Alex Albon says having to drive defensively to hold onto his impressive seventh place in the Canadian Grand Prix was not particularly enjoyable given the pressure he was under.

Williams brought Albon an upgraded car to Montreal and he duly delivered by reaching Q3 before climbing into the top seven e arly on. That was achieved by one-stopping and doing 58 laps on one set of hard tires — holding off George Russell and then Esteban Ocon for a long spell — with Albon saying the tough strategy was necessary to get ahead of other cars of comparable performance.

“I do think we had similar pace to the McLarens the whole weekend — I feel like realistically, where we were, we had to do something different to them in front as they were in front to get the points,” Albon said. “We’ve had very good pace this weekend. To still get points is difficult. You’ve got those eight cars — the Astons, the Red Bulls, the Ferraris and the Mercedes — (and) the final two positions, it normally feels like it’s the Alpines now.

“So we had to stick to the one-stop. And when the guys told me I had, I don’t know what it was, 35 or 40 laps (to go), I think they even told me 20 to make me feel better! I looked at the TV screen, and I was like ‘Oh my god, I hope that’s not real!’

“I had a grunt, because I was like, ‘Uh…’ I’ve done these races a lot now. I can tell you they’re not that fun. We’re good at defending, we have a straight-line car. In these situations, it’s all about trying. You’re obviously at a big tire deficit, but at the same time saving the tires to make the key corners count — Turn 10 — making sure I positioned the car in Esteban’s dirty air to try to make him hurt his tires, his traction, that kind of thing.

“So you’re driving a race that’s very much in your rear-view mirrors, even though you’re trying not to make mistakes. The other thing is obviously when the tread comes down, the tires start to cool down quite a lot, and you have to start pushing. By the end of the race, you can see white parts where you’re right down to the canvas. You’ve got to push flat out, it feels like qualifying for the last 20 laps, but at the same time, you can’t afford to make a mistake. There’s this real balance going on. But that’s what we’re paid for.”

Despite saying it’s not fun to execute such a long defensive drive, Albon says it’s something he’s generally found he’s good at and he was proud of the way Williams executed after putting so much emphasis on the opportunity Canada provided.

“I’ve always — even in Formula 3, Formula 2 days — I’ve enjoyed leading the pack and controlling it. Obviously I’m not technically leading the race, but I’m leading at that point; you could call it the midfield race. It’s almost like just doing enough to keep them behind and making sure that you’ve got enough in the tank for the rest of the race. That’s something which is quite tricky to gauge.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a good car. Honestly speaking, this weekend, we’ve had a great car. I can’t thank the team enough. I’ve been at the factory the last two weeks quite a lot, in terms of simulator work, but also with James (Vowles) and I can’t tell you how much of a parts deficit we were at after Barcelona. We were on the edge.

“We decided to fast-track the upgrade into Canada, and the people at the factory, composites, everyone, actually James and I went to meet them and discuss with them: ‘We’ve got to try and get this upgrade ready for Canada; it’s going to be our only chance possibly until one of these Monza races come along.’

“The guys worked absolutely flat out to get it ready. It’s great to be able to put it on the car. We put a new power unit in it this weekend, we put everything into this weekend. (We) actually (had) a bit of pressure in some respects coming into this weekend to deliver, and we did.”