Williams F1

Williams knows the score, it’s time we did too

Photo Credit: Williams Martini Racing

Recent news has told us the fairytale of Robert Kubica’s return to a Formula 1 grid looks to be all but over after recent tests with the Williams team, Russia’s Sergey Sirotkin also tested the car in Abu Dhabi and the team has concluded the Russian was faster. While some of you may be upset by the decision that could see Kubica out of the running, Williams knows the score and it’s time we did too.

It may sound ridiculous that a team of Williams’ stature has to resort to the possibility of signing yet another rookie driver in what looks to be for financial reasons, which in reality is complete hogwash. To sign fast and experienced drivers, you need to show you can deliver the results for them to compete at a high level and as hard is it to admit, the Grove-based team just haven’t done that.

Their last title came at the hands of Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 and have only won a single race in 13 years with Pastor Maldonado at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix taking the only one since Juan Pablo Montoya’s last win for the team at Interlagos in 2004. When you think about it in that respect, it’s certainly a no-brainer Williams just cannot attract the type of great names from the past that lies in their trophy cabinets.

Having utilised the talents of Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa since 2010 in order to try and gain stability within the team having an experienced driver helping in the development of the car and the team, it could be time to abandon that ideology.

Paddy Lowe openly stated mid-season the design philosophy of the car would change for the FW41 into 2018 in order to climb back up the grid and it seemed that having an experienced driver could help with that. But with changes in the technical departments, maybe it’s time to change how they view a driver line-up too.

While Stroll had a very mixed bag of results and form in 2017, he did show glimpses of what he and the team were capable of, Should Sirotkin be the one to partner the 19-year old next season, it may not be the worst line-up imaginable. With a fresh perspective from both drivers and a solid leader technically in Paddy Lowe, maybe some youth and speed behind the wheel isn’t a bad way to change to look for a change of fortune.

Sirotkin may come with money from his backers at SMP racing, every driver brings some form of sponsorship/money with them to an F1 seat, that’s just how it works. The 22-year old has had relative success in the junior series but has shown he has pace in F1 machinery after Renault’s Alan Permane said he believes the young Russian deserves a shot at the top level.

On Kubica I admit, when I first got wind of his possible return to an F1 cockpit I was supremely excited, a man who impressed three world champions in Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and his new manager Nico Rosberg claim was one of the best they’ve ever raced, was going to get a chance that was never supposed to have been possible.

Having run for Renault at the test after the Hungarian Grand Prix, it all looked good on paper, but eventually the French team passed over on the Pole in favour of the youth in Carlos Sainz. A decision you certainly cannot blame them for, especially as they’re looking forward and working hard to return to the front of the grid in years to come.

Kubica’s pace at the Abu Dhabi test behind the wheel of Williams’ FW40 did look to be quick, but there always appeared to be question marks over his performance through the subtle comments the team did say after the two days of running.

With seven years out of the cockpit, it appears that despite the efforts made to make him comfortable in the car, the pace we were accustomed too from him just didn’t seem to materialise in order to get himself back on the grid. Despite everything the 32-year old should be enormously proud of himself to be able to drive an F1 car again at speed, having once been told he would never drive a racecar again.

There are opportunities for Kubica outside of F1 in sport cars, especially with the WEC LMP1 field growing after the departures of Audi and Porsche in recent seasons and the rapid growth of the IMSA series in the USA, there is plenty of room for him to still find a spot on a race track and continue his own journey, even if it is away from Williams and F1.

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My top 5 moments of 2014

5. Daniel Ricciardo’s first season at Red Bull/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1538.jpgWe all thought when Daniel was announced at Red Bull it would be a tough challenge to beat Sebastian in his first season at the senior team, but with the changing of regulations and Mercedes dominance, Daniel took full advantage of the car’s capabilities and used them to his own advantage, his first win in Canada came at the expense of the Mercedes MGU-K failures but he had worked hard to put himself in the situation to begin with, wins Hungary and Belgium were fully deserved also, finishing 3rd in the drivers standings can’t be a bad achievement in his first season at Red Bull

4. Williams Resurgance/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1539.jpgAfter what can only be described as a calamitous 2013 season for the Grove squad, 2014 must have been a dream turnaround. I admit I have a soft spot for Williams (who doesn’t?), being still a privateer team and their huge success in doing so. The FW36 was an outstanding success by any standard, a reshuffle of the team, switching to Mercedes power units and finally designing a good chassis underneath them, Bottas came close to a podium in Australia had he not clipped the wall, but the highlight of the season was Austria, the circuit played to the car’s strengths in straightline speed and Massa took pole with Bottas alongside to secure their first front row lockout since 2004. Since then the car went strength to strength, they didn’t take a win but the car was solid all year, 2015 can hopefully be a step up once more.

3. Hybrid Success
/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_15081.jpgAfter all the criticisms from so many of F1 fans and even Bernie Ecclestone himself (surprised?) the new 1.6l V6 Turbo Hybrid era of Formula 1 in my eyes was a success. With the combustion engine, turbo and ERS battery power combining to create a new sounding Formula 1 hybrid monster. Luca Di Montezemelo called it “Taxi driving” in Bahrain and no one liked the noise to start with, but come seasons end with some great reliability by some teams and epic racing, the critics soon piped down, except Bernie of course who seems to want to go back a step to the V8s and V10s. (See a previous article)

2. Lewis Hamilton’s Title Win/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014img_1540.jpgAfter years of close calls and near misses Lewis finally gets his hands on title number 2. A year of so many highs and lows, the 4 wins early on to the mid seasons struggles, A British GP then 5 more on the bounce after Spa’s calamities, Lewis kept his head strong, a strength not normally seen. Nico out qualified Lewis for the season and that is a stat not many would have guessed would happen. A lot of learning, hard work and perseverance really showed in Lewis’ race pace this year. Nico will no doubt come back stronger in 2015, but i’m sure Lewis will no doubt be upping his game too. Nico vs Lewis is far from over.

1. Mercedes openness and Bahrain Fight./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/149/80413967/files/2014/12/img_1543.jpgAfter pre-season testing it was clear Mercedes had a pace advantage over the field, but the dominance we saw was unprecedented. The fight in Bahrain really showed their pace but more importantly their willingness to let them race. Not for a long time have we seen two drivers lap after lap go hammer and tongs for the win, but Paddy Lowe told them they were free to race as long as they didn’t touch. It transpired that Nico and Lewis would contend for the Driver’s crown, but despite all the on track battles, wars of words and mind games, Mercedes never defined team orders despite Hungary’s mid race confusion. They let them go at it, I commend them for that as the sport and fans benefitted from such great on track action and a title fight to remember.

@SteveF1C