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Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon looking forward to ‘fascinating challenge’ of F1 Chinese GP

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The combination of Formula 1 returning to Shanghai for the first time since 2019, and this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix marking the first Sprint Race of the 2024 campaign, is posing some unique circumstances for the teams to conquer.

It is a set of “fascinating challenges” which Williams is looking forward to.

It has been a difficult few weeks for Williams, who finished a surprising seventh place in the Constructors’ Championship a season ago. Alexander Albon’s practice shunt ahead of the Australian Grand Prix — and the team’s lack of a backup chassis — saw Logan Sargeant sidelined for the race itself as Albon slid into his FW46. There were more concerns ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, when it was Sargeant who crashed in FP1.

While the team was able to get the car ready for the race, those were again nervy times for the team, who arrived at Suzuka again without a backup chassis.

That is the case again this week, adding one more set of difficulties the team faces as the grid comes back to China.

“Coming back to Shanghai for the first Sprint competition of 2024 is a fascinating challenge. The circuit retains its excellent mix of corners as well as the very long back straight. The layout is demanding for the drivers, cars and [tires] with the opening cornering complex of T1/2/3 being a tricky start to the lap. The fast T7/8 combination continues to work the [tires] ahead of the slower section which ultimately leads to the back straight,” said Dave Robson, the team’s Head of Vehicle Performance, in the team’s media preview.

“Tackling this circuit for the first time since 2019 and having only a single practice session ahead of the Sprint sessions won’t be easy, but it is an opportunity that we relish,” added Robson. “For 2024, the regulations for the Sprint competitions have been updated and we will look to use these updates to get the most out of FW46 throughout the competitive sessions.”

In addition to the work the team performed to get both cars ready for China, Williams will be bringing some upgrades to Shanghai International Circuit as they look to open their account for the 2024 campaign.

“Preparations for the weekend have gone well with both drivers completing productive work in the simulator and the entire team working hard to replenish our stock of parts. Despite the ongoing work to recover from recent attrition, we have also been able to bring an aerodynamic update to this event,” outlined Robson. “Alex will run with a revised HALO fairing and both cars will use the new front wing that we introduced in Japan.”

For Sargeant, this will be his first Chinese Grand Prix.

Which means a lot of hours logged on the simulator to prepare.

“I’m excited to be racing in China for the first time. I’ve been on the simulator back at Grove between races to get to grips with the track. Since it’s the first Sprint weekend of the season, we’re very limited on running before we get underway with Sprint Qualifying,” said Sargeant. “Like everyone else, we need to make the most of the one-hour practice session to understand the circuit and set-up the car the best we can. I’m sure the weekend will provide opportunities with it being a Sprint, so we just need to put ourselves in the right place to take them.”

As for Albon — who unveiled an incredible panda-themed helmet for this weekend — Shanghai may be a track he has seen before, but the long gap between races at the track means getting up to speed quickly.

“Whilst it’s been a tough few weeks for the team, everyone has been working tirelessly at the factory to get us back up and ready for China, so I’m immensely thankful for their hard work.

“Looking forward, we head to China for the first Sprint event of the season and to a circuit many of us haven’t driven at in over 5 years, and for Logan, it will be the first time. In preparation, we’ve both been busy in the simulator, working hard to better understand how the car might perform around the circuit, with a tricky first sector as well as one of the longest straights on the calendar,” continued Albon. “Being a Sprint weekend with limited practice sessions, we’ll put our focus on taking advantage of the format and try to capitalise on this limited running.”

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