Williams F1 must seize opportunities to avoid last place
Williams F1 team is determined to capitalize on missed opportunities to avoid the bottom of the championship. Despite missing out on potential points during the second weekend of the 2023 season, the team remains confident in their car’s performance, which has brought them closer to the midfield than last year.
Although the results on paper suggest a dip in form after a strong start, Williams recognizes that it missed a valuable chance during the second 2023 Formula 1 weekend. In contrast, Alex Albon surpassed the team’s pre-season expectations by securing a point in the Bahrain season opener, making the Jeddah weekend quite different.
During the Saudi Arabia qualifying session, both Albon and Logan Sargeant were unable to advance past Q1. Sargeant had a particularly difficult time, as his qualifying session was marked by errors, and he was unable to set a representative lap time.
However, both drivers were able to make some progress during the race. Albon managed to move up to 12th place after the safety car restart, but unfortunately, he experienced issues with his brakes and was forced to retire. Additionally, he lost a position to Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas after getting too much wheelspin.
As a rookie, Sargeant had difficulty managing his tires during the race, which led to him finishing as the third-to-last car on the road. On the last lap, Oscar Piastri’s McLaren was able to overtake him, and he only narrowly managed to beat out Lando Norris in a close finish to the line.
Williams and its drivers believed that they could have achieved more during the Saudi Arabia race weekend and that there wasn’t a drop in pace compared to the Bahrain race.
According to the team’s head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, there were many positives to take away from the weekend, but they missed out on a chance to score more points. He also noted that the team must make improvements to compete in a closely contested midfield.
Despite being at the back of the tightly contested midfield and having the slowest supertimes in both weekends so far, Williams is still capable of challenging the midfield pack when everything comes together, as it did in Bahrain.
When asked about his “really tough weekend” in Jeddah, Albon disagreed and stated that there were many positives to take from it. He noted that the car felt the best it had since his time driving at Williams, which was a positive development. However, it was frustrating that they couldn’t use the car’s potential during the weekend.
Albon acknowledged that they didn’t quite get the qualifying right, but he felt that the team was back to where they usually are during the race.
Although Albon has only driven two Williams cars, it is evident that this year’s FW45 has brought the team much closer to the midfield than last year’s challenger ever did.
Williams has yet to realize the full potential of their car in qualifying. Albon’s chances of making it into Q3 in Bahrain were hampered by damage to his car, which he believes cost him a shot at a better qualifying result. In Jeddah, Sargeant appeared to be on track to beat Albon and advance to Q2 before making multiple errors that ruined his qualifying session.
Albon was much more confident during the final practice session held during the day in Saudi Arabia, and he was confused as to why he struggled so badly during qualifying, which resulted in him finishing in 17th place.
Albon commented that the Williams car has been quick every time they’ve been out on track, except for qualifying. He noted that the car felt really good, but they need to assess it further. In Bahrain, the car came to them during the night with low track temperatures, which suited their setup. However, in Jeddah, the opposite happened, and the track conditions went against them, resulting in the car’s performance declining during qualifying.
Albon noted that he set the same lap time during qualifying as he did in FP3. However, in qualifying, there are other factors such as fuel loads and engine modes that can affect the car’s performance and lap time. He explained that it was difficult to perform well when the grip wasn’t there, and there were many moments of instability during the lap. Overall, Albon found the situation frustrating.
If Williams can take advantage of the one-lap opportunities that it missed in the first two races, it has the potential to surpass its meager total of two Q3 appearances from last year.
In 2022, the team secured its first point at Albert Park when Albon made his way to 10th place with the help of an unorthodox strategy after being disqualified from qualifying. This demonstrates that the team has the potential to perform well with the right strategy and execution.
While Bahrain showed that Williams may not necessarily need an unorthodox strategy to contend for points this year, it remains to be seen whether the FW45 can maintain its strong pace on high-downforce circuits, where it struggled last year. The team will need to continue developing the car and executing races effectively to capitalize on their potential and compete with the midfield pack.
As Robson noted, Williams cannot afford to miss any more good opportunities when the tracks are well-suited to the FW45. In such a closely contested midfield, where the difference in points between midfield rivals in the constructors’ championship is likely to be small, every point matters.
Unlike in 2022, where their performance from weekend to weekend had little impact on their final position in the standings, Williams has returned to the (bottom of the) midfield in 2023. Therefore, these types of weekends where they have a chance to score points can make all the difference in avoiding finishing last in the championship for the fifth time in six years.
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