Alex Albon interview: ‘This nice guy persona isn’t the true me... you can’t be that in F1’s shark world’

Alex Albon interview: ‘This nice guy persona isn’t the true me... you can’t be that in F1’s shark world’

Alex Albon flicks through a pile of photographs, signing each one, ­followed by a stack of Williams team caps and then a letter to an ardent fan.

All of it is done with an easy smile — you would be hard pressed to find a nicer driver on the grid. But for four of the past five seasons, Williams have finished rock bottom in the constructors’ championship, making his bid to dispel the theory that nice guys don’t win that much harder. And in any case, Albon insists he is not as nice as people make out.

“It’s like there’s two characters,” he says in the lead-up to Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. “It’s not bipolar, it’s just who I’ve always been. I feel like you can’t be nice in a car because it’s a competition and you’re there to beat other people. And anyway rightly or wrongly the nice guy persona is not entirely true to who I am.”

Now 27, the London-born driver believes he has mellowed and matured from a more hot-headed youth. But at the end of the day, any changes have merely been about getting quicker.

“If a driver cuts you up or is being unfair or whatever it is, it always comes down to is this helping me right now,” he reflects. “Are arms in the air, middle finger up useful? 99.999 per cent of the time unless you want that guy in front to get a penalty, it’s not.

Not so nice: Alex Albon insists he is ruthless enough to survive and prosper in the world of F1 (PA)
Not so nice: Alex Albon insists he is ruthless enough to survive and prosper in the world of F1 (PA)

“When I was in Formula 3 and Formula 2, you are fired up and a bit shouty on the radio. You see it with young drivers, like when Yuki [Tsunoda] first joined F1, he was a bit feisty.”

To date this season, Albon surprisingly finished in the points at the season opener in Bahrain and had been edging towards the points in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago before brake failure.

Alongside him this season is rookie Logan Seargeant in the other Williams after Nicholas Latifi was released by the team. Gone too is team principal Jost Capito, axed to make way for former Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles to head their F1 operation.

Albon himself has seen both the good and bad of such a cut-throat existence from being signed by the then Toro Rosso team and promoted to Red Bull Racing during that same rookie season. On the other end of the spectrum, he was unceremoniously dumped by Red Bull and had a year on the periphery in 2021 before rejoining the grid with ­Williams.

“That’s the world of F1,” he says shrugging his shoulders. “It’s so fast paced, it’s cut throat but, at the same time, being cut throat opportunities come in just like that.

“I remember my first year coming into Formula 1, I was told the morning post-Abu Dhabi. I was destined for Formula E and got this opportunity. I was in panic mode, how do I get out of my old contract into F1?

Williams’ transformation is not going to happen overnight.... but we can get there

Alex Albon

“It’s not normal sport or a normal world but it somehow becomes the norm. As soon as there’s a driver market opportunity, unfortunately or fortunately it’s kind of a shark world and you’ve got to put yourselves forward.”

In this first full season with Red Bull, his stock fell in the eyes of the team after failing to match Max Verstappen, which no driver has done to date. When outdriving the Williams last year and again this to points finishes, his stock has risen once more.

His goal is to reawaken the sleeping giant that is Williams. He knows it will be a slow often painstaking process. Already, the car is the best he has everknown it but any improvement also comes with a reality check.

“We’re still looking like we’re going to have to be opportunistic and really get the best out of the car to get points,” he said. “We can make the car better, change is possible but we’re going to have to find more lap time from it to truly fight in the midfield.”

The arrival of Vowles from Mercedes will help as did him joining from Red Bull.

“We want to know how a top team operates,” he says. “He’s from a multiple championship-winning team and that’s our ambition in the future. It’s nice to get insight from James in all directions. It’s been a few years towards the back. It’s not going to happen overnight but we can get there.”