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F1 mid-season review: Williams finally sees the light

After years fighting at the back of the F1 field, Williams is finally on the right-track in 2023 towards rebuilding.

Albon Silverstone
To news overview © XPBimages

After the departure of Jost Capito as Team Principal, the owners of Williams made the shrewd decision to bring in James Vowles from Mercedes.

Here is a figure who has had the inside line of being a key figure in the all-conquering success of one of Formula 1's greatest-ever teams, and short of getting Toto Wolff to come back to Williams, there was not a better person to make the move from Brackley to Wantage.

Vowles took over a team on its knees and simply fighting for the short-term gains to get it to the next race, but he is starting to reform the culture, with his push for increased CapEx spending to level the playing field set to be a major talking point in the second-half of the season.

Away from the well-publicised cost cap spending limit, CapEx is the amount teams can spend on infrastructure around the factory. Williams has largely out-dated technology, with Vowles even citing the parts design process and the computer software required to keep track of it.

Williams does not have this, with Vowles' push not about allowing Williams to spend millions more than the big teams such as Mercedes or Red Bull, but more about ensuring that every team has a level playing field in terms of infrastructure. The best team then wins.

Vowles has also made the excellent signing of Pat Fry as Chief Technical Officer from an Alpine team losing senior management quicker than Max Verstappen can win races.

After five years battling away at the very back and maybe snipping the odd Q2 or Q3 appearance, Williams has firmly established itself in the midfield pack in 2023 and on any given day, can be a contender for points.

While Vowles would certainly have hoped for a little more in terms of results, the processes he is putting in place will sted Williams well as the team picks up the pace from the nadir of 2019 and 2020.

Alexander Albon

Alexander Albon has scored all 11 of Williams' points in 2023, but he should have added to that tally.

He picked up a point in the Bahrain opener in a well-executed drive, but in race three in Australia, he committed the biggest mistake of the season.

Running sixth, on merit, he spun off at Turn 6 and hit the barrier. It is races like this that Williams could have only dreamt of a couple of years before which made Albon's error all the more cardinal.

This was the last chance to score points until Canada after enduring the tough Miami and Spanish Grands Prix, but when presented with the sizeable upgrades in Montreal, Albon delivered.

He was seventh, fending off the much faster Esteban Ocon over the final stint taking the team's joint-best result since Felipe Massa at the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix if George Russell's 'second place' in the '21 Belgium washout is discounted.

More points followed with eighth at Silverstone, but 11th in Hungary was an interesting result.

Owing to the straight-line speed of the car and the lack of straights in Budapest, not much was expected but Albon still finished one place outside the points in what was not an attritional race.

Belgium was a disappointment with overheating tyres, but Albon has grown into his team-leader role and is beginning to flourish.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Logan Sargeant

By looking at bare results, Logan Sargeant is the only driver to have completed all 12 races before the summer break and not to score a point.

Sargeant has an average grid spot of 17.67 to Albon's 12.67 and only a best finish of 11th at Silverstone.

But the facts don't tell the whole story.

Firstly, up until the Spanish Grand Prix, the calendar featured a tricky run of circuits.

There was Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Azerbaijan (with a Sprint race), Miami, Monaco and Spain.

Sargeant had F2 experience in Bahrain, Saudi, Azerbaijan, Monaco and Spain but still, driving an F1 machine around the streets is a vastly different challenge.

Throw in the fact that Baku was a Sprint race as well and it was a tough recipe.

After a DNF in Canada, he banked 13th and 11th in Austria and Britain, respectively as Vowles detailed the breakthrough he felt Sargeant had move and challenged him to keep it up.

Sargeant is a methodical driver who chips away at weaknesses.

His stats certainly are not mind-blowing from a rookie but there has been signs of improvement towards the summer break. He must use it now to kick on when the circus reconvenes at Zandvoort.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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