The 2023 Formula 1 summer break is in full swing, presenting the opportunity to take stock of how each side’s season has unfolded ahead of the season’s resumption.
Williams has made positive strides so far this season, with the team capable of mixing it up in a competitive midfield pack.
However, it’s easy to forget that 30 years ago, when Red Bull’s domination was a mere dream of founder Dietrich Mateschitz, Williams was the dominant force in the sport.
Alain Prost drove his all-conquering FW15C on near auto-pilot (ironically, the only driver aid the car didn’t have) to a comfortable title in 1993, but those days are long gone and Williams has found itself at the opposite end of the pecking order in recent times.
After sliding to the bottom of the Constructors’ table in four out of the past five years, former Mercedes Strategy Director James Vowles has been tasked with the responsibility of resurrecting the side’s fortunes.
The British engineer’s calm and assured approach appears to have begun turning the tide already for the once-great team.
Williams has accrued 11 points from the first 12 rounds to find itself seventh in the Constructors’ Championship – a position that Alex Albon underlined the team would “have bitten your arm off for” at the start of the year.
Williams’ current points total is three more than they achieved in the entirety of last year, with every point score coming courtesy of Albon. His tenure at Williams post-Red Bull departure and subsequent F1 hiatus has been nothing short of a revelation and he has been the triumphant ‘David’ versus a grid of ‘Goliaths’ in the FW45 this season.
The Thai driver converted 15th place on the grid into 10th in the season opener to get the Grove-based outfit off to a points-scoring start for the first time since 2017. Following the debut of a heavily upgraded car, Albon then progressed to follow that up with seventh place in Canada and eighth place in Britain to elevate the team above Haas, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri.
However, rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant has endured a more difficult campaign as he adapts to the rigour of F1.
Without a point so far in his rookie season, Sargeant has been outperformed by his more experienced partner and he still waiting to outqualify Albon, having beaten him just once in race trim.
However, the FW45 is by no means one of the fastest cars on the grid, with Albon said to be getting the absolute maximum out of it and Sargeant narrowly missed out on the points at Silverstone with his best finish to date (11th).
If Sargeant can improve upon the first half of the season, there’s no reason for Williams not to be able to consolidate its position of seventh in the standings, with Vowles extremely confident that the team can manage to achieve its revised objective.
“P7 isn’t one lucky result, it’s the accumulation of this update working, and strong results in Montreal and here [in Britain],” he said.
While Williams’ expectations for the rest of the year are set firmly on fighting for seventh in the standings, the team already has one eye on the future.
Experienced head Pat Fry is set to join the team in November as Chief Technical Officer and Albon has already been laying the groundwork for next season’s car.
The road back to the dominance shared by Prost and Williams in 1993 will be long and arduous, but this former giant of F1 has already made tentative steps towards that ultimate goal this year and will look to continue its progression after the summer break.