Alex Albon, Williams, Monza, 2023

Williams’ rivals fear they can’t be caught in four-way fight for seventh

Formula 1

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Williams scored one point across the first seven grands prix of 2023. But after bringing an significant upgrade to the Canadian Grand Prix, have scored 20 points in the seven races since.

In the last race at Monza, Alexander Albon matched their best result of the season with seventh place. But the high-speed circuit was expected to suit the Williams FW45.

However since the upgrade Williams have started to perform better at tracks where previously they expected to struggle. One week before the Monza round, Albon finished eighth at Zandvoort.

Those two races have put the team 10 points clear of Haas and 11 ahead of Alfa Romeo in the fight for seventh in the constructors’ standings. After the Italian Grand Prix, Williams’ rivals were in despair.

“Williams, they look like they’re gone,” said Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg. “They and McLaren obviously made huge progress this year and I don’t see how we can turn this around unless we find something really magic.”

Haas’ hopes may rest on a significant upgrade package coming, reportedly due to arrive in time for their home race at Circuit of the Americas. But there will be only five races of the year left by then.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who did score a point in Italy, admitted Williams “clearly have a faster package at the moment”.

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“The last two race tracks [required] very different level of downforce but still they’ve clearly had an edge,” said Bottas. “It’s a bit worrying, but we’ve got a upgrade for Singapore.

“If that gets us closer, then [seventh] is still possible. But if not, then it’s going to be tricky.”

On paper, the next tracks are ones that do not suit the characteristics of the Williams FW45. After this weekend’s race at Singapore’s street twisty circuit, teams move on to Suzuka and Losail which both require high downforce levels.

The team left Monza in a split mind. They had struggled there more than expected, but their upgrade from Canada had already shown they could compete for points on high-downforce tracks. Albon said that although they were competitive at Monza, it hadn’t been an easy weekend for the team.

“Honestly, until quali, we were changing the car every session, struggling around,” he explained at Monza. “One of the weekends we haven’t hit the ground running like we did, for example, at Zandvoort. We took a bit longer but by qualifying, we were dialled in and the car feels good.”

Albon believes it’s “still hard to say” how much the team has improved since its update and is somewhat pessimistic over how competitive they may be at the remaining races.

“I was actually quite surprised that the AlphaTauri was so competitive. We need to use these races, these weekends to try and pull that gap from that kind of constructors’ championship point of view. Because realistically, apart from here and Las Vegas, that’s kind of it. So we’ve got to keep pushing on and try and get these points.”

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“I worry about tracks like Brazil, these kinds of races,” he added. “But I hope… we’re in a better place now. We needed that [result] because in the next few races we’re not really going to stand a chance, until Vegas. Not to say that we’re going to take our foot off the pedal, but a good points finish here was what we needed.”

Many of the remaining races will take place in high temperatures, which Albon says is another condition that does not suit the FW45. “We still see our weaknesses, we are [suited to] low downforce. We are better than we were last year, but especially when the track gets hot and the deg is high, we really struggle and this was a race where we struggled on a track that should suit us.

“I think if the track was 20 degrees cooler we would have been really fast, maybe near where we qualified. But some work to do. We’ll go to Asia now, it gets hot. Go to America, it’s kind of hot as well.”

Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson reckons this weekend’s race at Singapore “probably will” be a truer test of the FW45 and its improvements than Monza and Zandvoort. However the Marina Bay street circuit has moved more to Williams’ liking following the changes to its final sector.

“Obviously, the change in circuit, change in layout probably helps us because four corners have been taken away,” said Robson. “So that’s probably helpful,”

“But I think more seriously that will change the nature of that circuit quite a lot. Not so much in terms of the downforce level I don’t think, but in terms of braking’s always difficult there, and the energy the brakes have to deal with, the rear tyre degradation is always really difficult by the time you get to the last sector.

“To have those corners taken away from that part of the circuit, I think does change the characteristic of the circuit quite a lot. For everyone. Hopefully that plays slightly more to the strengths of this car.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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3 comments on “Williams’ rivals fear they can’t be caught in four-way fight for seventh”

  1. I like Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri and Haas, but I have warm feelings for Williams. One of the all-time great teams hitting rock bottom, but rising from the ashes. I really like to see them make yet another step that enables them to fight with their old competitors McLaren and Ferrari again.

    1. Absolutely agree. Williams have turned Albons career around, and he in turn is delivering incredible results for the them. They’re a great match. The amount of TV time that his heroics have brought Williams this year must be helping them land a big sponsor for ‘24.

  2. Williams would have already been beyond catching, if not for Sargeant ofcourse. Maybe he brought some sponsors and interest from US crowds, but he’s really failing to score points in a car that Albon regularly brings inside the top 10. But I love how this legendary team came back from the brink of extinction, awesome to see there’re still hope for private teams to survive!

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