James Vowles: How small ERS change led to Albon Australia crash

Williams team principal James Vowles has explained the technical factors that impacted Alex Albon in his race-ending crash at the Australian GP.

The Grove-based team was enjoying one of its best-ever race weekends in recent years, securing a Q3 appearance with Alex Albon and running in a very competitive 6th place.

Furthermore, the characteristics of Alex Albon’s machine – which was unmatched in the middle sector – would have made overtaking the FW45 a nightmare in Albert Park.

And this top-speed advantage did not come at the expense of overall performance, with Williams showing enough pace in Melbourne to suggest they could have finished in the top 10 on merit.

However, an uncharacteristic mistake in the early stages of the race ruined Albon’s chances of delivering points on a very promising weekend for the team.

Speaking after the Australian GP, team principal James Vowles provided an in-depth technical explanation of the factors that impacted the Thai driver’s incident:

“What happened with Alex is very difficult to explain when you first look at the data. 

“He went through turn 5 and then into turn 6 slower than on the previous lap, and yet the rear came round immediately, and he lost control of the car. 

“There was nothing he could do to correct that. But actually, the incident happened a few laps before and was building up towards that moment. 

James Vowles Williams

“To explain what’s happening – turn 5 is a corner that in qualifying is very easily flat, but in the race, it’s quite difficult to do that.

“And we had expected him to have a lift through there. However, the car was working well – and what we noticed was that he was able to just about go flat through that turn.

“And that changes how you want to deploy your energy throughout the lap, and we changed systems to adapt to that. 

“As a result, on the lap where unfortunately, his race ended, he was actually carrying something close to 10km/h more through turn 5 than on the previous lap. 

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the world of tyres, tyre energy and tyre temperature, that makes a large difference. 

“He went through and actually realised he was carrying a little too much speed through that corner and had to lift ever so slightly. 

“But he ran out wide, and when he ran out wide, that rear left tyre was now actually just oscillating on the curve on exit. 

“Again, something that probably looks normal and seems normal, but when your tyre temperatures are right on the limit… as he turned into turn 6, he simply did not have the rear grip – and that’s what ended his race.”

Crash involving Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari SF-23 and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23 at the second restart of the race.
02.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day.
– www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

The analysis provided by James Vowles serves as a small glimpse into the ultra-fine margins that make the difference in Formula 1.

In any case – regardless of these fine margins – Williams finds itself last in the Constructors’ standings after missing out on the points available in round 3.

Although the Grove-based team has started the 2023 season as a legitimate threat in the midfield, continuing this momentum will be necessary.

Introducing upgrades to remain competitive – in addition to delivering points when they are available – will be essential in the battle of the midfield this season.