Can Williams start showing signs of improvement at Barcelona testing?

14-02-2020 12:03 | Updated: 14-02-2020 12:40
by Nicolás Quarles van Ufford
Can Williams start showing signs of improvement at Barcelona testing?

After having their worst-ever seasons for consecutive years, winter testing at Barcelona next week will be the first indication of whether Williams have begun their road to recovery. While it's unrealistic to expect them to have made a leap, can we see signs of improvement from the side in Barcelona?

2018 - The worst year in Williams history

After finishing fifth in the constructors' championship in 2017, Williams plummeted in the 2018 standings as they finished dead-last for the first time in the team's rich history. Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll only combined for seven points, with the Russian rookie's only point coming at the Italian Grand Prix following the disqualification of Romain Grosjean.

The concept of the FW41 had completely failed, and on top of that, title sponsor Martini left the team at the end of the season, as did both Lance Stroll and Sirotkin. Things couldn't get much worse, right?

2019 - Even worse

Well, they did. 2019's line-up featured F2 champion and super talent George Russell and returning veteran Robert Kubica, a very nice duo on paper. It turned out to be a very one-sided line-up, however, with Russell out-qualifying Kubica all 21 times as the Polish Grand Prix winner's fairytale return to F1 quickly turned into a nightmare.

The first red flag came before the season even started, at pre-season. Williams' car wasn't ready in time! The FW42 didn't feature at the Circuit de Catalunya until two-and-a-half days after testing had started, a truly baffling development as the team was coming off the back of their worst-ever season. When they hit the track, it quickly became apparent their car had regressed even further from the rest of the grid as it was several seconds off the pace from the second slowest team.

Although his comeback season was one to forget, Kubica did score the team's only point of the season as he classified 10th in Germany following a double disqualification for Alfa Romeo post-race. Williams managed to outdo themselves in 2019 by being even worse than in 2018, which was already their worst year ever! Is there no way back?

Road to recovery

The FW43 cannot be expected to make a massive leap and be right among the midfield cars again, but we will need to see signs of structural improvement from Williams starting in pre-season. First of all, let's actually turn up on time at testing - crazy idea, I know.

Pre-season is absolutely vital for both data collection for the engineers, as well as for the drivers to get comfortable in their new car and to finetune their set-up to squeeze every millisecond of performance out of their equipment. Missing two-and-a-half days after already being the worst team on the grid the day before is like starting a football game 5-0 down.

What we'd like to see from Williams is an acknowledgment of where they went wrong to get where they are now, certainty what exactly it was that got them there and a clear path to how to make up ground to the rest of the grid.

In Russell, they had a fantastic talent who never complained about the team's situation and always tried his hardest, and that is a massive asset for the team. Rookie Nicholas Latifi might not be the quickest driver but he seems eager to help the team develop and progress. The tools seem to be there to start the way back up. Now, it's up to them to slowly but surely close the gap and start scoring points on merit again. This might take longer than one year, however, so maybe it would be wiser to put all the eggs in the 2021 basket, when the regulations change massively.

Whatever the case may be, we need to start seeing signs of improvement at Barcelona. We'll have to see how the Grove-based side look come next Wednesday!

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