Albon names McLaren a 'direct rival' for slowest team, Norris disagrees

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Once epic Formula 1 championship rivals, Alex Albon feels Williams and McLaren will be fighting at the back of the grid in Bahrain.

The Grove-based team appeared to have a relatively strong pre-season test last week, completing the second most laps of any team and looking more competitive than last year.

But speaking ahead of this weekend's opening race in the Middle East, Albon predicted a very difficult year for Williams.

“Firstly, I’m possibly a little bit more pessimistic than optimistic,” he said via Motorsport Week. “At least from the initial look at testing, we are the 10th quickest team.

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“I know I’ve said this last year but it’s really about how we go through the year.If we can end the season better than we started, which we did last year, I’ll be happy.

“Of course, taking the moments we can, Monza and Spa, these types of circuits, will continue, I believe, to be quite good for us. We just want to be quicker and have the chance more often.

“We definitely have made a better car," Albon insisted, "but in terms of pace, everyone has. It’s all relative. When I look at it, we’re going to really have to fight for a chance of points.

“It’s not going to be an easy one, something has to happen for that to happen.”

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Asked about Williams' main competition this weekend, it was then the London-born Thai driver put McLaren in the same category.

"In terms of pure pace, I think there’s a lot of teams out there that have made big steps – Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, I’m sure the Alpine will be good," he suggested.

“Around us, our direct rivals [are] AlphaTauri and McLaren. I still think we’re a little bit behind, but let’s see.”

At McLaren, certainly, it was a difficult three days of testing as structural issues with their front wheel brow limited running,

In addition, CEO Zak Brown admitted McLaren had missed their development goals with the MCL60, with the team only finding more fruitful design routes late in the process.

Even so, lead driver Lando Norris has tried to put a positive spin on the situation.

“I’m just excited to go racing again, that’s the main thing," he said. "[It’s] always good to get back in the car for testing, but the enjoyment and the fun comes this weekend when it’s qualifying and it’s racing.


“Apart from that, I have no idea how we’re going to do. I guess we are not up there with the top teams, but I think we are up there fighting for some points hopefully, so that’s our goal this weekend.

“I don’t think we are in a terrible place," he insisted. “We are maybe not as strong as we want to be, but we are also not as bad as people are expecting.

"I don’t want to speak too early because, at the same time, we have to wait and see how we are going to do.

“But we have some good things in the pipeline, so I look forward to all of that. We also have to execute them and make sure they work properly and so on.

"But… it’s a long season, so I look forward to the latter part at the same time.”