How F1’s Worst Team Earned Praise From McLaren

Originally a video script for WTF1 from June 2023, Dre talks about Williams mid-season gains and how McLaren were impressed by their progress.

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Read time: 4 mins

When Williams struggled with their 2023 car in pre-season testing, Alex Albon told the press that the aim for the season was to “Be a better last”. Despite the Thai drivers’ modest expectations, Williams has become one of the genuine surprises of the season so far. 

With Albon’s excellent seventh place at the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix, Williams moved off the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship and they are now in a genuine fight for seventh overall. And as a result, Williams has received some genuine praise from some of their fellow competitors.


Albon’s seventh place came as a result of excellent execution all weekend. He was the first to gamble on slicks in changeable conditions in qualifying to make it to Q3, then took advantage of George Russell bringing out an early Safety Car to go 58 laps on the Hard tyre to the finish, holding off faster cars such as Esteban Ocon’s Alpine and Lando Norris’s McLaren, which couldn’t overtake him. 

Combining Albon’s emerging reputation as “The Tyre Whisperer” and Williams’ new upgrade package – One that was so rushed they could only use it on Albon’s car, worked wonders around the very fast Montreal circuit. 

It was a performance so impressive that Albon and Williams received high praise from McLaren team principal Andrea Stella. When asked about them, Stella said: 

“In fairness, if you look at Albon’s medium tyres in FP3 and practice two, he’s one of the most consistent and stable – so definitely they have made a step forward. 

“I think it confirms not only that Williams has these good characteristics of top speed, but I think this weekend they also made their car quicker – because otherwise, the top speed is not enough. If we see the traction out of Turn 10 you can have that traction only if you have grip. This is independent of your straight-line speed, so it’s good for them and we hope we can make similar steps of lap time in the future.”

This time of the season is very important for the Williams team. Because they finished last in the Constructors’ Championship in 2022, they have an ATR advantage over everyone else in the field – The sliding scale for windtunnel testing that came into effect last year. So compared to the baseline figure for finishing 7th in the Constructors’, Williams gets 15% more windtunnel time. And this advantage resets just before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix. So far, it seems Williams has used the extra allowance to good effect, upgrading the car’s grip out of corners.

But another critical factor in Williams’ improvement has been the hire of James Vowles as team principal, who at the time was a big surprise after walking away from 20 years in the Brackley team we now call Mercedes. 

Since joining Williams in January 2023, Vowles has undertaken a total rebuild of the team’s management structure and facilities. When the previous team boss Jost Capito left at the end of 2022, technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison left too. A modern-day F1 car has over 17,000 components that allow it to work properly. In May, Vowles made a shocking revelation – That Williams has NO digitised system for logging and tracking the components that make up their cars. 

Some of Grove’s production processes, Vowles admitted, were 20 years out of date. Like buying a brand new Laptop and finding out it’s still running Windows XP! It’s genuinely startling that Williams has even been competitive at all when you consider how much of its team can be so out of date.

So Vowles has been pushing every part of Williams’ organisation to its limit, stress testing what’s possible so he can then figure out what to improve. He’s also promised to bring in more names on the technical side in the coming months as he tries to rebuild the team from the ground up.

Vowles has long-term aims to make Williams podium contenders in the coming seasons, but the nature of 2023’s competition might actually work in their favour short-term as well. With Red Bull, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes the clear four best teams in F1 right now, the midfield is regularly fighting for just a few points every race. And with Albon’s 7th place yielding six of them, it’s put Williams just two points behind Alfa Romeo for 7th in the Championship. If they can stay with the field around them, the extra prize money could be huge as Williams tries to get off the bottom of the standings, a place they’ve finished in four of the past five seasons.

Have you been impressed with Williams’ improvement so far this season? And where do you think they’ll finish in 2023? Let us know in the comments, and if you liked the video, be sure to Subscribe!

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Leader of a Broadcast Journalism University project that went WAY out of hand. Even managed to parlay it into a WTF1 gig for a little while.

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