[F1 2018 NEWS] WILLIAMS: YOUTH OVER EXPERIENCE

2018 is set to be a watershed moment for Williams. The British squad finished last season fifth in the constructors’ standings, a whopping 104 points adrift of Force India.

It's a world away from 2014 and 2015, when it was third and took multiple podiums. And it could yet fall further this year, with Renault on the rise – care of its potent driver line-up – featuring Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz…and McLaren finally unleashed from its four-year Honda nightmare.

So Williams’ driver announcement in mid-January was cause for concern, with two young drivers confirmed.

SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“The Williams Martini Racing driver line-up for the 2018 season will be Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.”

Sergey Sirotkin’s selection put paid to the Robert Kubica comeback story, which had been brewing throughout the second half of 2017. 

The Pole, a former Grand Prix winner, had three tests with Renault before Williams gave him a shot at Silverstone and then in Hungary. He was ruled out, though, after the Abu Dhabi post-season test – where it’s said he was strong on long runs, but lacked the ultimate one-lap pace.

Sirotkin, however, had that pace, and the squad was very impressed with his abilities during that test – both in and out of the car.

SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“His speed on track as well, was pretty remarkable, considering he’s had very little experience in a Formula One car.”

SOUNDBITE (English) PADDY LOWE,
CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, WILLIAMS:
“All the engineers have really enjoyed working with Sergey - they’ve been very impressed with his commitment. Also with his intelligence, he’s a very, very bright guy. He has an engineering degree, that’s not well-known. And he’s able to apply that.”

He also brings cash – and lots of it – reported to be up to $28 million US dollars from Russian bank SMP. Which. for Williams,  is said to be an insurance policy should Lance Stroll, who is yet to properly bloom, defect.

Sirotkin, though, is not lacking in ambition, having won races in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 – the Russian keen to prove himself on merit.

SOUNDBITE (English) SERGEY SIROTKIN,
F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“I want to be the best in the racing, [and] that’s why my goal is to be in Formula 1 obviously, and not just to be there, but to be the best of the best.”

Kubica, however, has been retained as reserve and development driver – the Pole an important cog in developing the FW41, especially with both race drivers so new to the sport.

SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT KUBICA,
RESERVE DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“Development is a huge part of Formula 1, and of the success during the year. So there is a lot of effort will be put in this, and I’m happy to be part of this project.”

But that project will need an awful lot of steam if it’s to arrest the slide the team has been on for the medium term.

Since Williams split with BMW at the end of 2005, the team failed to finish higher than fourth until 2014 – its first year with Mercedes. 2011 and 2013 its lowest points, ninth in the constructors’ championship. 

Despite so much on the line heading into 2018, hope springs eternal at the historic British team - for now.

SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to a new year, we always do, and we always go into a new season with fresh hope and ambition.