END OF YEAR REPORT: Progress for Williams as they look to build on a promising 2023 campaign
Williams’ 2023 season was one of progress, having gone from last in 2022 to seventh in the constructors' championship this time around – their best result since finishing fifth in 2017. But the main takeaway is there are signs that, under the leadership of James Vowles, the team's future is very bright. Here is their end of year report...
Alex Albon – 7th in Canada and Italy
Alex Albon was one of the star performers on the grid in 2023 as he regularly drove the wheels off the FW45, often capitalising on the slippery nature of the car to score points at tracks that suited it.
Montreal was a prime example, where he used his updated car – and the long straights – to hold off a pack of cars, including Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll, for a number of laps in the closing stages to finish seventh.
It was a case of deja vu at Monza, where he performed brilliantly to qualify sixth. He made that count on Sunday, but only after he was forced to get his elbows out and defend tirelessly from the quicker McLaren of Lando Norris in a multi-lap battle towards the end of the affair.
Alex Albon 22-0 Logan Sargeant
Williams were often at their strongest on a Saturday and, each and every single weekend this year, Albon proved to be the lead driver in blue, as he comfortably had the measure over his rookie team mate, Logan Sargeant, in qualifying.
Statistically, Albon was the 13th best qualifier on the grid this year and made it into Q3 on seven occasions, with his best result coming in Zandvoort where he lined up in fourth.
As for Sargeant, despite the scoreline, he steadily improved his one lap pace as the season went on and actually got closer to Albon towards the back end of the season. His best result came in the penultimate race of the year in Las Vegas, where he qualified seventh – his second Q3 appearance after Zandvoort.
Alex Albon 18-2 Logan Sargeant
Albon also held a sizeable advantage over Sargeant in race trim, as whenever both drivers took the chequered flag, the Thai racer was always the lead Williams.
As previously mentioned, his best finishes came in Montreal and Monza, where he placed seventh, but he also scored points in five other races – Bahrain, Silverstone, Zandvoort, Austin, and Mexico City.
As for Sargeant, he had to wait till later in the year, in Austin, before he scored his maiden points finish – taking advantage of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc being disqualified to make it into the top-10.
There are a number of highlights from Williams’ impressive season with both drivers making it into Q3 in Zandvoort and Las Vegas definitely up there.
But points on a Sunday are always important and Albon’s heroic defensive drives to seventh in Canada and Italy will live long in the memory for Williams. Those performances accounted for nearly half of Williams’ 28 points that helped them seal P7 in the championship.
The Japanese Grand Prix was one to forget for Williams as both drivers were forced to retire from the race after sustaining damage from earlier collisions. However, their problems started before then, when Sargeant crashed out in Q1.
Williams were forced to rebuild his car, but the American had to start from the pit lane and was given a 10-second time penalty after it was adjudged that the team had built him a third car. While he did get racing, a few laps in he was given an additional five-second penalty for colliding with Valtteri Bottas.
Albon also collided with Bottas, but at the start, with the Thai racer a passenger as the Alfa Romeo driver was pushed into the side of his Williams by the Alpine of Ocon. He was able to continue but the damage to his car was just too much for him to finish the race.
James Vowles has made it clear that he is building for the long term with Williams and, while short term improvement is great, it is all about making sure the team is set up for success for the next few years.
However, they have plenty of positive momentum from this season to build on heading into 2024. Their main priority is to make sure that their car is an all-rounder, meaning that it is competitive in all types of circuits and not just in low downforce tracks.
As well as that, Williams will need both drivers fighting up there next year, which means Sargeant must continue to develop as the team looks to make further progress up the championship order next year.
If they can marry these two together, along with Albon’s incredible pace, Williams could be a team to be reckoned with next season.