As we approach the 2024 Formula 1 season, Williams Racing is set to embrace a significant shift in their car design philosophy. After a year where straight-line speed was their hallmark, the team is now channeling its focus towards mastering the art of cornering. This strategic pivot is not just a change in technical direction, but a bold statement about Williams Racing’s adaptability and their pursuit of competitive excellence in the ever-evolving landscape of Formula 1.
In 2023, their car, renowned for its blistering pace on the straights, showcased the team’s engineering prowess. However, 2024 is poised to be a year where agility and finesse in corners become the cornerstones of their design ethos, potentially rewriting their racing narrative and challenging the established norms of Formula 1 performance.
This achievement is particularly notable given Williams’ decision to halt development on their F1 car from mid-season onwards. The focus shifted towards the next year’s car, opting for a short-term sacrifice for medium-term gains. Albon finds encouragement in Williams’ current trajectory, which appears promising.
Williams’ Gradual Development in 2024
“We are on the right track. In 2022, we had a car that was too sensitive,” Albon reflects.
The FW45, however, remained inconsistent: swift on fast tracks but sluggish on slower ones, with exceptions such as Zandvoort, Albon continues.
“There were very specific corners we didn’t like. We were highly competitive on tracks requiring low aerodynamic downforce, making it hard for us to consistently perform.”
“Brazil is a classic example of a difficult circuit for us. Similarly, Zandvoort is a track where we shouldn’t be fast on paper… but we were.”
“This year, 2023, has been very interesting for us because we focused more on understanding our car than the year before.”
“When the tracks are cold and the tires overheat, that’s a problem. We now understand our car better, so a major priority for 2024 is to see how we can improve tire cooling and focus on that aspect.”
A Williams that’s slower in straights but faster in corners this year?
Yet, to gain performance, one must also be willing to lose some: indeed, the Williams FW46 is expected to involve a compromise. Top speed might be sacrificed to enhance cornering speed…
“We obviously understand that our car is competitive in straight lines. Can we retain some of that competitiveness? No, not in a certain way. It’s a huge advantage to have this car that’s difficult to overtake and fast on certain tracks.”
“But can we be adaptable enough? This year, can we go to tracks like Brazil, Zandvoort, or Monaco and have a car that can also be fast on these circuits?”
“I find this very exciting because we achieved a good result, a result we didn’t really expect at the start of the year.”
“In 2023, our sole objective was to prepare for the following year. From the free practice sessions, we started focusing on the coming year. Time will tell, we won’t achieve perfection right away.”
“We experimented throughout the year, giving up many FP1 sessions to focus on ideas, on compromises to make for 2024. We are therefore putting ourselves in the best possible position.”
Williams’ Steady Advance: Albon’s Patience
Williams is indeed making progress, but the improvements are expected to be incremental rather than dramatic next year. Alexander Albon is aware of this and knows patience is key. Is he prepared for it?
“As a driver, you have to look at things from two perspectives. Every driver doesn’t look very far ahead. The length of our career, our competitiveness, and our desires don’t always align with a team’s long-term plan.”
“But you perfectly understand that. We’re not going to turn the car around in one year and be content to fight with Red Bull. There’s so much to do.”
“James Vowles understands better than anyone how far behind we are in certain areas. It would be foolish for James to say ‘next year, I’m going to be able to build a car that will fight for victories.’ That never happens.”
“The fact that he’s realistic gives me confidence. But at the same time, I feel like I’m driving well. I feel like I’m in a position where I deserve to be fighting for podiums and, hopefully, for victories.”
James Vowles will truly be judged in 2024 at Williams
Alexander Albon seems completely aligned with the vision of his team director James Vowles: in his working method, his personality…
“Being totally realistic, there were only a few things James could improve in 2023. Much of the car was designed the previous year. We have a fairly long build time for our cars.”
“We’re trying to make big steps, not small ones, we’re not making small evolutions every weekend, as you see with the top teams, because we still have a lot to accomplish.”
“James has the same approach. So the coming year will be the real year when we’ll see what James has brought to the team.”
“Of course, he’s already brought things to this team. His character, as a person, his way of speaking and communicating with the team, his understanding of the tires, the engine, and the aerodynamics we were able to implement this year…
“But there are limits to what one can do. That’s why the biggest steps will occur in 2024 and beyond. I’m quite confident about that.”
F1 Williams’ Incremental Progress 2024. Williams’ Incremental Progress 2024. Williams’ Incremental Progress 2024