Mercedes driver George Russell says he is "really pleased" to see Alex Albon alongside him on row two of Formula 1's Dutch Grand Prix amid "huge progress" at Williams.

Russell spent three years at Williams at the start of his F1 career before returning to parent team Mercedes, with his close friend Albon his replacement as the Grove team's lead driver.

Williams has been struggling following years of underinvestment, but empowered by new owners Dorilton, former Mercedes man James Vowles has been overhauling the team to return it back to the front of the midfield.

Not unlike last year, the team's efficient, lower-downforce F1 car has been excelling at low-downforce circuits but less impressive on tracks where high loads are required.

However, at Zandvoort, Albon and rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant have bucked that trend, with Albon qualifying fourth and Sargeant tenth following a Q3 crash.

"I'm really pleased to see him up there and it goes to show when you get your confidence how that can really transform the performance," Russell praised Albon's qualifying performance.

"Williams is making a huge amount of progress at the moment and I think James Vowles is having a really positive impact there. I think he's definitely the best man for the job for what Williams need at the moment for their resurgence.

"It's great to see more than just the top teams fighting and that's what we want in Formula 1, we want everybody to have a chance if they do a good job."

Alexander Albon at Dutch GP 2023

Polesitter Max Verstappen, who had Albon as his Red Bull team-mate for 18 months, was similarly impressed.

"They've been quick in the wet, they've been quick in the dry, so that's very impressive to see," said Verstappen. And that's great for the sport as well, that more teams are up there.

"And yeah, very happy for Alex himself. He's a great guy, he was my team-mate before. Very happy for him to be up there and have - for at least this weekend - a very competitive car."

Second-place qualifying Lando Norris also thought it was "good to have [Williams] in the battle too" but wasn't overly surprised by its performance.

"I wouldn't say it's a big, big surprise because they've been very competitive at certain places but every now and then," he pointed out. "Silverstone was a similar thing, he was P1 through practice and so on.

"Now, they just managed to keep it more through qualifying and into Q3 especially. I'm happy for him and the whole team. Logan was there all the way pretty much into Q3. They look strong, they made some big progress this season."

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