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TEAM PREVIEW: Everything you need to know about Williams as they gear up for 2024

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 02: Logan Sargeant of United States and Williams and Alexander Albon of

Williams might have a long and illustrious history in the sport, but the past few years haven’t always been kind to the former world champions. After a torrid time of it, 2023 showed sparks of a revival in form, spearheaded by the talented Alex Albon and the experienced hand of James Vowles. But will Williams continue that upward trajectory in 2024?

Drivers for 2024

Alex Albon #23: 2 podiums, 228 points, 81 starts
Logan Sargeant #2: 1 point, 22 starts

Williams have opted to continue with the experience of Albon coupled with the youth of Logan Sargeant into 2024, with the American the last man to confirm his seat for this season. He heads into his second year in Formula 1 knowing the pressure is on to start matching his team mate for performances, after Albon gave a masterclass in how to maximise every opportunity in 2023.

The Thai driver is a man in demand at the moment, having been excellent last season across a variety of track layouts and in all conditions. His career revival since spending a year on the sidelines in 2021 has been impressive to watch, but the big questions remain – were Red Bull wrong to let him go, and are they going to try and get him back?

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Albon and Sargeant will be in charge of delivering results with the FW46

Having started his career at Toro Rosso before moving to Red Bull, Albon’s current Williams contract has him at the team until the end of 2025. But with a seat at Mercedes up for grabs next year, could Toto Wolff be tempted to cut a deal with his close friend Vowles and tempt the Thai man away early?

As for Sargeant, he knows consistent points and less crashes are the order of the day in his sophomore year, while he’ll be keen to impress as he, once again, has three opportunities to make a name for himself on home soil.

READ MORE: ‘He’s like an octopus’ – Vowles names ‘most naturally talented’ driver he has worked with

Last season

Having finished 2022 last in the constructors’, and well adrift of ninth place, 2023 marked an upturn in form for Williams. Consistent point scoring from Albon carried them to seventh place overall, ahead of Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Haas.

Two seventh place finishes from Albon in Canada and at Monza helped hugely, with the Thai driver finishing in the points on seven occasions. Sargeant contributed just the one point after being promoted up to 10th place in Austin following the disqualification of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 20: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Williams prepares to drive in the

Albon spearheaded the Williams campaign last season

The FW45 proved to be good over one lap and retained the characteristics of being slippery in a straight line and thus hard to pass, with Monza the usual highlight for the team. But they proved they were not one trick ponies, picking up points at some less high-speed dominated tracks as well.

With James Vowles bringing all his Mercedes experience to the role of Team Principal, Williams seemed a settled unit in 2023 – and will try and build from that steady base in 2024.

READ MORE: RB have 'a point to prove' as Ricciardo sets out team's target for 2024

History

Where do you start with one of F1’s oldest and proudest teams. Williams were brought into being by the late, great Sir Frank Williams and have been competing in the sport since 1978. There have been plenty of successes along the way, with nine world championship titles to date – the last of those won back in 1997.

Add in seven drivers’ titles for the likes of Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve in the nineties, with earlier championships for Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet and Alan Jones, Williams have wracked up more silverware in the sport than anyone bar Ferrari and McLaren.

French Formula one driver Alain Prost holds his country's flag after clinching on Williams-Renault

Prost won the championship with Williams in 1993 before retiring from the sport

But lately things haven’t been going so well, with a steady decline down the order from 2016 onwards – with no wins now since Pastor Maldonado’s famously unexpected victory in Spain back in 2012. Things only got worse throughout 2018 and 2019, with the Williams family finally bowing out midway through 2020 and selling the team to Dorilton Capital.

But helped by strong drives from George Russell before he departed to Mercedes, and now Albon, Williams have turned their fortunes around to be firmly in the midfield conversation heading into 2024.

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Greatest Achievement

For a team with such an illustrious history, it is hard to pick just one. But perhaps in the annuals of F1 heartbreaks and fairy tales, the way in which Williams bounced back from the utter devastation of losing their new talisman Ayrton Senna in 1994 to claim the drivers’ world title in 1996 deserves a mention.

With Senna coming in to replace Prost for 1994, and having won both titles the previous year, Williams were the dominant force in F1 and sweeping all before them. But then came utter tragedy at Imola with the Brazilian great died whilst leading in just his third race for the team, and while Williams retained the constructors’ that year, the drivers’ title went to Michael Schumacher.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 07:  GP von AUSTRALIEN 1996 Melbourne; Michael SCHUMACHER/FERRARI

Hill was charged with taking the fight to Schumacher - which he did in 1996 to return to drivers' title to Williams

Forced to rebuild in the saddest of circumstances, the team put their faith in Damon Hill – and while no-one could ever fill Senna’s shoes, Hill put up a sterling performance in 1995 to controversially lose out on glory by just one point.

But both he and the team put two difficult seasons to bed with a championship-winning campaign in 1996, for the Briton’s only world title. Williams went on to win again the following year with Jacques Villeneuve, for their most recent drivers’ title to date.

BARRETTO: Williams would love to have Albon for the long term – but he’s hot property in F1

One key goal for 2024

While Williams were very good at taking their opportunities in 2023, one thing they do need if they are to climb up the order is for both cars to be scoring consistently.

So, their goal this year has to be to get Sargeant fully up to speed and more consistently matching Albon for performance both over one lap and during race days. The American rookie struggled for large stretches of last season, admitting to overdriving and trying too hard at times.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 04: 20th placed qualifier Logan Sargeant of United States Williams

Sargeant has been given a second chance to prove his worth in 2024

Towards the end of the year, he seemed to have found a better balance of how to extract pace without too much risk, with the big crashes that marred many of his race weekends seemingly put to bed. His qualifying also improved markedly, with the highlight being seventh place on the grid in Vegas.

In a cost-cap era, replacing parts and rebuilding cars can cost a team when it comes to time and money that has to be redistributed from developing next year’s car, so Sargeant keeping his weekends tidier will help Williams no end.

And if he can start scoring more points, that will help the team in what is expected to be a very tight constructors’ fight in the midfield.

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