24/04/2024
Williams 2023 prototype. Picture: Lachlan Gould

Williams 2023 prototype. Picture: Lachlan Gould

Williams Racing are looking to undertake a massive change in 2024.  The nine-time constructors champions overhauled the DNA of the car for the past two years. Williams changing design ideals in a bid to get higher up the standings for the upcoming seasons.   

Round Two in Saudi Arabia is now firmly in the front visor, with practice starting on Thursday. The Williams team has plenty to look at after Round One Bahrain 

Testing Reaction

At testing, Williams was feeling good about 2024. Alex Albon felt that the car was totally different to year previous,

“First reactions are that this feels totally different, feels like I’m driving a different car.  Not in a bad way, that was actually positive in many ways positive,” he said.

“There’s some areas in which we were really trying to fix for this year which we have achieved.  The main thing Logan and I are talking about now is trying to correct some of the balance.  (We) have actually created other balance things which we don’t like in the car.”

Second year Williams driver, Logan Sargeant, also talked about why they have changed the car so drastically from last year.

“So last year we had a really big issue with the front locking in low-speed corners and just lack of rotation. Whereas now we have quite a bit of rotation. So now it’s about calming the car down a little bit,” he said.

“The best way to do that from a setup point of view, from a tools point of view in the car, just making sure we’re not too aggressive for the race runs, as you can kill the rear tires like that.

“So just going through the motions, but I think generally good direction. Alex tried some things today, (the Friday of testing) which I think moved in the right direction, (a) positive setting into next week.”

“So traction mainly is a big talking point for us right now,” Albon said on issues with the FW46.

“Nothing we can’t fix, but obviously we’ve been slightly mileage limited this test so far.  We’re just trying to give ourselves enough time to actually test items on the car and try to get it better.”  

The Rear Design and Suspension

The Williams is a customer team for Mercedes. The Mercedes has changed its rear design design from a pull-rod layout to a push-rod layout. The other customer team, Aston Martin, took the 2024 parts for their car.

Williams however, decided to stay with the 2023 suspension and rear end design. This includes the gearbox and sticking with the pull-rod suspension layout.

Both the suspension layouts have advantages and disadvantages. It is worth noting that the two fastest cars, in the Red Bull and the McLaren come the end off the season last year both had push-rod setup.

With major aspects of the car being redesigned, such as the rear wing and the balance of the car, the first couple of races will reveal just how competitive the Williams will be in season 2023.  It will be a story to watch how the battle in the ‘midfield pack’ unfolds, with Williams hoping to be right in the mix. 

The Williams Disadvantage

One of the advantages the Williams doesn’t have its ability to take corners.  The Williams car often takes a lot less corner than the ‘top teams.’

For example, in Bahrain during both the testing and the Grand Prix weekend, the Williams drivers often didn’t run over the curve as far as the Red Bull or the Ferrari drivers did.   

“Part of it’s confidence, part of it is just ride height windows,” Albon stated at testing.

“(Some cars), especially the Ferrari, it always seems like they can be quite drivable over curbs. I think they have a quite a large window where they can have their downforce working well, so they can run the car a bit softer just because it’s allowed to move around a little bit more.

“F1’s a bit weird to me. I find that the entries of corners in a Formula 1 car are the most important parts of the corner. If you can commit on entries, that’s where a lot of the lap time is.  If you’re using a bit less track or a bit more track, but you can commit properly into the corner you actually tend to be a bit quicker.”

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A View into 2024

“We’ve taken a huge risk this year.” Albon stated.

“We really have turned the whole team on its head in terms of what we’re asking from everyone at Grove, at the factory.  The feeling of the car and everything has changed so much.”

“I think generally we’re moving in the same (positive) direction,” Logan said.

“Which is always great from a team point of view.    I mean of course we have our homework to do over these next five days or so until we’re back in the car next week. I think everything is pointing towards positive.”

Logan said he’s ‘more comfortable’ heading into the new year.

“I think you just come into it with a much better understanding,” he said.

“A more logical approach, you know what to expect, you have a reference at all these tracks that we’re going to go to. I feel like that can help me quite a lot. Hopefully we have a better one (season) than last year.  Last year was certainly very good in and of itself.”

Williams have decided that the 2023 car will not work this year.  They have spent the off season redeveloping major aspects of the car.  The team finished seventh last year.

However the RBs of Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Riccardo are looking faster. So, it seems like Williams will have a massive task ahead to improve on that finish.

“I’ve spent two years now driving a car that has certain characteristics, unique characteristics,” Albon said.

“That kind of all goes in the bin, and I’m learning again.

“They, (the teams) always carry a DNA, a very strong DNA, and you only really feel like that changes when you change team. This (car) feels like I’ve changed team, but I’m actually obviously still at Williams.”

With all the positive talk of the new Williams, how did they fare in Bahrain?

In terms of qualifying for the Bahrain GP, there would be no Q3 appearance for the Williams.  Logan Sargeant’s best time would only be enough for P18. While Alex Albon Q2 appearance would be a positive for the English team, but the Thai driver wouldn’t get any further than that, qualifying P13.  

Logan Sargeant’s race wouldn’t get any better. A mechanical failure, (a power unit cooling and steering wheel problem) on lap 10 relegating him to P20. 

He would be the only car to finish two laps behind the winning Red Bull of Max Verstappen.  Alex Albon would bring car 23 home in 15th position. 

Looking Forward

Interestingly, in terms of where the FW46 will be better, Albon recently stated that he was excited for the races that the 2023 Williams was poor. 

The FW45 had a poor setup in terms of downforce, places like Monaco and Barcelona, therefore, didn’t suit the car. 

Williams will have hoped to fix this, with Saudi Arabia being a higher speed circuit, some questions will get answered down under for them.

Some parts of the Australian circuit require high downforce.

However due to the straights at Albert Park, there are some parts of the circuits where low-downforce is optimal.

The real test, as Alex said, will come at the Monaco Grand Prix for Williams.

For the FW45, the low-speed corners of Monte Carlo were a huge issue.    

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