Williams face ‘experimentation’ to find path for 2024
By Ian Parkes
Friday 9th June, 2023 - 3:45pm
Williams team principal James Vowles has warned there will be considerable experimentation required with this season’s car to ensure the right path is taken for 2024.
After playing a key role in Mercedes’ recent dominance of F1, Vowles has taken on a role within a team he concedes is going to take “multiple years” for it to simply be a regular midfield runner.
Alex Albon’s 10th-place finish in the season-opening race in Bahrain has so far been the highlight of a difficult campaign in which Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya highlighted the weaknesses of the FW45.
“The characteristics of the circuit, high downforce, and with a high-speed corner content, was never going to suit the package we had,” said Vowles, speaking to Speedcafe.
“So it was a difficult weekend but that wasn’t a surprise. If you look at last year, I think there was about a two-and-a-half-second gap, and we’ve got it down to a second and a half.
“And I think actually being ahead of a few teams was better than I expected, based on the performance in qualifying.”
Albon finished 16th, ahead of Lando Norris in his McLaren, the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
Norris was, however, compromised by a first-lap collision with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton that necessitated an immediate pit stop for a front-wing change, whilst Bottas later revealed his car had sustained significant damage that cost aero performance.
With Logan Sargeant finishing last after qualifying 20th, the result from Spain leaves Williams at the foot of the constructors’ standings with only Albon’s point from Bahrain to its name.
In terms of the steps required for the remainder of this season that will at least help Williams get itself into a more competitive position for next year, Vowles added: “The main thing is, there’s still a lot of learning and experimentation we need to be doing with this car and this package to make sure we understand the direction that we’re poised to go next year is correct.
“For Canada and Austria (the next two grands prix), we’re back on to a rear-wing level that’s the middle rear-wing level, and I think you’ll see the car fly more as a result of it.
“I think you’ll see us more competitive. Clearly, most people don’t move up and down the way we do. We’ve got to fix that.”
For Williams, these are baby steps being taken at present in what is a long-term project for Vowles given what he has inherited.
“The car we have here is a reflection of the work of the winter, the work of last year, not a reflection of the steps that we need to move forward with,” he remarked.
“I don’t think my timeline has changed, but to completely lay it out, it’s not in one year or two years that I think we’re going to put ourselves onto a track where we’re really properly into the midfield, it’s multiple years.
“Because simply the infrastructure alone, just building that, will be 18 months from today if we broke ground now.”