In their best year since 2017, there’s no doubt that one of their drivers is doing almost all of the heavy lifting
January 2023 saw Mercedes’ James Vowles announce he was leaving the Brackley factory to become Team Principal for one of their customer teams.
After a disappointing 2022, finishing last in the Constructors’ standings, Vowles had a mountainous task to return Williams to their former glory.
Out of the gates at the Barcelona test in February 2023, it was clear to the paddock that Williams had made some steps in the right direction.
Even though Red Bull was making all the headlines, yet again looking unbeatable (and how right we all were), Williams had one of the highest straight-line top speeds on the entire grid.
Vowles had found something that the outgoing Jost Capito could not. Thanks to their more experienced driver, Alex Albon, Williams was looking to, at least, not finish last in 2023.
Albon racing his socks off
Incredible sneaker launches aside (and references to his feet), Albon stepped up his game in 2023.
Scoring points in seven races, he finished the year P13 overall, beating both Alfa Romeo, Haas and AlphaTauri drivers (he wasn’t even too far behind the Alpine boys).
Alex blasted out of the gates at Round 1 in Bahrain, securing the team’s first points since Miami 2022. But without a doubt, his best performance of the season was an incredible P7 in Canada. Finishing only nine seconds behind Red Bull’s Perez, Albon defended like a champion and kept the likes of Stroll, Piastri, Bottas and both Alpines in his rearview mirror for over 30 laps.
Another P7 in Monza (a track which suited the Williams’ rocketship top-speed) gained the team valuable points in their battle with AlphaTauri. The US Grand Prix in Texas would be the first race since Belgium 2021 (and we all know what happened there…) that both Williams cars scored points.
Albon is out-performing the car he’s been given, but there’s no doubt that the Williams kicked it up a gear for 2023.
The eagle will fly for another year
Following the news that Williams will be retaining Logan Sargeant for 2024, a few F1 fans are wondering why they didn’t scoop up somebody else…
By the time Formula 1 had reached Monza, Alex Albon had scored 21 points to Logan’s 0. This would set the precedent for the rest of the season.
Vowles was fair in giving Logan until the end of the season to deliver some good results, opting to not follow in the footsteps of Helmut Marko, who saw a speedy departure of Nyck de Vries in favour of Daniel Ricciardo during the mid-season break.
In fairness to Logan, he became slightly more consistent in the second half of the season. But that doesn’t ignore the fact that he’s rumoured to have the highest damage costs of the entire grid.
Sargeant, naturally, made rookie errors. Retiring from Qatar due to exhaustion would be unfair to focus on, due to other drivers having an equally hard time (Ocon reported he was sick - twice - in his helmet during the race).
In fairness, he helped bag Williams their first double points finish since 2021 in Texas, but it was still a surprise that he was kept on.
We’ll have to see if Logan throws his rookie errors to the kerb in 2024.
P7 secured for 2023
Consistent drives from Alex (who carried most of the team’s success, let’s be fair) meant they were able to jump from last in the standings in 2022 to P7, beating Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Haas.
This is a significant turning point for Williams, who is slowly but surely looking to be a mid-field team, rather than desperately driving around at the back of the field.
Let’s hope 2024 can see Sargeant match Albon’s pace to bring Williams an even better year.