Ricciardo and Albon crash on Lap 1 to bring out the red flags at Suzuka

How much damage did it cause to Albon’s car?

It’s early days – but Vowles said: “They’ve taken some pictures of it. Let’s see how bad it is when we get the [car back to the factory]. It looks like it’s repairable to me, but that was through images taken.”

Albon gave his car a once over after he clambered out and while he admitted he didn’t get “a good look” he was still a little concerned.

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

“The way the tyre [from the barrier] went under the car, it ripped the car, so the car went from a good amount of speed to zero very quickly, I’m just worried. I didn’t get a good look at it because it’s under the tyres, but hopefully it’s okay.”

Why the concern, though? Can’t Williams just rebuild the car in the two weeks until the next race in China?

It’s not as simple as that because this is the third big crash for Williams in two weeks.

Albon crashed heavily in Australia, damaging the chassis so significantly, it couldn’t be raced and, as they didn’t have a spare chassis, he was given Logan Sargeant’s car to drive in the Grand Prix with the American sat on the sidelines.

2024 Japanese Grand Prix: Ride onboard with Ricciardo and Albon for their Lap 1 crash at Suzuka

In Suzuka, Sargeant crashed heavily in first practice – causing so much damage, he had to miss second practice while Williams completed the repairs.

While the chassis could be used again, he had to revert to an old spec aero package as Williams only had one set of their upgrade package.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from the Japanese Grand Prix as Verstappen wins following early red flag

Albon ran that package in Sunday’s race – but most of it was ripped off the car in his first-lap crash.

“The updates that were on the car unfortunately are broken, so we’ve got to build those stocks back up and get going again,” said Vowles.

Williams now face a race against time to produce those new parts in time for the next race in China. They have around a week to do so, as the cars will likely have to be freighted next Monday.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Logan Sargeant of United States and Williams climbs from his car after

Sargeant was forced to sit out FP2 at Suzuka following his crash during the opening practice session

Is there a threat Williams won’t be ready for China?

As it stands, Williams will at the very least have one car to race – with Sargeant finishing the race 17th.

The American was fortunate to avoid yet more damage when he locked up at the second Degner corner, skating off into the gravel and stopping just before the barrier. He reckoned the car escaped with just a bit of “gravel rash”.

WATCH: Sargeant crash brings out red flags during FP1 in Suzuka

Providing Albon’s car is repairable as Vowles hopes, based on an initial look, they’ll have a second car ready to go, too.

If the chassis is damaged, they would only have one available as Vowles had recently said the third chassis wouldn’t be ready until the following Grand Prix in Miami.

But, should it be repaired, it remains unclear what spec they will be able to run.

It’ll be a challenge to produce enough of the upgraded parts to put on both cars – but as Vowles also insisted, the team are “resilient” and will do everything they can to do so.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: 14th placed qualifier Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams walks in

Williams will need to assess whether Albon's car is repairable

What does this mean for the rest of the season?

All teams operate under a budget cap, so a three-crash damage bill will have an impact on upgrades Williams are able to bring for the rest of the season, both in terms of volume and speed of delivery.

Vowles said: “I think take any team, to have three major accidents where you’ve pretty much taken out all equipment on the car is enormous.

PALMER: Why Williams never should have handed Sargeant’s car to Albon in Melbourne

“Taking that across a season, you can deal with it, taking it across just a few races is difficult. The impact of it will be what you expect.

“We’re making spares as quickly as possible in the background, but ultimately performance will have an impact on it, we can’t bring as many updates [later in the year].”

That’s frustrating for Williams because based on the pace of the car at Suzuka, Vowles reckons they are right in the mix with RB, Haas, Sauber and Alpine right now – and failure to keep up in the development race could see them drop back as the campaign goes on. However, he remains defiant.

“It’s incredibly tight, all the way from basically RB, from us to Alpine – there’s nothing between those teams,” he said.

“The encouragement I take is that we’re going to pick ourselves back up, come to China and come back swinging.”

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