After an awful 2018 season had seen the once mighty Williams team finish last, the target was a simple one: progress.
SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS
DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL
“As you can imagine with my surname it’s hugely important. And, you know, for me our race car is a showcase to the world.”
But little did she know, things were about to go from bad to worse.
While Williams scored just 7 points in 2018, this year it almost failed to score at all. The inappropriately named ‘Rokit Williams Racing’ team’s solitary point came from Robert Kubica’s 10th place in a mixed conditions race at Hockenheim.
The problems started before the season even began. When the FW42 was not completed in time for the first Barcelona test. Technical director Paddy Lowe parted company with the team shortly after.
The new car was drastically lacking in downforce and destined never to get beyond a Q1 session. Although a heroic effort from George Russell, at high downforce Hungaroring of all places, missed the target by just five hundredths of a second..
The car was so far off the pace that the Williams drivers raced on their own, usually well behind the midfield.
That made it hard to gauge their true performance level. Russell outqualified Kubica at every race, the margin between them almost six tenths of a second, the biggest between teammates on the grid.
Was Russell outstanding? Or was Kubica struggling? Or was it a bit of both? The late Niki Lauda saw Russell up close, testing for Mercedes, and thought him exceptional. A world champion in waiting.
But on the subject of waiting for World Championships, Williams has not had one since Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.
And, on current form, it’s hard to see how they break out of a vicious downward spiral. For 2020, Kubica moves on and Russell is joined by 24-year-old Canadian F2 series runner-up, Nicholas Latifi.