[F1 2018 VIDEO FEATURE] WILLIAMS: THE ONLY WAY IS UP

Azerbaijan was sweet relief for Williams, with Lance Stroll finishing eighth, but the squad is still suffering its worst start to a season since 2013.

It’s an unpleasant situation for the British team, its aggressive new FW41 meant to signal a return to competitive running after two years finishing a mediocre fifth in the constructors’ standings.

SOUNDBITE (English) PADDY LOWE,
CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, WILLIAMS:
“You’ll notice a lot of changes in the shape, particularly around the sidepods, and various other noticeable differences to last year’s car. It’s being called aggressive. I think we’ll see whether that translates into performance.”

But it hasn’t, Stroll taking four points for eighth in Baku, after finishing the first three events in 14th. While rookie Sergey Sirotkin retired in Australia and Azerbaijan, and came home 15th in both Bahrain and China.

The pair stuck with a car unstable on turn-in, the team sacrificing straight-line speed for downforce but not making up the deficit.

…its four points leaving it 10th in the constructors’ standings, as the sixth time in its history it’s had just one points paying place in the first four races, and just the third time this millenium.

The current predicament, a painful reminder of its most recent dark days, in 2011 and 2013 – when it scored just five points in total for each season, finishing down the order… above startups like Marussia and Caterham.

SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“This is a team that’s come from a position of being ninth just a few years ago, and we always need to remember that. And we need to remember how far we’ve come, and that’s been the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of hard people.”

The way back to better results is via its chief technical officer Paddy Lowe, who with former team Mercedes delivered and developed a string of race-winning and championship-winning cars … 

… and with Williams as well, during F1’s active suspension era – at the height of its success in the early 1990s.

SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“We were so lucky when we were able to coerce him to join us from Mercedes. He won multiple world championships there.”

But the team has a significant challenge – in its high-cost structure, making parts that other teams like Force India can buy in cheaper, a legacy from when it had a works partnership with BMW.

… which explains the squad’s interest in Liberty Media’s cost cap idea.

… and the reason why it uses drivers to generate income, with Stroll and Sirotkin, who still need more time to blossom. But, according to the team, it’s not the only motivating factor in deciding its line-up… 

SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS,
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“Our decision making process is so much more complex, than just deciding to put a driver into a race car because they have some cash. Yes, we’re an independent team. Yes, sponsorship is really difficult to really come by these days.”

Thankfully, the team will have reserve driver Robert Kubica behind the turnaround of the FW41 – the highly rated Pole an experienced developer, and keen to demonstrate his value.

SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT KUBICA,
RESERVE DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“I’m looking forward to just make my job in a very professional way, and extract maximum from myself and from my opportunities.”

Moving up the grid from last in the constructors’ standings will be a slow process, but Williams is a resilient squad. It’s head down for now as the hard work begins in earnest.