Williams will close out yet another disappointing season in Abu Dhabi, the event again marked by Felipe Massa’s imminent retirement – the Brazilian bowing out with all the grace seen during the first time in 2016.
SOUNDBITE (English) FELIPE MASSA,
F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“I am ready, I was happy, I'm sure I took the right decision. And yeah, I think it was not easy but I feel really proud for everything I achieved for a very long career.”
And while the squad has great intentions for 2018 and beyond, some are not so sure of Williams’ progress such as 1980 F1 World Champion Alan Jones – who spoke exclusively to The Inside Line about the impact so far of new chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.
AUDIO QUOTE (English) ALAN JONES,
1980 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“I’m a little bit surprised that Mercedes haven’t really missed him as much as I thought they would and he hasn’t really done much for Williams as I thought he would."
On the driver front, Canadian rookie Lance Stroll is expected to stay for at least the next two years, the 19-year-old’s family injecting a rumoured $35 million dollars annually for the seat.
Alongside Stroll - Williams’ 2018 options have narrowed to former Force India driver Paul di Resta – who has not raced full-time in F1 since 2013 – the Scot allegedly the preference of the Stroll family.
And former F1 winner Robert Kubica, who is on the comeback trail after 6 years out of the sport, but was not picked up by Renault despite multiple tests to evaluate his talent.
Kubica is set to get a taste of the team’s 2017 car at the Abu Dhabi post-season test, but the seat is still rumoured to be dependant on the Polish driver bringing sponsorship to the team.
…though he remains the frontrunner for the drive.
Nonetheless, there’s still a long way to go for Williams to return to the front – with a single lucky podium for Stroll in Baku its headline result this season, and the jury still out on whether next year will be more of the same.
SOUNDBITE: (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“We’re working really hard behind the scenes to make sure that we can actually get that consistency on the track. We want the Azerbaijan results week in, week out in Formula One. But it takes a long time to achieve that.