The slowest car of the first two races beat three rivals in Melbourne · RaceFans

Alexander Albon claimed eighth on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix as Williams produced a performance they have been threatening to give since the season began.

The team which finished last in the championship in 2022 was the slowest in terms of outright pace in the first two races of this year. However the FW45 has proved a clear step forward over its predecessor: After Aston Martin, this was the most-improved car of the first two rounds.

Albon hit the car’s sweet spot in qualifying to reach Q3. There he produced a lap of 1’17.603, over two-and-a-half second quicker than the team managed around the same circuit a year ago.

That put the team a respectable margin ahead of three rivals: Alfa Romeo, McLaren and AlphaTauri – the latter running a new floor this weekend. Indeed, Albon also out-qualified the two Alpines – although Pierre Gasly lapped fractionally quicker in Q2 he could not repeat it when it mattered most.

Williams therefore joined the seven teams which lapped quicker than the best time seen at this track last year. That marked F1’s return to Albert Park following a Covid-induced two-year absence, and the first time it used the revised Albert Park layout.

The fourth DRS zone which was introduced then dropped last year has been revived for 2023, which helps explain why every team is lapping at least half-a-second quicker than 12 months ago. The biggest improvers have found much more: Aston Martin, who have gained the most for the third event in a row, are four seconds faster than during their dismal 2022 weekend.

Another surprise improvement has come from Haas, which displaced Williams as the second most-improved team. Nico Hulkenberg took them into Q3 for the second time in three races, and the team are almost 2.7s quicker than in 2022.

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Teams’ performance

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Field performance

NB. No race 2020-21, track layout changed 2022

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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