Williams heads into 2019 with one aim, to move forward. The former British powerhouse fell to its lowest ebb this year, finishing last in the constructors’ standings with only seven points – just the third time it’s scored less than 10 in a season.
And it was difficult to watch for even the squad’s most ardent supporters.
SOUNDBITE (English) ALAN JONES,
1980 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“I’m just hoping they turn it around, and start coming up a little bit. But to be down the back is just heartbreaking.”
This is a squad that spent decades at the top - monstering the opposition with iconic V10-powered cars like the 1992 FW14B…which Nigel Mansell took to the world championship.
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.”
Mansell was the fourth F1 world champion for Williams, after Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet. The 1990s a golden era for the squad, four drivers’ crowns in six years - making seven overall.
…while it’s also netted nine constructors’ titles since 1977, its most recent success during Jacques Villeneuve’s run to the crown in 1997.
SOUNDBITE (English) JACQUES VILLENEUVE,
1997 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"It doesn't feel such a long time ago for some reason because these moments are so poignant and so strong that they remain livid in your memory, they don't go in that part of the brain that is part of the past, they are present everyday of your life and it's just an amazing feeling.”
To claw its way back, Williams first needs a better car, which it should have in theory, having identified the root cause of the FW41’s failures; a new wind tunnel belt ruining cooling calculations and compromising aero.
…while in reigniting its racer’s mentality, the squad has two new drivers in Formula 2 champion George Russell, and Robert Kubica, who will not just complete one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history…
But also motivate the team, his recovery from injury and return to F1 after eight years away embodying the squad’s fighting spirit.
SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“We really want people that have that Williams fighting spirit, [and] that share that same passion for our [motor] sport that Robert has, and I think he’s going to be the perfect fit for our team.”
The Pole brings with him vast knowledge of what’s required at the pinnacle of motorsport, and realistic expectations of what’s achievable next season.
SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT KUBICA,
F1 DRIVER 2019, WILLIAMS:
“It’s better to work with head down, focus and expect something realistic and then if something more better is coming, we are all surprised but in a happy way. Then expecting miracles and then nothing will happen.”
And in George Russell, Kubica has a rookie teammate fired-up to deliver a standout debut with the squad – pushing it forward.
SOUNDBITE (English) GEORGE RUSSELL,
F1 DRIVER 2019, WILLIAMS:
“When you’re sat on that starting grid waiting for those red lights to go off, there’s no feeling like it. I think, as a racer, wheel-to-wheel battling is just what I absolutely love so I’m really looking forward to doing plenty of that in the years to come.”
It’s a surprisingly positive outlook for a team that hit rock bottom in 2018.
But to walk the talk, the squad now has a lot of work to do – all the way to the first round at Albert Park, in Melbourne, Australia. The challenge is on for Williams.