Williams now aware of ‘state of the art’ meaning
By Ian Parkes
Tuesday 13th June, 2023 - 2:36am
Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson has credited James Vowles for showing the team “what start of the art genuinely looks like” but also appreciating the timescale involved to attain such a goal.
Vowles’ appointment as team principal earlier this year has appeared to be an eye-opening experience for all involved inside Williams.
Vowles has brought with him a skillset from his time with Mercedes that is proving invaluable as the team attempts to slowly regain a degree of competitiveness long missing from the organisation.
Williams has finished last in the constructors’ championship in four of the last five seasons, and currently finds itself again at the foot of the standings this year, collecting just one point from seven grands prix.
Vowles has already made clear Williams faces a long road to haul itself out of the mire, with Robson insisting there is “complete confidence” in what he is doing.
But Robson additionally warned: “The timescales that are involved in actually seeing the real progress may take us beyond 2024.
“There’s quite a lot of rebuilding and restructuring (required), as he said, and I think getting his experience of what state of the art genuinely looks like has been quite enlightening.
“While it does mean there’s a lot to do, and probably more to do than we thought, he’s set in motion all the right things. But there’s going to be a gestation period to all of that.”
At present, these are baby steps for Williams, with Vowles recently confirming to Speedcafe that his team is still trying to find the right development direction with its current car to take it into next season, but there is considerable experimentation required.
As to what the team is simply hoping to achieve by the end of this year on which it can build for next, Robson said: “It still just comes back to the learning. That’s still the most important thing.
“It’s about understanding some of the subtleties which you can get at some of the corners here (referencing Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya) as to why the car doesn’t behave as the drivers would like it to.
“And then taking that back to base and understanding what it is we need to do to make it work. I think we’ve got a reasonably good idea, but obviously making it actually happen is not easy.”
Whilst the current picture might look bleak for Williams, Robson was at least able to draw on a small degree of comfort in that the FW45 has gained ground on the teams ahead.
Returning to a more ‘normal’ circuit for the Spanish Grand Prix after racing on a run of street tracks, and bearing in mind the differences made to the layout with the removal of the chicane in the final sector between last year’s event and this year’s race, Robson remarked the percentage step season on season was “not too bad”.
He added: “We obviously use the track, probably along with Bahrain, as the two reference circuits when you’re trying to understand, did we achieve what we set out to, and equally, what has everyone else done over that same period.
“So it’s a little bit more difficult because of the changes to the track. We had a view of how everyone would have moved on in 12 months, including ourselves, and we were able to modify that to suit the layout we’ve got this year, and make an assessment of how we’ve done relative to everyone else.
“There are some cars that are quicker than us, that’s quite clear, but not by as much as we thought they would be when we extrapolated from 12 months ago to now.
“So it feels a little bit odd to say, but there is definitely progress there. It hasn’t manifested itself on the timesheets yet but in actual lap time, it’s not as bad as it may have been.”