Williams’ Bahrain Performance: A Sign of Things to Come or a One-Off Fluke?
Williams surprised many at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix by earning a point, despite starting from the back of the grid.
Lead driver Alex Albon and rookie driver Logan Sargeant put in impressive performances, with the team’s new boss, James Vowles, describing the result as a dream come true.
However, while Williams is buoyed by the positive result, they remain grounded and focused on their long-term goals of being competitive in 2024 and 2025.
The aim for Williams, according to lead driver Alex Albon, was to improve their position in Bahrain and move up from their current last place to closer to ninth.
Achieving this would have required a significant number of incidents affecting other cars and teams, which would be highly unlikely in the current era of improved reliability and operational expertise in F1.
However, despite these odds, Williams managed to finish in the points at the end of a relatively uneventful race, with only one virtual safety car interruption that some might argue actually hindered their performance instead of aiding it.
In addition, the Williams team had an impressive showing with their rookie driver Logan Sargeant’s car finishing under 10 seconds behind the lead car.
Williams’ new team boss, James Vowles, expressed his delight at the team’s performance in the post-race debrief, stating that it was a dream come true to walk away from the first race with a point.
He added that the point was well-deserved and hard-fought, and it gives the team an opportunity to build on in future races. Vowles also highlighted that their focus was initially on establishing a strong foundation and developing a good car, and achieving a point in the first race was beyond their expectations just a few weeks ago.
Indeed, Williams’ achievement was aided by some external factors. The failure of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari triggered the virtual safety car (VSC) that allowed Pierre Gasly of the Alpine team to overtake Alex Albon of Williams.
Additionally, Esteban Ocon, Gasly’s teammate, had multiple interactions with the stewards, which also played a role in the outcome. On the first lap, Nico Hulkenberg of the Haas team compromised his own race by colliding with Ocon’s Alpine, causing damage to his car’s front wing.
Despite these external factors, the events that took place during the race are more or less within the usual range of what happens during a GP. This has given Alex Albon confidence that the Williams FW45 has the potential to become a regular points-scorer in future races.
He believes that the point earned in Bahrain is a more accurate reflection of the car’s capability than the top-10 finishes they had last year, which were largely due to strategic decisions. Although Williams’ qualifying position was not significantly better than in 2022, Albon believes that the team could have made it to Q3 if not for the front-wing damage.
He also pointed out that their Q1 time was already an improvement, indicating a clear single-lap improvement.
Williams’ improvement in their lap time during qualifying was the third-most significant in the field, only behind Aston Martin and Haas.
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This improvement supports Albon’s claim that Williams is second in terms of year-on-year progress. Albon was particularly proud of the team’s performance, given that they were running a low-downforce setup, which made it even more challenging.
Despite this, the Williams car performed well, especially in comparison to Haas, which struggled with tire wear during the race.
While the FW45’s specific low-downforce setup was somewhat extreme, there is a general consensus that the car, like its predecessor, is designed to be a low-downforce, low-drag type of car.
According to Albon, the Williams car has a unique characteristic compared to most of the other teams in that it is designed to be slippery on straights and less quick on corners. Despite this, the team has managed to make this setup work for them.
This characteristic has made team members look forward to tracks like Spa and Monza, which have fewer corners and longer straights.
However, trackside observations during the race weekend at Sakhir showed that the car still has limitations at low speeds, particularly at the challenging Turn 10, where the team was observed as being the most conservative on entry.
Similar to the FW44, the new Williams car is reportedly sensitive to wind and other conditions, although to a lesser extent than before.
This sensitivity to conditions means that the team may have been in a particularly favorable window in Bahrain, which could be difficult to replicate in other races.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Williams’ new team boss, James Vowles, acknowledges the need to temper expectations.
While the team’s performance in Bahrain was impressive, Vowles emphasizes the importance of keeping their feet on the ground and not getting too carried away.
He notes that there were specific conditions that suited the team’s car, and not all of the other teams were able to perform at their best on race day. As a result, it’s difficult to predict which teams Williams will be able to compete with in the 2023 season.
Based on their performance in Bahrain, teams such as Alpine and Alfa Romeo will likely be ahead of Williams in most races, as Williams benefited from specific conditions that suited their car.
However, teams such as Haas, AlphaTauri, and McLaren were clearly within reach for Williams, either due to specific race pace deficiencies or a general lack of performance. As a result, Williams could potentially compete with these teams in future races, but it’s important to keep in mind that the results may vary depending on the specific conditions and circumstances of each race.
According to Vowles, Williams is likely to be in a battle with the bottom three teams. While there may be extenuating circumstances that impacted these teams’ performance in Bahrain, Williams is not standing still and has identified areas for improvement in the short term.
Albon also believes that the team has some developments in the pipeline that can push them forward in the next few races.
As a result, the new Williams team boss is trying to balance the Bahrain-earned optimism with a continued long-term optimism.
While Bahrain was a great result for the team, there is still a long way to go, and the team must continue to work hard and improve if they want to achieve sustained success.
Vowles acknowledges that the teams Williams beat in Bahrain are strong and will likely come back stronger in future races. However, he is also confident that Williams can fight for the remainder of the season and couldn’t be happier with their performance in Bahrain.
Despite the positive result, Vowles emphasizes that the team’s long-term goals remain unchanged. Williams is focused on investing in the right tools, capabilities, and systems to ensure they are competitive in 2024 and 2025.
As a result, the team must balance their development for this year against their long-term goals. While Williams will continue to pick up every point they can along the way, their primary focus remains on their long-term strategy.
Williams’ Bahrain Performance: A Sign of Things to Come or a One-Off Fluke? Williams’ Bahrain Performance: A Sign of Things to Come or a One-Off Fluke? Williams’ Bahrain Performance: A Sign of Things to Come or a One-Off Fluke? Williams’ Bahrain Performance: A Sign of Things to Come or a One-Off Fluke? Williams’ Bahrain Performance: A Sign of Things to Come or a One-Off Fluke?
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