Despite Formula One being dominated by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen the 2023 season has been full of intrigue and surprise amongst the rest of the field.
Aston Martin were the shock best of the rest as the season got under way and Fernando Alonso has claimed seven podiums which is the combined total achieved by the Ferrari and Mercedes teams.
Williams make big leap forward
McLaren have made one of the biggest mid season leaps forward the modern era of F1 with the Woking based team scoring more points than any other team from Austria to this weekends event in Monza.
Since Zandvoort the focus has shifted to Williams marked progress with Alex Albon claiming P4 during qualifying amongst the sand dunes. The Thai-British driver converted this into a four points finish during the race though Williams team strategy left a lot to be desired.
Speaking in Monza ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, the Williams team boss James Vowles gave an extensive interview to Sky Sports F1 where he discussed the improvements in the car and the future of both his drivers.
“At the beginning of the season we weren’t on the pace, scratching around at the back and the point we scored in Bahrain was by blocking a number of teams,” noted Vowles.
Williams now overtaking competitors
This strategy of getting ahead of the competition in qualifying and holding position during the race has been deployed by Williams for most of the season to date.
“The team did a great job in Silverstone and Montreal to keep that strategy up,” added Vowles because, “there was a number of cars behind us.”
However in Zandvoort, there was a marked difference in the approach of the Williams team who should have seen both their drivers finish the race inside the top ten.
“In the Netherlands it was the first time you’ve seen us properly there on merit, not holding cars up but but actually overtaking cars on track and fighting for position,” stated the Williams team principal.
“But we didn’t do a great job we left points on the table. That’s a good feeling to have. I’m disappointed of course but I want us to be disappointed now when we’re in the points and to want more and more.”
FW45 upgrade from Canada coming good
However unlike the recent McLaren upgrade of their MCL60 car which is delivering at a range of different circuits, Williams accept they have some way to go before they perform consistently from week to week.
“We’re on the right pathway but we’re also very conscious that what happened in Zandvoort isn’t something that’s going to be repeated necessarily at all high downforce circuits remaining,” added Vowles.
“We got our car into 4th position in qualifying which is not necessarily where it was on merit but a great job by Alex and Logan just putting himself in P10 which was fine but I think he had more on the table.”
The transformation of Williams FW45 car in fact began some races ago with their biggest upgrade of the season at thew Canadian Grand Prix.
“Albon here for the long term”
“We put quit a bit of performance on the car in Montreal but I don’t think we extracted the full amount from that package. What we’ve been doing since then is turning up at and at Zandvoort with a package that’s incredibly well balanced,” revealed James Vowles.
He explained the Simulation product has improved and is now much closer to “real life”, the tyre modelling engineers have also found a more predictable model and Vowles believes his biggest achievement since joining the team in January has been to get all the various divisions communicating better than in previous years.
Vowles was questioned over the future of his drivers which he inherited from the previous Williams boss Jost Capito.
“Alex is here for the long term, I can tell you that already. In terms of Logan, he’s on the right path to developing – he has to just keep stepping it up race on race.”
Sargeant embarrassed in Zandvoort
Logan Sargeant crashed out of the race in Zandvoort on lap 17 and reported something had failed on the FW45 as he hit the curb heavily at turn 9. The American unusually refused to return to the Williams garage preferring to spend the rain soaked afternoon sat at a nearby Marshal’s point.
On the topic of his rookie American driver, James Vowles side stepped the question whether Sargeant would remain with the team for 2024.
“Its more about working with him like we did with George back then and less so about contracts,” said the Williams boss.
“The comments I’ve given him are ‘you’re not here just because we want you here – you have to earn your place.’”
Sargeant fails again in Monza
“‘This is the pinnacle of motorsport and what I’m asking from you is to follow this general guidance, follow this development path and keep moving forward relative to Alex and there’s a place for you herewith your name on it.”
“‘Before then there’s points with your name on it. Some were available at Zandvoort if everything had fallen perfectly, there is this weekend as well,” Vowles concluded in less than a positive fashion.
Sargent has the worst team mate comparison of all the current F1 drivers this year and over the 13 races completed has failed to c lose the gap on his team mate Alex Albon.
In FP2 practice in Monza, Sargeant finished the session more than three quarters of a second behind Albon and nine places back in just p16.
Sergio Perez goes off track and brings out the red flag as he stays in the gravel 🚩 pic.twitter.com/EB2EJF5sGN
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) September 1, 2023