Williams Racing: A Chance to Make History in 2023

Williams' Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi takes part in the third practice session ahead of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Mie prefecture on October 8, 2022. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

With the departure of Nicolas Latifi upon this season’s conclusion, who will Williams Racing call upon in filling the vacated seat?

For the past 46 years, Williams Grand Prix Engineering has been a staple among the rosters of Formula One. Through ten different engine suppliers, the franchise has a decorated history:

  • 114 Race Victories
  • 313 Podiums
  • 128 Pole Positions
  • 9 World Constructors Championships 
  • 7 World Drivers Championships (Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve) 

Slipping down the order

Despite this success, the Oxfordshire franchise has not captured a Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championship in the last quarter of a century. An afterthought compared to Mercedes AMG-PETRONAS and Oracle Red Bull. The current franchise statistics highlight Williams as the overall worst on the F1 grid. Over the past decade, the highest placement for Williams Racing in the Constructors’ Championship was 3rd in both 2014 and 2015. Since then they’ve finished 5th, 5th, 10th, 10th, 10th, and 8th.

As the franchise continues preparation for 2023, it begs the question, what should Williams do next? With Québécois Nicholas Latifi’s departure and Dutchman Nyck de Vries moving over to AlphaTauri, who is the best option to help regenerate Williams Racing into the Championship caliber team they once were?

Looking within the current development program

An argument could be made for a more cost-efficient measure through the promotion of one of Williams’ current test drivers. That would be either Briton Jack Aitken and Israeli Roy Nissany. This strategy would allow Williams to opt for youth over experience and turn their attention to the FW45. A focus on crafting competitiveness and developing franchise stars. 

Though the philosophy echoes A.J. Foyt’s sentiments about the 1996 U.S. 500 Mile Race. Jack Aitken’s highest championship finish since becoming an F1 test driver was 5th for Campos in F2. In the case of Roy Nissany, his F2 career has been torturous. 16th has been his best finish in the Championship over four seasons. There is a question of the worthiness of being retained as Williams’ test driver past this year. Maybe he’ll get behind the wheel of an FW45 and surprise us all, but the statistics are unworthy of the investment.  

Thai-British competitor Alex Albon needs a motivation boost. Only 26, Williams’ current lead driver has showcased his worthiness of being successful in competitive equipment. After placing 3rd in F2 in 2019, he joined Red Bull Racing in 2020 where he finished 7th in that F1 campaign only to be demoted to test driver the following year. Upon joining Williams following George Russell’s move to Mercedes, four DNFs and one withdrawal due to a bout with appendicitis have not done Alex any favors. 

Adaptation. Regeneration. Rebuilding a team hoping to return to championship form. Paving the way for a better future. Currently, the Williams Driver Academy houses five undergraduates across three different nationalities. Two of them find themselves to be statistically worthy to replace the outgoing Latifi.

Logan Sargeant

Making his Formula One practice debut this weekend during FP1, the 21-year-old captured 12 drivers’ championships during his karting career. Upon turning professional, he has averaged a finishing position of 5th across various championships. This season in F2, he has two victories and four podiums, currently sitting third in the drivers’ championship. With a lot of the focus of American prospects in Formula One being on IndyCar and Colton Herta, the best chance for an American driver in F1 is currently housed within the Williams Driver Academy. 

Jamie Chadwick

Growing up on the Isle of Man, the 24-year-old began her karting career at age 11. Over the next 13 years, she would triumph across different motorsport disciplines. These triumphs include first in the GT4 class of the 23rd British GT Championship, the 10th running of the Silverstone 24 Hours, and the 6th running of the MRF Formula 2000 Championship. And perhaps what she is best known for these days – the reigning W Series Champion. Recently she picked up her third straight title.

She is a powerhouse competitor and a proven winner. The definition of what opportunity is all about. If Logan Sargeant were promoted to take Latifi’s seat, why not have Chadwick fill his seat for Formula 2 next year? 

This is Williams’s best chance. While the Williams family may have sold their majority shares of the franchise, their family legacy remains on full display throughout the Formula One paddock. This is the chance for the new owners to be adaptive and provide an opportunity for the parties most discussed. What do they have to lose?  

Featured Image Credit: PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images