At the start of 2017, Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams did not hold back when asked about her team’s recent dip in form – the squad fifth in the constructors’ championship in 2016, after twice finishing third.
SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“I hope it's a blip, it needs to be a blip. I am always opposed to airing our dirty laundry in public, and it's a team effort at Williams and we have areas of weaknesses but we know where they are.”
This year though, the team fell further – the British squad again fifth in the standings after 20 rounds, but rarely looked like challenging its former rival Force India. The gap between them in the standings, ballooning from 35 points in 2016, to 104 points this year.
It’s a difficult situation for the team with seven drivers’ championships and nine constructors’ crowns – the historic British squad celebrating 40 years in F1 this year, its mid-season event at Silverstone attended by thousands of fans and its former superstars.
SOUNDBITE (English) NIGEL MANSELL,
1992 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“An awful lot of water has gone under the bridge here, and a lot of world champions.”
On the driver front, Felipe Massa postponed his retirement to join rookie Lance Stroll, the first Canadian in F1 since Jacques Villeneuve in 2006; the billionaire’s son coming directly from European F3.
Massa was consistent - with points at 13 of 19 rounds, reserve driver Paul di Resta stood in for him in Hungary, where he had vertigo. Stroll took until Canada for his first points, Azerbaijan for his first podium, then more points in five of the last 12 races.
In the end, just three points separated the pair, but neither was at the peak of his powers. Next year, though, has to be a much better season with the FW41 the first designed under new chief technical officer Paddy Lowe - and the team still running the benchmark Mercedes powerplant.
And while its 2018 driver line-up is yet to be confirmed - Robert Kubica is said to be no longer in contention – with Russians Sergey Sirotkin and Daniil Kvyat at the top of the list. Regardless of who’s chosen, it’s crunch time for Williams.