Williams can be positive about the start they have had to the 2023 F1 season.
A single point and sitting bottom of the standings paints very little of the picture as to the progress they have made as a team from 2022 to 2023, and the mood within the garage over how they feel about both the short and long-term future.
They have, of course, had a difficult few years at the wrong end of the grid, but they seem to be heading in a positive direction, and under James Vowles there seems to be fresh impetus and momentum.
Arriving a matter of weeks before the start of the 2023 season, there’d perhaps been some concern over the changing of the guard as Jost Capito and FX Demaison left the Grove outfit. Not because Vowles was not qualified at all, but more simply it seemed like more upheaval for a team that has had a fair share of it in the recent past.
Evidence on track this year suggests that those concerns, though perhaps fair and natural, were misplaced, however.
GIVEMESPORT spoke to driver Alex Albon to get some insight on the changes at the top and the promising enough start to the season the team has made.
“James clearly played a big part in a lot of things at Mercedes, he was involved on just a complete level,” Albon said when assessing what the new team principal has brought from Mercedes to Williams and the impact he has had.
“When we’re talking about areas; we’re talking about weights, about tyres, operating windows, even the PU and the way to get the best out of that – he seems very well versed in all of that.
“There were areas where he’s come into the team, and he’s kind of said in these areas, we can do a better job. It’s been interesting to see that side and that’s in the very short term. They’re solutions we’ve been able to try to amend and already implement this year.
“There’s also much longer term things which he’s obviously seen in the team, which he thinks we can do a better job in. And that’s obviously more for him to comment about but yes there are areas where you can tell what his experience is. It’s been interesting to listen to.”
As mentioned, Vowles came in to replace Capito after what was a pretty surprising, unexpected exit.
Williams have taken it in their stride, though, and Albon has explained how focusing early on their 2023 car, with Capito still in charge last year, has probably helped with digesting the change at the top:
“Last year, we were in a transition period, where we were also focused on this year, so we did have a good lead up time to try to improve the car. It was quite a late change when everything started to move around and when James got announced to come on board. It seems like over the winter, the team’s done a very good job, regardless of having much direction, and they’ve clearly been able to adapt.
“I have to say, even though Jost and the group that did leave us has left us, they clearly had done a pass of this year’s car and so it feels like, come testing time, we were happier with the car. We didn’t feel like it was perfect but it was in a better position.”
In terms of the FW45 itself, it seems a positive step forward from its 2022 predecessor, and one that’s been easier to fine tune:
“As we’ve gone through the first few races I feel like we’ve just been able to dial in the car a bit better,” reveals Albon.
“Melbourne really showed that we really made another step. We still believe our car is very track dependent. It’s not so much that some tracks suit us but it’s more there are, on some tracks, some corners that don’t suit.
“So when we go to some tracks where there’s a bit too much of that going on, that’s when we fall down a little bit. When there’s a sequence of corners that we don’t have a true limitation on, or a circuit that we don’t really have a true limitation where maybe just one corner on the track is a limitation, we can be competitive.
“I think that showed in Melbourne and we had a good car in Jeddah as well but we didn’t really get to show it. We’re in a better place, we’ve got a better foundation, but we still need to keep going. There are still areas, creases, let’s say, in the car that we need to iron out, and I think that kind of stuff is a little bit more long term.”
All this in mind, Albon admits Williams have felt they might be able to achieve more in 2023 than they originally thought possible at the start of the campaign.
“We’ve already thought well, maybe we can aim a bit higher than perhaps what we were looking at the start of the year.
“My opinion on it is, for sure we started in a better position and now we have the opportunity to score points more regularly which we’re excited about. At the same time, some things we need to iron out and improve which are a little bit more long term. That was our intention a bit further down the line.
“So it’s a balance, to be a true midfield team and to be getting up there more, you still need to think slightly more long term.”
Look out for more of our exclusive chat with Alex Albon in the coming days!