With a seat vacant for 2023, Williams intend to sign a driver who can compete at the level of Alex Albon and push him all the way.
Albon was a new recruit at Williams for 2022, leaving his role as test and reserve driver at Red Bull to take George Russell’s place, who moved on to Mercedes.
During Russell’s time at Williams, he generally had the beating of Nicholas Latifi, a trend which continued when Albon arrived at the team.
It has been confirmed Latifi’s third season with Williams will be his last as the team set about finding a new team-mate for Albon, the team suggesting a decision may not be made during the current season.
Whoever ultimately gets the nod, with the likes of Mick Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg and Williams junior driver Logan Sargeant all being linked, the team want a driver who will challenge Albon.
Speaking to reporters at Suzuka, Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson said: “We need someone who will push Alex along and will be fighting with him every race.
“Ideally, someone who is after similar traits from the car, but we will see where we go. All we want to do is have two competitive cars pushing each other into Q2, Q3 and beyond.”
At one stage, Oscar Piastri was, according to Alpine, more than just a contender to join Williams for 2023, with Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi claiming the Australian had turned down that seat.
Talk therefore rumbles on as to who will fill that second Williams seat next season, but Robson shut down the suggestion this was having a negative effect on the race team in any way.
“It’s not really destabilising for us,” he affirmed. “I think at the track we are very much focused on the here and now.
“And when Nyck [de Vries] jumped in the car in Monza, we were able to just switch focus and concentrate on that. So the group of engineers here don’t take too much notice during the weekend of what the speculation is for next year.
“Yes, there are preparations going on in the background, but really Jost [Capito, CEO and team principal] and his team are dealing with that, and our job is just to concentrate on the weekend in hand and push this car on and then set the specs for next year’s car, irrespective of who drives it.”