“But because I was young, I think I kind of felt like it was never over. And I knew I could have a chance back. And I think it’s possibly what also Mick [Schumacher] is feeling right now, is that sense of ‘OK, I feel like I’ve got much more to prove, and I’ll be back,’ basically.”
The Williams deal brought the chance of redemption, and he grabbed it with both hands. The year out had made him hungrier and given him the opportunity to recharge his batteries. He was soon back into the groove.
“I believe that the main thing is just the confidence with the car,” he says. “More than anything it’s the driving confidence, I feel like I’ve got that back, which is the most important thing, because obviously, you’ve got to drive quickly. I feel like I’ve been on top of the car, I feel like I’ve been able to push it to the limit.
“And that was something which I struggled a bit with in 2020, just starting to lose that authority on the car, and being able to get what I want out of it. I was a little bit reactive in that sense in 2020, just kind of letting the car do its thing and then reacting to that.
“Whereas [now] I just feel like I’m being able to put the car where I want it. And not to say that it’s more stable, because it isn’t, it’s less stable. But truthfully speaking, as soon as I first drove it, I straightaway felt good in it. And it’s just built from there.”
Crucially Albon got off to a good start at the first race of last season, where he qualified 14th – and left Latifi trailing.
“I feel like Bahrain was a real big turning point,” he recalls. “Having a year away and having that kind of sense of a little bit of anxiousness where you just want to get out and get some good performances early into the season to settle the nerves. You want to overcome and be that better driver that you once were. In Bahrain coming into qualifying straight away we got into Q2 in the first session.
“And that was a really good start to the year. It meant a lot, firstly, after all the headaches of a year out of the sport. To start off straight away, and really feel that the team is straight away behind you, very supportive with the result itself, because it was a very unexpected result at the time.
“Looking forward into the future we don’t want to be the 10th fastest team.”
“It started the season off in a very good way. Straight away you have that confidence. And then you just build on it from there.”
If there was any frustration it was generated by the aforementioned inconsistency. In between the odd highlight there were circuits where Albon had little chance of qualifying any higher than 19th.
“It feels like we had a very similar year to what George had been doing previously. I haven’t been quick in all circuits. Our car was quite unique. it seemed to suit a certain characteristic of track. And when those moments happened, we seemed to be able to make the most of it.
“I think we’ve been very good on Saturday as well, which created opportunities where we otherwise wouldn’t have been close, we’ve been there to fight for it. It’s obviously been in some ways also disappointing, because as the performance side of things goes, we want to be fighting more regularly. Sometimes we’d find ourselves in situations where we were P19 and P20.