While 2023 represented a jump in performance for Williams, it was very track specific. The car’s problems have been present since 2020 and the upcoming FW46 has been created with the intention to iron out those issues and thus continue to climb the ladder.
There were too many weaknesses with the FW45 for it to be a consistent challenger. Sure, low-downforce circuits like Monza and Montreal showed off the car’s strengths, but as soon as you took it out of that environment, the flaws were apparent.
After testing the car in the simulator, Alex Albon has been encouraged by the “very different” feeling of the FW46.
“Very different – more than anything, different feeling, so a different driving style [is required],” Albon said.
“I don’t want to speak too soon, but the FW45 always had some consistent limitations with the car, especially when we went to tracks like Monaco or Barcelona they were highlighted.
“Low speed was always a big issue for us, braking was always a big issue for us, but also high-speed, long corners were difficult for us.
“Definitely, in the simulator you can see that these areas have improved, but at the same time that comes with quite a different driving style. When we hit the track, you can really start to try to understand it and pick it apart.”
Albon said that this wasn’t just thanks to his feedback to the factory, but every driver since 2020.
“It’s not just my feedback, it’s every teammate, even 2020 and 2021 when I wasn’t even driving the car, it had the same issues, so there has always been an inherent issue with the Williams cars in the last four or five years.
“This year especially, we’ve sacrificed a little bit of development time on the FW45 to focus on the FW46, shorten the amount of upgrades we had on the car, to make sure that we tried to attack this car a little bit more aggressively and really start to change the DNA of the car. That’s the plan. Let’s see if it happens.”
While Williams jumped from essentially last to seventh in the 2023 championship, they were still 92 points behind Alpine in sixth. Closing this gap is Williams’ aim for 2024.
“I would say when you look at where we finished last year, we just about held off AlphaTauri, but when you actually look at the gap to P6 and P5, that’s still quite a big jump,” Albon continued.
“Then after Alpine you’ve got a rather substantial gap to the Astons, McLarens, Mercedes and you’re basically in the top field by that point.
“I want to be fighting Alpine and nipping on the heels of that top group. I think that’s a realistic performance expectation for us as a team and then let’s see how it unfolds.
“Podiums and wins, I think realistically we won’t be there this year. If we can be regularly in the points that will be great.
“With the change of approach with our car, we need to be consistent to be that kind of top six, top five team, which we weren’t last year. And I’m very interested to see how we fare at the tracks where we struggled; Monaco, Barcelona, these kinds of places.”
Pre-season testing begins in Bahrain on the 21st of February.