Williams Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson admits it was “quite a big surprise” when Alex Albon wound up second in FP1 at the Mexico City Grand Prix.

Williams profited from two post-race disqualifications at the United States Grand Prix to secure a double points haul, including Logan Sargeant’s first Formula 1 point.

However, the Grove squad have failed to finish inside the top 10 on the road at the past four rounds, and Albon was downbeat about Williams’ prospects in Mexico.

However, he wound up second fastest in Friday’s opening practice hour, only 0.095s adrift of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Asked if Albon’s FP1 effort provided an unexpected shock to the team, Robson said: “Yes, quite a big surprise, if I’m honest. We still don’t fully understand why. 

“I think it’s quite clear that Alex was very confident and happy in the car, right from the first lap, which makes a big difference. But obviously, the debrief is going on now. I’m not exactly sure whether they’re able to pick it apart. But yeah, it’s definitely a surprise.

“A nice way to start the weekend but a bit of a surprise.”

Albon was unable to maintain that pace into the second session, slipping back to 14th and 0.760s away from the ultimate pace.

But the Anglo-Thai driver denies that Williams’ pace dissipated, contending that his plight down the order could be attributed to other teams further optimising their cars.

“I don’t think we were slow in the second session,” he argued. “I think we had a good first run. Definitely better than expected.

“I think we just hit the ground running and a lot of drivers in cars out there weren’t optimised. I think we were already in the window from the first lap we drove. We started FP2 in the same rhythm, we were quick on the test tyre and then I just didn’t do a good lap on that Soft tyre run.

“I don’t think we are top five or maybe top ten, but I think we can fight for Q3 tomorrow.”

Alexander Albon (THA) Williams Racing FW45. 27.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Practice Day.

Albon asserts Williams have exceeded expectations at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez due to the progress the British side has made over the past 12 months.

Pressed on if the team had expected to be as quick as it seems, he replied: “Definitely not.

“But yeah, I mean to be honest I think this is one of the circuits where it feels bad for everyone with this kind of downforce. It feels like we are sliding around, it’s a bit of a Monza-kind of circuit and we don’t seem to do bad at those circuits.

“It’s a big step from last year. The car feels completely different so let’s see.”

The ex-Red Bull affiliate reiterates that Q3 can be a realistic possibility for Williams provided both the car and himself can extract more time ahead of qualifying.

Maybe I’ll eat my words but there’s a couple of tenths in me, a couple of tenths in the car and then we will be okay,” he concluded.

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