Hope for a Better Year: What can Williams Achieve in 2019?
It doesn’t get any worse than it did last year for the beloved Williams team after their dreadful season. A season where a newly revamped design sparked some promise in the FW41, but ultimately ended up a disaster as the team finished last in the championship with only 7 points in total. The team that were once the most dominant in F1 seemed to be heading towards a very bad place. But with a new look car, team, drivers and sponsorship, can Williams aim for better in 2019?
Williams were one of the biggest and most feared teams in the 80’s and 90’s, raking up a total of 9 constructors championships, 7 drivers championships and a total 114 race victories. The most famous years probably coming in 1991 and 1992 when the team released the classic FW14, and its predecessor the FW14B. The car was so technically advanced and ahead of it’s time that the aids in suspension and traction were banned from the sport in 1994. Williams won both titles in 1992 and 1993, with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost respectively. The last drivers title to date came with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.
However of recent years have not been so kind to the much loved team from Grove. Despite Pastor Maldonado taking their last win at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2012, 2013 saw one of their worst ever seasons where the team finished again in last with only 5 points. 2014 saw a massive change. Ferrari veteran Felipe Massa joined Valtteri Bottas at the team, replacing the outgoing Maldonado to Lotus, and a new sponsorship was found in Martini. 2014 and 2015 saw brilliant 3rd place constructors finishes and many podiums for both drivers thanks to a very low downforce based and fast car, and that ever brilliant Mercedes power unit. 2016 and 2017 was not as successful as rivals Force India and Red Bull mounted a more aggressive charge, but nobody was ready for the bomb that would hit 2018.
On paper, 2018 looked promising. Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe had returned to the team in 2017 after championship winning spells at McLaren and Mercedes, and improvised a radical new design for the car which initially looked like an improvement, and talented Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin joined ex-Ferrari Academy driver Lance Stroll at the team, Stroll’s second season with the team and in F1. However, the optimism soon came with the blow that Martini were to leave F1 at the end of 2018, leaving Williams without the much needed title sponsor it had the past few years, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the season. Out of the 21 races in 2018, Williams only scored points in Baku and Monza, Stroll scoring 6 against Sirotkin’s 1. Further bad news would come as Stroll and his father, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll would move to the Force India team for 2019, thanks to a consortium of investors led by Stroll Senior taking the team out of administration last summer and re-entering the sport as the new Racing Point F1 team. Things did not look good for 2019.
Nevertheless, the team announced that much loved driver Robert Kubica would return to a full time seat with the team, marking the Polish drivers full time return to F1 after his devastating accident at the 2011 Ronde di Andorra rally, and that he would be partnered by Mercedes junior driver and F2 champion George Russell for 2019. A fresh new line up composing of a promising rookie and an experienced driver with a new title sponsor and team, it would remind a person of that successful 2014 season. Williams announced today with their car unveiling that they’ve found a new title sponsor in telecommunications company ROKiT, who also announced today that they will sponsor the Motorbase Performance Ford Focus RS in the British Touring Car Championship in 2019, a car being driven by none other than Nic Hamilton, younger brother to current champion Lewis. Williams will be keen to not make the same mistake again and be assured that Lowe and his team will be working at anything possible to ensure some improvement in 2019. Deputy Team Principal Clare Williams has said, like the majority of the midfield in 2019 that 4th in the Constructors is their aim and cannot see why they can’t do it, despite such a horrid 2018. New regulations that you can be sure each team are looking for every advantage in this year could make the difference, but a new sponsor and fresh look will appeal to the team as a fresh start and a new era, something that massive inspiration will be drawn from in the season to come.
I hope Williams do make up some ground and do well in 2019, a team that deserves their place in F1. Apart from Ferrari and McLaren, Williams are a uniquely historic team that’s been there for so long and have seen so much of the sport. The highs, lows, wins, losses, tensions and even tragedy, but the team always fought back as stronger than ever. In a sport that changes constantly with each season and the future, it’s very important that teams like Williams are able to stay too.