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Williams finished dead last in the constructors’ standings for the fourth time over the last five years. Consistently the worst team in F1 for half a decade, can the legendary Grove-based squad hope for better days in the 2023 season?
After enduring a terrible run during the Williams’ family last years at the helm, the F1 team changed hands at the end of 2020. And in its first season racing under the new ownership, Williams did show signs of life. George Russell scored a podium finish at the infamous 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, helping the team to an eighth place finish in the constructors’ standings – its best result since 2017.
But it was back to square zero in 2022. Williams could only muster eight points between Alexander Albon, Nicholas Latifi and super-sub Nyck de Vries. The drivers combined for five top 10 finishes over the 20 races, leaving Williams 27 points behind its closest competitor – AlphaTauri.
What does 2023 have in store for Williams? Can it step up and battle for points consistently on pure pace, rather than having to rely on the other teams’ misfortune? Or is it going to be hanging towards the end of the field for yet another season?
Formula One Williams 2023 Team Preview: The Slowest Team in F1?
|2022 Constructors’ Standings||10th (8 points)|
It wasn’t that long ago when Williams looked ready for a return to its days of glory. The last of the teams from the “garagiste” era had a resurgence at the start of the V6 hybrid era. With the all-conquering Mercedes powertrain, Williams quickly rose to become the third force, behind Mercedes and Red Bull.
But the results got progressively worse, going from nine podiums and 320 points in 2014 to four podiums and 257 points in 2015. Williams fell to fifth in 2016 and 2017, scoring a combined 221 points and two podiums in two seasons. The Grove team then tumbled all the way down to 10th in 2018, following it up with a miserable one-point campaign in 2019.
Its 2021 season was clearly the exception to the rule. The first season under new ownership yielded Williams’ first podium finish in four years, although the Belgian Grand Prix’s unique circumstances definitely played a big role. The team finished a respectable eighth in the constructors’ standings, and was seemingly on the way up.
Then 2022 happened, and things returned to where they were. Williams was by far the slowest car on the grid, scoring a best result of ninth. The new aero regulations didn’t help, as the new FW44 was clearly off the mark.
For 2023, Williams decided to shake things up at the top. Former Volkswagen boss Jost Capito, hired as the team director in 2020, resigned from the role. Williams hired Mercedes’ longtime chief strategist James Vowles as a replacement.
But will it be enough to move the Grove-based team out of the bottom of the standings?
Williams Drivers in F1 2023
Alexander Albon was already signed through the 2023 season, and the Thai driver landed another contract extension in 2022. Nicholas Latifi was let go at the end of the year, with Logan Sargeant signing a one-year deal for 2023.
|2022 Drivers’ Standings||19th (4 points)|
After impressing in his sportscar debut in 2021, Albon got a rare second chance in F1. The Thai driver’s solid campaign in the DTM landed him a seat at Williams, while also retaining his link with Red Bull.
It’s fair to say that Albon had a decent season despite Williams’ obvious limitations. The 26-year old finished inside the points on three occasions, with a ninth place in Miami as his best result. He also dominated Nicholas Latifi in the intra-team battle, out-qualifying the Canadian driver 19 to 2.
Albon and Red Bull parted ways at the end of 2022, meaning that the Thai is now 100% under Williams’ contract. He is expected to mature into his role as the team leader. With Logan Sargeant still coming up to speed, Albon will be the one responsible for conducting the car’s development.
The Thai will be judged on his ability to improve the team’s form. If he does manage to lead Williams up the constructors’ standings, then 2023 will have been a massive success.
|2022 Drivers’ Standings||DNP|
After 17 years, the F1 grid will have an American driving a full season. Sargeant seemed to be on his way out of the single seater ladder after running out of budget in 2021. The youngster from Fort Lauderdale had planned to move up to F2 after narrowly losing out on the 2020 FIA F3 title to Oscar Piastri.
Sargeant secured a last-minute deal with Charouz, returning to F3 in 2021. The American impressed yet again, taking one of the weakest teams on the grid to fifth in the standings. Sargeant scored 102 of the Czech outfit’s 127 points, including its first podium finish and also its maiden win.
His efforts drew Williams’ attention, and Sargeant was announced as part of the British team’s young drivers program. With enough funding, he was finally able to graduate into an F2 seat. Sargeant mounted a midseason charge for the title, but a poor run after Paul Ricard dropped him down to fourth in the final standings.
Needing a top 5 to secure the necessary super license points, Sargeant did enough and was announced as a Williams driver for 2023.
It’s never easy for a rookie driver in F1, and it definitely doesn’t get any better driving for the slowest team in the category. Sargeant has a trying year ahead, but the American flashed some serious talent during his time in the feeder series ladder. He won’t be challenging for points, but expect the 22-year old to silence his critics.
F1 Williams Car 2023 – The FW45
Ready for the journey. Introducing the FW45 💙#WeAreWilliams— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) February 6, 2023
How to make the worst can in the field better? Williams has been asking itself this same question for the most part of the past five years. The FW44 bet on the same concept as Mercedes, opting to run without sidepods.
It clearly didn’t work as intended. The FW44 struggled in every imaginable way: it was one of the heaviest cars on the grid, had balance issues and lacked downforce as well. Williams abandoned its no-sidepod concept at the British Grand Prix, adopting the ramp design and following the trend set by Red Bull.
Just like the vast majority of the grid, Williams tried to adopt some of Red Bull’s concepts into its 2023 F1 car. The Grove team reduced the size of its cooling system, slimming down the sidepods and creating more room under them. The FW45’s design isn’t as aggressive as some of the other teams, but it’s still significantly different from its predecessor.
Other than that, the FW45 looks like a simple evolution of the FW44. Since most of the work is done underneath the car, it’s difficult to tell if Williams has made enough progress to become competitive. The team’s pre-season performance wasn’t exactly impressive in terms of laptimes. However, the Grove squad did lead all teams in total laps, which should definitely offer enough data to work on.
This is going to be another season hanging near the back of the field. Closing down the gap to the rest of the field is the number one goal for now.
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