2018 was meant to be a big step towards the front for Williams, following two disappointing seasons finishing fifth in the constructors’ standings.
Its FW41: a radical departure from what came before, a step away from its low-drag aerodynamic concepts, and the first car to be delivered under the guidance of new chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.
… with plenty of hype pre-season about what it could do for the team.
SOUNDBITE (English) PADDY LOWE,
CHIEF TECHNICAL OFFICER, WILLIAMS:
“A big change from what we’ve had last year. So we’re very hopeful that that will translate into a much better performance on-track and give us a great season.”
But, just seven races in, and the squad is last in the standings – its chief designer Ed Wood, and head of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer, have gone - and Lowe’s reputation has taken a big hit.
The issue with the FW41 is its aero package – which does not work when the car is in yaw, or put more simply, cornering.
Dubbed “undriveable”, the FW41 has made life difficult for its two young drivers, who continue to weather the criticism of pay-over-performance.
…given the much-needed cash they inject into the team, Lance Stroll bringing a reported annual $25 million US dollar input from his billionaire father Lawrence Stroll – with Sergey Sirotkin, an alleged $28 million from Russian bank SMP.
It’s an awkward situation for Williams, which has higher manufacturing costs relative to its immediate rivals – and comeback king Robert Kubica sitting on the sidelines as reserve driver.
After Canada, Stroll has the edge on stats – having outraced Sirotkin 5-2 and earned all four of the squad’s points. But the Russian is showing his promise, having outqualified him 4-3…
He’s also a talented engineer, having outscored Williams’ former drivers Nico Rosberg and Alexander Wurz on the squad’s famous engineering aptitude test – and it’s this knowledge, allied to his outright speed, that could see Sirotkin pull ahead as the season goes on.
SOUNDBITE (English) SERGEY SIROTKIN,
F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
“Whatever I do in my life, I do to be the best. I not do it, just to do it.”
It’s at least a fascinating battle to watch as Williams struggles through one of the most difficult periods in its history.