Beating Alpine ‘not realistic’ in 2024 – Vowles

Thu, 18 January 2024, 07:00

Jan.18 (GMM) It is “not realistic” for Williams to target a major step forward in 2024, team boss James Vowles insists.

That is despite the fact that the improving team, now with Toto Wolff’s former right-hand-man at Mercedes in charge, has been permitted to spend extra millions outside the budget cap to improve infrastructure.

Williams also has the impressive Alex Albon at the wheel.

“The Alex you see today is different than the Alex when he was at Red Bull or the Alex at the start of last season,” Vowles told Auto Motor und Sport.

“He lacked belief in himself, but he has it now. He is happy, he is a leader, he sets the direction. I think if many other drivers had to drive a Williams tomorrow, they would probably struggle,” he added.

In the other car, meanwhile, is rookie-in-2023 Logan Sargeant, with Vowles admitting he considered replacing the American for 2024.

“But since Suzuka he didn’t miss much compared to Alex,” Vowles insists. “He made progress race after race, relative to himself and also to Alex. He reduced the error rate and he did what we asked him to to.

“Sometimes you have to give people a chance.”

Williams hit rock-bottom with a dead-last finish in the constructors’ championship in 2022, but beat Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo and Haas last season.

So is the once-great British team, now owned by US investment company Dorilton Capital, targeting a further leap by overtaking Alpine and Aston Martin in 2024?

“That’s not realistic,” Vowles says. “I know the true gap between the teams and I know our speed of development. And what we want to change is still too far away to allow us to take that step this year.

“I am confident that we will be better off, but I won’t do anything that jeopardises our long-term goal.”

It might be logical to assume that, having been the successful strategy boss at Mercedes, Vowles will try to create a Mercedes-like structure at Williams.

“It sounds strange,” he responds, “but I don’t want to copy anything. Then I wouldn’t learn anything about the new team and leave its strengths untapped.

“My experience with my old team is just a reference, but that won’t get you anywhere in Formula 1. You have to say to yourself ‘This is where I am, this is where I want to go’. Then I have to come up with the mechanisms to get me there.”

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