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2023 Season Review - Williams

Written by Jenny Clynes, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

The 2023 F1 Season ended in November, and ever since, our Formula One writers have been hard at work, reviewing the drivers’ performances and rating them across a scale of ten. Our next review looks into the story of Williams’ much improved showing in 2023, their best season since 2017. 

Williams had a 2023 encompassing both woes and wonders, with a significant string of disappointing races, despite achieving seventh in the Constructors Championship, making the 2023 season their most successful since 2017. It was a season of new starts, a new team principal and new rookie driver joining the Grove-based team in 2023.

James Vowles left Mercedes to take on his new role as the Williams Formula One team principal, following Jost Capito’s departure at the end of 2022. Initially, Vowles stated that he wanted a “new challenge” and that is certainly what he got with this new role. 

Alongside Vowles, Logan Sargeant was another new face on the team. The 23-year-old American was announced to be Williams newest rookie ahead of the 2023 season, alongside Alexander Albon, now beginning his second season racing for the British team. 

Credit - Williams F1 on X

The season started with the annual trip to Bahrain for pre-season testing in February, an exciting weekend, not only because we got to see the FW45 in action for the first time, but we also got to see new rookie Logan Sargeant out on the track for the beginning of his debut Formula One season. 

Both Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant had pretty good first days back, with both of them making it into the top ten after day one. Sargeant wound up tenth, and impressively, was the fastest rookie of the session ahead of De Vries and Piastri. His hard work continued into the second day of the weekend as he put in a total of 154 laps — the most of anyone that day. He finished in a very good seventh place, splitting up the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. 

Williams continued to work the team hard on day three, Alex Albon completing 136 laps — again the most on the day. Albon had a more disappointing day, finishing 13th. But overall, the pre-season testing weekend was a relatively impressive one, with all smooth sessions minus a very minor electrical issue in the car in the last 15 minutes of day two. 

Vowles joined Williams in 2023; Credit - Williams F1 on X

The team started the season positively, with Albon making it into the points by coming tenth, and Sargeant just missing out on the points in his first F1 race by coming in 12th place. Again, Sargeant showed his skills, finishing highest among the rookies taking part in the race. 

The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a challenge for the British team, with Albon having to retire from the race on lap 27 due a suspected brake issue. Sergeant finished in P16 after starting from P20 due a hectic qualifying where he had his first lap time deleted, he spun out and had tough technical difficulties in his final lap. As a result, he did not manage to set a qualifying lap time. 

The next stop on the map was Melbourne for the fan favourite Australian Grand Prix, but the team faced another disappointing result, with Albon crashing into the barrier at turn eight early in the race. Thankfully, the Thai driver was physically fine, but was disappointed as he had started the race in an impressive eighth position. Sargeant finished in 16th place. 

The next three rounds at Azerbaijan, Miami, and Monaco brought no luck for the team, as they wound up a blank space in this trio of rounds, as Sargeant tackled his first home race of the season. 

The Canadian Grand Prix however, provided a significant glimmer of hope for Williams. Sargeant was unfortunately forced to retire after six laps of the race, however, teammate Albon was the star of the Grand Prix.

He managed to come in a magnificent seventh place, scoring the first points for the British team since the very first race of the season. Albon showed exceptional skills by fighting off a group of drivers through the majority of the race.

Albon finished a splendid seventh in Canada; Credit - Williams Racing on X

Albon continued to impress in Austria, just narrowly missing out on earning points for the team, finishing 11th, while Sargeant wasn’t far off his teammate, coming home 13th. 

The British Grand Prix was another impressive race for Albon where he came in eighth place in front of the team’s home crowd. Sargeant just narrowly missed out on earning points at Silverstone, finishing 11th on the road. The American’s bad luck continued into the Hungarian Grand Prix where he spun out and had to retire from the race, Albon only managed to achieve a frustrating 11th place. Things continued to go downhill for the team in Belgium, where neither drivers managed to score any points. 

However, things started to look up at the Dutch Grand Prix, Albon having an amazing qualifying, starting  fourth for the race, and Sargeant amazed everyone when he got into his first-ever Q3 session. Unfortunately for Sargeant, he crashed soon into the race and was unable to finish. Albon, on the other hand, scored a lovely eighth place, after a weekend that had everyone on the edge of their seats for Williams. 

Albon improved on this position in Italy where he finished in seventh place, Sargeant however, only managed to achieve P13. In the stunning Singapore night race, unfortunately the team failed to earn any points, and things only got worse for the team in Japan where both drivers did not finish the race. Sargeant crashed into Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Albon suffered significant damage to his car due to a collision with the Alfa Romeo team. 

The highly controversial Qatar Grand Prix saw Sargeant retire from the race after suffering from severe dehydration, and Albon backed up his points in the sprint race by finishing in 13th, but having to be taken straight to the medical office. 

After this very difficult race, the US Grand Prix was a complete juxtaposition, with both drivers managing to score points — the first double points for the team all season. Alex Albon came in eighth, but the ultimate star of the race was Logan Sargeant who managed to score his first ever points in Formula One, and making it even sweeter, it was in front of his home crowd. 

In Mexico, Sargeant had to retire from the race due to a fuel pump malfunction, while Albon continued to score, finishing ninth. In São Paulo, it was another unfinished race for a Williams driver, but this time it was Albon who failed to finish, after a collision with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Sargeant finished yet again in a highly frustrating 11th place - almost touching on the points. 

The season’s penultimate race was the much anticipated first ever Las Vegas Grand Prix, however despite the excitement surrounding the spectacle, it was an unglamorous race for the team, as they failed to score any points. The final race of the season, and the FW45, was just as uneventful for the team, as they were unable to score any points. 

The seventh place finish of Williams in the Constructors championship is their best result since 2015, and a large source of credit for this finish is their 2023 car: the FW45. This car has immense straight line speeds due to the manipulation of the FW45’s aerodynamics to reduce the drag, and accelerate the speeds of the car on a track’s straights. 

Just before the Canadian Grand Prix, significant upgrades were made including a new floor design and a new curvature of the car’s sidepods, aiming to improve the car’s attempts to take on corners. When Albon had his glorious Canadian finish, he himself owed a lot of credit to this new design. 

The greatest weakness of the team however is that in terms of finances and resources, the team is far behind the other Formula One teams such as McLaren and Mercedes. Therefore, their advancements may ultimately be behind the other teams for this reason. 

However, this does make​​ their partially successful year even more sweet, especially their immense double-points at the US Grand Prix, the only race where they achieved this result. 

Cumulative Rating: 6.3/10

Credit - Williams F1 on X

Alex Albon

It was Alex Albon’s second season with Williams, and it is safe to say his performance was nothing short of impressive, the Thai driver scoring a total of 27 points for the team, resulting in their best Constructors finish since 2015. It was his first year as the lead driver for the team, and he has certainly proven to be a role model for his rookie teammate. 

Strengths: Albon’s strength this season definitely came from his sheer tactical strength, something he displayed time and time again. This can be seen most prominently in the Canadian Grand Prix, when he finished in a remarkable seventh place.

Albon went straight into fighting for his position from lights out at the Montreal Circuit, and for the majority of the Grand Prix, spent his time steadily battling with cars of both similar and better pace, the likes of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and the two McLarens, and he managed to achieve this without losing his cool or making any significant mistakes. 

Weakness: Albon’s weakness however, has to be his lack of consistency throughout the season. His finishes seem to be almost a rollercoaster of not finishing races, having an amazing result, or having a not-so-amazing result. 

It is clear  Albon is a very skilled driver, with masses of potential, however both he and his team need to improve on facilitating Albon to have a more consistent streak of finishes throughout the season. 

Best Race: Canadian Grand Prix: Albon managed to perfectly execute a one stop strategy, while taking amazing care of his tyres throughout the race, fending off four cars behind him when he was on significantly older tyres, finishing seventh on the road.

Cumulative Rating: 7.86/10

Logan Sargeant

Credit - Williams F1 on X

Logan Sargeant

It was Logan Sargeant’s rookie season in Formula One, having been signed at the end of 2022. It is safe to say that the 2023 season was a tough one to be a rookie, with the controversy around the replacing of Nyck de Vries and the competition of the incredible rookie Oscar Piastri. Logan Sargeant fell in between these two on the spectrum of 2023 rookies. 

Overall, it wasn’t the greatest season for the 23-year-old American driver, but it did have its highs. His best race was without a doubt the US Grand Prix where he managed to achieve his first ever Formula One points. This was an incredible day for Sargeant himself, but also for American racing fans, as he became the first driver to score points in Formula One since 1993. 

Strengths: Sargeant’s strength however, has to be his overall resilience and strength. His first points scored did not come until the last few races of the season but he never lost sight of his goals despite all of the disappointing results that came before the US Grand Prix. His season did overall end on a high, when in December his continuity with the team for the 2024 season was announced. 

Weakness: Sargeant’s overall weakness shown in his first season was definitely qualifying, where he always seemed to struggle to get out of Q1. When he managed to get into Q3 for the first time, he unfortunately crashed out. His inability to grant himself a solid position in qualifying is ultimately what hinders his chances of achieving a good result in the race as he simply gives himself and his team too much work to do on the day. 

Best Race: US Grand Prix, finishing 12th before disqualifications ahead promoted him to tenth, and his first point in Formula One

Cumulative Rating: 3.5/10

To sum up the 2023 Williams season: It was one of hope. Hope for the future return of what once was one of the greatest teams in Formula One. Hope for Alex Albon showing off his true undeniable skill and ultimately deserves his seat in Formula One. 

Finally, hope for rookie Logan Sargeant to learn and improve his strategy, and skills to equip the Williams team with some of the most prominent new talent in Formula One. It is ultimately extremely exciting to see what lies ahead for the iconic team in 2024. 


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