Williams’ massive upgrade gains explained with new car concept

Michelle Foster
Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon running side by side. Britain July 2023

Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon running side by side with Williams British flag livery. Britain July 2023

The surprise package at Silverstone on Friday with both drivers inside the top-five, Sam Collins has highlighted the “cheap” solution at the heart of Williams’ development path.

The perpetual backmarker last season, Williams have spent this year’s championship taking small but notable steps forward with the team introducing it’s biggest upgrade yet at the Canadian Grand Prix.

That Sunday Alex Albon brought his FW45 home in seventh place before following that up with a near-miss in Austria where he 11th at the line.

Rivals will be asking is that Williams ‘pace real’

Williams’ progress looks, at least based on Friday’s timesheets, to have continued at Silverstone where Albon was third fastest in Friday’s practice with his rookie team-mate Logan Sargeant P5.

That, says F1 TV’s tech talk man Collins, is because in the midst of all their upgrades, Williams have retained one characteristic with the car from 2022 – it’s “extremely” quick in a straight line.

“The car itself is pretty much a gentle evolution of last year’s design, but with a few refinements. However, that car’s characteristics have carried over – it has a push rod front suspension and a pull rod rear and the concept is much of a muchness,” he said.

“But one of the characteristics that has carried through is the car’s ability to go down a street extremely quickly. Now we saw this in quite a lot of detail at the Canadian Grand Prix, it was really clearly shown up by Alex Albon.

“You can see where Albon’s car was quicker than [Max] Verstappen around the Canadian lap and it was all the straight bits and actually Verstappen was only quicker for a couple of little twiddly corner bits.

“That made all of the difference, nearly four tenths of a second around the lap with the Red Bull downforce really making a big difference.

“And let’s not forget the Red Bull is no slouch on the straights either but the Williams at peak speed was 13kph faster than the Red Bull.

“That characteristic is something we’ve seen all season long at every single different circuit we go to including of course here at Silverstone.

“Again you can see on the really high-speed sections of track the Williams is so, so fast. It’s the fastest car on track and again quicker than Max Verstappen down the straights.

“Alex Albon third in free practice one, that’s got to have everybody a little bit worried because everyone’s asking, ‘is that pace real?’ Well, we’ll find out as the weekend goes on.”

Perhaps a concern for Williams’ rivals, Collin reckons Albon actually had more fuel in his FW45 than Verstappen did when they set their fastest lap times of the session.

“But,” he added, “when he set that lap, he was actually running a heavier fuel load than Max Verstappen was like for like.”

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Williams experimenting with beam wings as ‘cheap’ solutions

Although Williams did not bring another huge update to the Silverstone circuit, the team did introduce it’s latest specification of rear beam wing.

That, Collins says, is one area that the team is fully focused on as they can gain performance for minimal financial output.

“The Williams doesn’t seem to be a complete disaster, and that’s something to do with what Williams team has been doing to develop the car as the season has gone on,” he said.

“And that development race really started at the Monaco Grand Prix where the team were taking a really good long hard look at the rear wing of the car. And they tried a couple of different versions of the rear wing out.

“One of the parts that almost every team on the grid is looking at and Williams is no exclusion to this is the rear lower beam wing.

“At Monaco the Williams team tried a different lower beam wing solution, and Dave Robson explained why the teams are experimenting this part of the cars so much every single race, and I think the reason we see quite a few variants of them is they’re relatively cheap compared to redoing the whole upper element. So I think they give the teams a good opportunity to move up and down the drag and downforce level on the cheap basically.”

That, coupled with revised sidepods and a distinctly different shaped rear seem to, at least in Friday’s practice, be paying dividends for the team who have scored just seven points this season to sit P9 in the Constructors’ Championship.

“You can also see that big deep gully [in the sidepods], much more like the Aston Martin or the Alpine concept and the concept that a few teams are beginning to explore a little bit more, and that seems to be working really well.

“It’s aided the corner and performance of the car by the look of it, but hasn’t lost that top speed characteristics.”

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