F1 2023 | Williams | Last but not least

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Despite the story told by the constructors’ championship standings, 2023 has been far from terrible for the Williams team as they continue to push forward from their run of uncompetitive cars. Their single point from the opening 5 races shows the potential of the FW45.

Alex Albon's FW45 in the rain
Photo: @WilliamsRacing

The Williams team are no strangers to the highs and lows of Formula 1, from the heights of their 9 constructors championships to the depths of their pointless 2020 season. While the team have been performing increasingly well since their buyout by Dorilton Capital in 2020, the introduction of the new regulations in 2022 saw the team once again finish last in the constructors championship.

A strong start:

Williams came out fighting at the beginning of the season. Despite Alex Albon’s early opinion during testing that the team still have “some work to do” in terms of balance, he would go on to finish tenth in the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix, claiming the team’s first point of the season.

The FW45 has also shown its speed in qualifying, with the team enjoying a Q3 appearance in Australia and only suffering a single double Q1 elimination, coming in Saudi Arabia. While the stats may not seem mind blowing, they are certainly not to be scoffed at given the competitiveness of the 2023 midfield.

While the team have since failed to finish in the points again following Albon’s P10 finish in Bahrain, Sargeant and Albon claiming a P12 finish, just outside the points, in Bahrain and Azerbaijan respectively.

Reliability and incidents:

While Williams have managed to show glimpses of their potential so far this season, they have also suffered more than their fair share of incidents and reliability issues in the opening five races. Brake issues forced a retirement for Albon in Jeddah, on a weekend he believed had “a lot of potential” for the team, an opinion echoed by head of vehicle performance Dae Robson who said “the pace was good [during the race] and Alex had a good chance of finishing in the top 10.”

The bad look continued for Williams in Australia with the team suffering a double DNF. Albon lost the rear of the car and hit the wall at turn 7 on lap 7 forcing him out of the race from a stellar P6. It went from bad to worse for the team when Logan Sargeant got caught up in a messy restart 2 laps from the end, hitting the rear of De Vries.

“When I lost the car, I was going through slower than the previous lap; I went wide on the corner before and spiked the tyre temperatures, losing grip and going into the next corner a bit hot, so I think that’s what happened but we need to look at it.

“With all the accidents, it was a good chance to score points this weekend, so I’m very sorry to the team. I’m disappointed, as we had a great car today and were really strong,” Albon said following his DNF in Australia.

“It’s an honour to join a team with such an incredibly rich heritage.”

Changing faces:

While the opening of the season for Williams has been far from perfect, there is light at the end of the tunnel as seen from their glimpses of pace. Perhaps their rocky start can be seen as teething problems both for rookie Logan Sargeant as well as James Vowles who has joined the team as team principal from Mercedes.

While both Vowles and Sargeant have expressed their excitement of joining Williams as well as their respect to the team’s legacy, their new roles have a steep learning curve. Parallels can surely be drawn between the jump from F2 to F1 for Sargeant and the move from motorsport strategy director to team principal for Vowles.

Teammate comparison:

Williams are in the fortunate position this year of having a rookie driver in Sargeant as well as a more experienced driver in Albon. The experience difference is clearly visible when comparing the drivers results.

Albon has confidently beaten his rookie teammate in qualifying so far this season, with a 5-0 record against Sargeant. While their race position comparison seems to draw the two closer together, when accounting for Albon’s two non finishes, Sargeant is yet to beat his more experienced teammate so far this season in a race which they have both finished.