Motor racing-Williams aiming for points and progress in 2023

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 18, 2022 Williams' Alexander Albon in action during practice REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

GROVE, England (Reuters) - Williams welcomed Gulf Oil International as a prominent new sponsor on Monday but warned against expecting any quick solution to shrinking the gulf between them and Formula One's top teams.

The struggling former champions, who finished 10th and last in 2022, showed off their new look at the Grove factory with rookie U.S. driver Logan Sargeant joining experienced Anglo-Thai Alex Albon.

New team principal and former Mercedes strategy chief James Vowles will not start work at the Grove factory until Feb. 20 -- a week after the car makes its track debut at Silverstone.

Albon said making clear progress was the main target, and hoped the team could be regulars in the second phase of qualifying and be closer than 2022.

"I don't think it will be something like a Haas, where they came out of the blocks and straight away very competitive," he said, referring to rivals who were last in 2021 but started 2022 with a fifth place and points in three of the first four rounds.

"We have changed quite a lot of the car in terms of its philosophy ... that might take a bit of time to understand and optimise.

"In terms of upgrades last year, we only had really one significant one. Hopefully we can be able to bring out possibly smaller and more frequent ones.

"I don't think we're going to come out of the blocks firing but we just need to be smart. We did it already last year. We did start the year on the back foot and we started scoring points around midway."

Gulf have switched their sponsorship from McLaren with branding prominent on the matt blue car, while U.S. beer brand Michelob Ultra has joined along with investment banking partner Stephens.

Several companies linked to Canadian former driver Nicholas Latifi have meanwhile departed and there was still plenty of room for sponsors.

"I think there's a perception about lost revenue from recent changes ... the reality is slightly different," said Williams commercial director James Bower.

"We are launching a number of new partners as we go into the season as well so I think we are in a more robust position than the team's been in for a number of years."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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