Williams F1 team arrived at the Bahrain pre-season test with low expectations after finishing at the bottom of the 2022 championship. However, the team’s lead driver, Alex Albon, managed to secure a point after reaching Q2, indicating a promising start to the 2023 season. While neither Albon nor rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant managed to escape Q1 in Saudi Arabia, Albon only missed the cut-off by a tenth. The team is still expected to finish at the bottom this season, but its early pace looks promising, particularly for a team that has been without a technical director or head of aerodynamics since December following the departure of FX Demaison and David Wheater.
According to Dave Robson, Williams‘ head of vehicle performance, the team’s pace in Bahrain was a “nice surprise” despite being “one of the slower cars.” While Jeddah was expected to be more favorable to the team’s performance, the early days of the season have been unpredictable, with significant fluctuations in session and qualifying results. Nonetheless, Williams‘ early-season progress looks promising.
Robson reports that Williams made significant gains in comparison to last year, particularly regarding the car’s ability to perform at high-speed, low-downforce circuits like Monza, where Albon‘s understudy Nyck De Vries managed to secure ninth place. The team’s 2022 car lacked downforce but was a low-drag one-trick pony. Robson notes that the team worked hard to improve its weak points, and this improvement yielded a “reasonable step up in performance” this year. However, the team has only competed on two circuits so far, and Robson expects that the improvement will be less visible on other tracks.
It will be interesting to see how Williams progresses over the rest of the season, given its early promise, challenging track layouts, and the absence of key personnel. Nonetheless, the team’s Bahrain performance and Robson’s report suggest that it has a fighting chance to be more competitive this season compared to the previous one.