Williams have diagnosed the cause of the fire that put a spectacular end to Alex Albon’s qualifying at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Having headed out onto the track at the start of Q1, Albon quickly began slowing down when a fire appeared in the right rear corner of his Williams, forcing him to slowly and cautiously make his way back to the garage.
There appeared to be a small bit of conviction that he might return to the circuit as he stayed seated in the car after it was brought back into the garage, but visible damage was done to the wheel, the brakes and the floor, forcing him to retire from the session.
The 26-year-old told the team over the radio that the brake pedal had gone straight to the floor, and head of vehicle performance Dave Robson confirms that they had accidentally neglected to adjust a switch position when transitioning from the Wets and Inters that were used in practice to the slicks used in Q1.
“Alex suffered with a brake issue due to an incorrect switch position when switching to the slick tyres,” he said, as per RaceFans.
“The combination of mixed conditions and the sprint format is very tricky and today we didn’t rise to the occasion.”
There are several high-speed corners in Imola, with little margin for error as the barriers and gravel traps await, ready to collect any driver that sails off the racetrack. As such, the Briton was a little startled by the failure.
“It was a bit scary,” he told Formula1.com.
“It’s not a place where you want to lose the brakes, but there was clearly something wrong.
“It’s a shame. Obviously it’s an early bath for us, but until we know better I think it’s just one of those things that happens.
“At the moment to do it, it’s actually not a bad race with the sprint race coming up.”
The run from the home straight down to the Tamburello chicane provides the only definitive passing opportunity at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, and Albon is hoping to be able to utilise the straight-line speed of his Williams this weekend.
“In terms of set-up and everything, I think we’ve got a car that’s pretty slippery down the straights,” he explained.
“Hopefully we can overtake some cars, do one stop and let’s see.”
Nicholas Latifi sadly did not fare much better in qualifying, spinning in the slippery conditions having already met with the gravel during practice, before setting a lap time that was over three seconds adrift of the benchmark to get into Q2 as he ended 18th.