Trident driver Calan Williams has experienced an up-and-down year so far in 2022. The Australian has been putting the building blocks in place in what is his maiden campaign in the Championship and has been buoyed by the news and prospect of a home race to look forward to in 2023, when F2 visits Albert Park and Melbourne for the first time.
“I’m really looking forward to racing at home in Australia,” he said. “It’s such a unique opportunity, especially for the Australian drivers who have never had the chance to race in front of their home crowd. I think it’s going to be a really special event for me, and I expect some incredible racing, especially with the new modifications to Albert Park. Bring it on!”
While the Aussie fans will surely bring their own flavour to the F2 calendar, focus is squarely on the ’22 campaign for Williams. We sat down with him to talk about the year so far, his mentality and approach to racing and how he’s aiming high with six rounds under his belt.
His high point came in Jeddah: a season-best fourth place finish while an agonising stall on the grid in Barcelona at the beginning of the Sprint Race is arguably the low ebb. All things considered he says his opening foray in Formula 2 has been solid.
“So far, some of the results have been very promising. We had a bit of a tough weekend at Imola, but you get those from time to time. But I think the pace, particularly compared with my teammate, Richard (Verschoor), who is a very strong driver, has been quite good throughout the year and in the tests, etc. So, you know, for my rookie season of Formula 2, I’m quite happy with it.
“I've made a step forward from the end of last year. I was doing plenty of preparation with the team, spent as much time in Italy as I could really to be with the team. I was also with Formula Medicine, doing a lot of training physically and mentally. And I think all of that has really come into play and helped to make this step because it is a big jump from F3 to F2.
Everything is this constant process of trying to extract the maximum you can out of every single element and understanding how you need to prioritise.
“It's not just a step-up in the performance of the car, it's a completely different car. I make the analogy sometimes whether it's right or wrong, but it'd be like you’re playing football, and you move up a tier, but then you have to start playing rugby. It's a completely different driving style, the car is so different that there's a lot to learn and a lot that you have to prepare for coming into a season, especially such a busy season like this year. And I think that work has really paid off.”
Since last season’s F3 campaign with Jenzer Motorsport, Williams says that not much has changed in terms of his approach. Refining what he already knows has instead been the focus and dedicating himself to combing over the details has been crucial for his first F2 season.
The Trident man described building up confidence and understanding inside the car and working with the team out of it as “a constant process” and one he continues to alter round after round.
“I wouldn't say necessarily I’ve changed anything from last year but, as you start to work more with your team and with yourself, you begin to understand what you need more or less of. You’re still doing all the work but you’re understanding which areas you need to prioritise not only with the sim preparation, but with everything. My physical fitness, my mental training, how I work with the team, absolutely everything is this constant process of trying to extract the maximum you can out of every single element that is part of motorsport and understanding how you need to prioritise.
“It's not like there's one formula where this is the best way to do it, if you follow this, you'll be great. For everyone it's different depending on how much experience you have and who you are as a person. There are 100 different things that come into play, it's all about understanding yourself.”
Qualifying is the main area that Williams says has grown the most since 2021. His Jeddah Qualifying performance set him up for his career-best P4 finish in the Feature Race, and there’s more pace to come according to the Australian.
“One thing that’s taken a step forward compared to last year has been my one lap pace in Qualifying. I think that's something that that has gone so much better than last year, and it's something I continue to work on. It was something I knew last year that I needed to work on in the offseason that I had constantly on my mind and was constantly a priority with the team when I was doing work with them. And a lot of that work obviously helps and as I continued to gain more experience in Formula 2 and if I continue with that work then it can only get better.”
Ahead of Silverstone, a circuit in which Williams has driven on back in his F3 days, the Trident driver says his targets are continuing to evolve, as are his expectations of himself. His last visit to Silverstone came in 2020 and resulted in a double DNF, but two P14 finishes the weekend before during the double-header at the Northamptonshire circuit is a result to build on.
“I think it always helps to have experience of a circuit first, even if you drive it in a different car, it still helps a lot to understand the track because simulators are great, but they always will have their limitations. And driving the real circuit, even in a different car is generally an advantage."
That experience combined with his knowledge of the Trident car as the season approaches the halfway stage, Williams says he can begin to target a top 10 finish in the Championship by the time the final chequered flag falls in Abu Dhabi.
He knows that the task will be tough, but he says he is open to adjusting those expectations should the results not come his way and that it’s all in the pursuit of his development for 2023 and that future home race.
“My goals will continue to develop throughout the season. The first couple rounds, I was finding my feet, seeing where I was in the championship. You get a lot of information from testing, but it's never the same as an actual competitive session, like a Qualifying or a race. I'm starting to refine my goals now and will continue to throughout the season, but certainly, this year at this point in time, a good result for me would be to finish top 10 in the championship, I think that is definitely achievable.
“Honestly, for our first year in Formula 2, that would be quite a strong result. But looking at where we are so far, I also believe that that is 100% where I should be. Towards the end of the year, maybe I'll have some different goals, depending on how things pan out and where I need to progress in the future. At the moment, I'm still pretty open-minded but that would be a solid result for the year.”