Singapore Grand Prix: Alex Albon is fit to race after medical emergency


The Singapore Grand Prix is ​​live on BBC Radio 5 Live and on the BBC Sport website

Williams’ Alex Albon declared himself fit to race at the Singapore Grand Prix after a medical emergency ended practice on the first day at the track.

After an appendectomy three weeks ago he went into respiratory failure and was in intensive care on a ventilator for almost 24 hours.

Albon said, “It was borderline, but if I think I can do it, then I want to go in. And now I know I am.”

Albon was 16th fastest, 1.4 seconds faster than teammate Nicholas Latifi.

Carlos Sainz set the pace, leading teammate Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari one-two, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen fourth.

Albon, who spoke exclusively to BBC Sport after training, said: “I’d be lying if I said it was easy, but luckily I have experience here in 2019. [with Red Bull] and I don’t feel like I’m far from where I was on Friday 2019.

“It’s been a long time, but it’s good. It was what I expected – my feelings about the strength and general condition are good but it’s hot here and it’s hard work.”

Albon, 26, said his body was still weaker than normal because he was “still recovering from the normal effects of what he’s been through.”

He added: “It’s general fatigue. Whenever I was training last week, everything is more difficult, recovery is more important.

“I was doing double days, but the recovery was very important to make sure I could do the second part of the training every day. And it’s the same here.

“You do a session, the first practice, and it takes more out of you than usual – it feels like a half-race session rather than 10 laps. You have to recover for P2 tomorrow. Fortunately Saturday is always lighter on the load.

“Honestly, I found the P2 easier than the P1, just getting used to it. It’s more when you get out of the car.

“When you’re driving, the adrenaline is going and you’re not really focused on it. But once I get out of the car, I feel like my body reminds me of where I am.”

Albon, who was born in London but rides on a Thai licence, said he was under no pressure to return from Williams – Mercedes reserve driver Nyck De Vries could be hired as a stand-in, as at Monza – but he would always try to race in Singapore if he could.

“We’re in an amazing position (as racing drivers),” he said. “We love what we do. I love my job. I love to drive. I love going to street tracks and one thing about them is: if you’re ready to drive, you want to drive.

“You can always go check it out. If there was a disaster, there’s always a back-up plan, so that was always in the back of my mind, too. So at least for now, everything’s going well.”

What happened to the front ones?

At the front, the top times were not indicative after Verstappen and Leclerc’s interrupted day.

The Red Bull driver, who could take the title on Sunday if he wins the race and other results go his way, delayed the second practice session and completed just seven laps in total in the session.

Red Bull – in the middle of a controversy over their breaching of Formula 1’s budget limit last year – changed the front suspension between sessions and took longer than usual, and it was immediately apparent when Verstappen took to the track that the change didn’t work.

The Dutchman said: “There’s a lot of room for improvement but it’s not the worst day.”

Leclerc’s start in second practice was also delayed by a set-up change, but he was happy with the car when he took to the track.

Verstappen’s fourth place split the Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, who were also unable to demonstrate their full potential, as both failed to put together optimal laps. In the race cut-offs, Russell was faster than Sainz’s Ferrari after just a few laps.

Hamilton, who was fastest in the first session, said: “He started well, the second session wasn’t so great.

“It was like every other weekend. The car is the way it is, spinning like crazy. (But) it doesn’t feel like we’re massively (pace) this weekend. Still probably a second down, something like that, but we’ve got to keep working.

“We didn’t do much with the rebound, it is as it is. As for the set-up, George was able to find a little more time. For my part, I didn’t get a clean lap. I had the set-up, I had a lot of blocking but we will fix it one day at a time.

“The biggest problem isn’t the physicality (in the heat and humidity), it’s that you’re bouncing around so much that you have a headache all the time.

“I hope we can be P5/P4 (in the classification), something like that. If we go higher it will be amazing.”

Not only did he go out until about half an hour later, he only completed one lap before spending another long time in the pits, only coming out for two more significant laps.

Behind the Mercedes drivers, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was sixth fastest, with the team delighted with the re-flooring, which they believe is a significant step forward, ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo and Fernando Alonso’s second Alpine.

Alonso was another to lose track time, in his case due to a gearbox oil leak that forced him to spend the second half of the first session in the garage, but he said: “I think we’re in a good place and I’m pretty confident for tomorrow.”

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