Williams is the quintessential British squad, stoic and hard-working with its wily nature a reflection of deep roots in the sport. And over more than four decades in F1, Williams has built a titanic record and silverware haul as the second-most successful marque.
Williams sits on nine world constructors’ titles, seven less than Ferrari, its first in 1980 with swashbuckling Australian Alan Jones. It’s also had 114 wins, 128 pole positions and 133 fastest laps.
…from some of the sport’s greatest names, including Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet, and Nigel Mansell… netting seven drivers’ titles overall.
The last to do so, Jacques Villeneuve. The outspoken Canadian securing seven wins on his way to the 1997 crown, despite Michael Schumacher’s best attempts to punt him off at the final round in Jerez.
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 the past, they are present everyday of your life and it's just an amazing feeling.”
But its former star status as the sport’s top outfit has long gone, and its nightmare season last year trumped… as its worst ever.
Williams realistically on course to score zero points across an entire year, something it’s never done before: a potentially embarrassing statistic that would no doubt be a dark blemish on its historic record.
The early part of 2019 looked grim for the squad.
Williams missed its own shakedown, and the first two-and-a-half days of pre-season testing, care of delays in their production schedule.
And when the FW42 finally arrived at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Williams had to modify its front suspension and mirrors… to ensure the car was legal for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Its technical director Paddy Lowe then went on leave for personal reasons on the eve of the new season, officially making his departure last week.
… leaving Williams adrift, and locked into its own battle at the back of the grid as a mobile chicane.
Azerbaijan added insult and repair bills to injury, George Russell making contact with a drain cover, and Robert Kubica crashing in qualifying.
But there's light at the end of the tunnel…
In Spain, Williams was the closest its been to the back of the field… with just four tenths between Russell and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi. It has been 1.049 seconds on average across the first nine rounds.
… while a significant mid-season raft of upgrades, likely to be on the car before the summer break, should bring some performance.
But what it really needs more than anything is a strong technical director, with Lowe’s position yet to be filled, someone who can make changes to the car, facilities and team.
Until that time, though, it should use the rest of 2019 as an extended test - and find innovative ways to boost morale and focus on performance as recounted by renowned technical leader Mark Preston.
SOUNDBITE: (English) MARK PRESTON,
F1 TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, 2006-2008:
“If we can’t win the race, let’s have the fastest in-time, let’s have the fastest pit stop, let’s see if we beat Renault in everything, let’s see if we can be earlier into the track than them, let’s see if we can leave later, let’s see if we can have the trucks packed quicker, let’s see if the trucks can be cleaner.”
There’s a long way to go, but things have to change at Williams.