RACE DEBRIEF

    Williams once dominated Formula 1, but the legendary team ended 2022 at the bottom of the constructors’ championship. With new leadership incoming, and a new driver at the wheel, can they claw their way back up?

    Drivers for 2023

    Logan Sargeant #2: Debut season
    Alex Albon #23: 2 podiums, 201 points, 44 Grand Prix starts

    Alex Albon is a product of the Red Bull Junior Team, with the 26-year-old (27 on March 23) finishing third in the 2018 F2 Championship before being called up to Toro Rosso and then Red Bull proper, where he took two podiums in 2020 before being dropped for 2021. After a year on the sidelines, he joined the Mercedes-powered Williams team in 2022.

    Logan Sargeant makes his F1 debut, and will be the first American driver on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015.

    Sargeant, who finished fourth in the 2022 F2 championship, chose #2 as his permanent number after his post-season test with Williams last year.

    Formula One World Championship
    Albon (L) is joined by Sargeant (R) for the 2023 campaign, as Nicholas Latifi has departed Williams

    Last season

    Williams didn’t enjoy their finest campaign in 2022, the team scoring eight points with Nicholas Latifi, Alex Albon and – for one race – Nyck de Vries at the wheel.

    The team scored sporadically throughout and ended up 27 points behind ninth-place AlphaTauri, which marked a difficult start to the new era of F1.

    At the end of 2022, they parted ways with Team Principal Jost Capito and Technical Director FX Demaison, both of whom spent two years in their respective positions.

    HEAD-TO-HEAD: Which drivers came out on top in the battle of the 2022 team mates?

    Formula One World Championship
    De Vries and Latifi both had a best finish of P9 for Williams in 2022

    History

    Williams Grand Prix Engineering were founded in 1978 by Frank Williams and Patrick Head and, in 1980, they took their first titles with Alan Jones at the wheel. The constructors’ crown came again in 1981 before Keke Rosberg sealed his first and only drivers’ title in 1982.

    Team owner Frank Williams was seriously injured in a road car accident in 1986, but he continued to lead the team through a successful decade that saw Nelson Piquet take the title in ’87 and Williams clinch two further constructors’ crowns.

    The 1990s continued a golden era for Williams in which Nigel Mansell won the 1992 title before Alain Prost won in '93, but the following year’s constructors’ win was dampened by the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola. Damon Hill took the title in '96 and Williams took their eighth constructors’ crown, repeating the feat in '97 with Jacques Villeneuve coming out top.

    543898464
    Alain Prost and Williams won the titles in 1993

    As the new millennium dawned, Williams fell behind the dominant Ferrari team to whom they finished runners-up in 2003, despite a huge improvement that year. Then came something of a slump as years of BMW, Cosworth and Toyota power couldn’t bring Williams back into the fray.

    Sir Frank Williams led the team until 2012 before passing the role onto his daughter, Claire Williams, who became Deputy Team Principal in 2013 – her tenure ending in 2020.

    READ MORE: Sir Frank Williams, 1942-2021 – F1’s champion-maker remembered

    Mercedes’ power units helped Williams finish third overall at the start of the hybrid era in 2014, but the team finished last in the 2018 and '19 standings and ended 2020 without a point for the first time in their history.

    New ownership in the form of Dorilton Capital helped secure the team’s future in 2020, but Sir Frank William’s death in November 2021 cast a long shadow over the British giants.

    Greatest achievement

    World Championships. Williams scored nine constructors’ and seven drivers’ titles, with their last double title win coming in 1997 as Jacques Villeneuve triumphed over Michael Schumacher in a heated battle.

    645091713
    Sir Frank Williams led the team until 2012

    This season

    Williams have been in a transitional period for a while now, and while they improved to P8 in the 2021 championship, they couldn’t match that last season.

    The departure of two key personnel – team boss Capito and technical chief Demaison – have left Williams with crucial vacancies as they try and claw back performance in this new era of F1. However, a key piece of that puzzle was added when it was announced that former Mercedes strategy guru James Vowles had signed up as Williams’ new Team Principal, after 13 years with the Silver Arrows.

    ANALYSIS: Why Williams made Mercedes’ James Vowles their new Team Principal

    Driver-wise, Sargeant will need some time to get up to speed, but Albon is in pole position to lead the team as they hope to build on the slight momentum of 2022.