A year ago, Williams technical boss Francois-Xavier Demaison made no secret of the fact that the team was not giving the 2022 Formula One car, the FW44, full priority.
He thought there was too much long-term research and development to be done within the Formula 1 cost cap as he and his technical team tried to get Williams back to a level playing field. The technical staff was primarily concerned with upcoming projects.
Therefore, the gradual decline that had occurred over the previous two years may not have come as much of a surprise. The 2022 vehicle was slightly slower than its predecessor, finishing solidly last in the qualifying averages (the vehicle from last year was ninth), and it scored just eight points, far less than the 23 it gained in 2021.
However, Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi each made it into Q3 once, and he made it out of Q1 on eight occasions. However, the absence of George Russell’s “miracle” performances in 2021 stood out.
The car when it was first introduced was very different, especially in the way the sidepods were set up.
Big inlets went around radiators that were bunched at the front, and then they dropped away to nothing behind with a steep downhill ramp and no undercut. Because a lot of the radiator area was high above the centerline, this was possible.
Similar to the Mercedes-Benz design, the floor space in front of the rear tire was extremely wide. Williams had used a Mercedes gearbox and hydraulics for the first time to go with the Mercedes power unit, but it had kept making its own suspension.
It was a bad machine with an unusual appearance. In addition to the porpoising issue that many teams encountered with this ground effect generation of cars, testing revealed a deficit in downforce and a very challenging balance. It was nearly impossible to maintain that balance from the turn-in to the middle of the corner and the exit. At relatively low speeds, entry instability and mid-corner understeer made for very slow lap times.
Similar to Aston Martin, the team realized early on that a significant redesign was required as soon as possible. The redesigned car made its debut at Silverstone, and while it was a significant improvement, both drivers had a challenging schedule for the previous nine races.
Albon used an out-of-synch strategy and strong straight-line speed (due to the lack of downforce) to lead a long DRS train of faster cars, getting the car into Q2 at the first round in Bahrain and then taking a point in Australia. It would become something of a specialty of Albon’s.
Similar efforts were made at Imola, but they only resulted in an 11th-place finish. After a Fernando Alonso penalty, Albon’s 10th goal from the line in Miami became ninth in the official results. This time, the strategy worked.
But Albon’s racecraft was used to make use of that end-of-straight speed, and these results were being carved out of very little underlying pace. Pitstop timings were used to get track position, and Albon’s racecraft was used to use that speed.