Is 2014 the year in which Williams returns to its championship winning ways?

A new dawn for Williams?

A new dawn for Williams?

It’s been 17 years since Williams last won a Formula 1 world title, but one of the sport’s legendary teams is showing unexpected signs of life after long, barren seasons in the wilderness.

When four days of testing wrapped up in Bahrain on Sunday, it was Felipe Massa topping the time charts with the rejuvenated British team.

Massa, having left behind some trying times with Ferrari, where he was replaced by Kimi Raikkonen, clocked the best time at Sakhir, 1:33.25 after an impressive 202 laps.

Teammate Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest overall with the Williams men sandwiching the two Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Jacques Villeneuve and the Williams crew celebrate winning the 1997 F1 world championship

Jacques Villeneuve and the Williams crew celebrate winning the 1997 F1 world championship

“We had a very good day Saturday, doing almost 100 laps,” said Brazilian driver Massa, whose move to Williams has also seen his longtime race engineer Rob Smedley decamp from Ferrari.

“I’m really happy with the car and feel that we found a good balance. We did so much work on the set-up but it is very important that we go to Australia prepared (The first race of the season is on March 16 in Melbourne.)

“Of course you are always happy when you see your name at the top in first place, but as well as performance, it was good for the mileage and reliability of the car which we know is needed for Australia.

“You can never be sure that you are 100 percent ready for the first race, but I feel that what we have done in these days [of] testing has been important for making sure that we have a car that can not only get to the end of the race, but that will have good performance as well.”

The Williams FW36 appears to be a solid Formula 1 race car

The Williams FW36 appears to be a solid Formula 1 race car

Such confidence has been rare at Williams in recent times.

A fixture in the F1 World Championship since 1977, Williams have started over 600 races, capturing nine constructors titles and seven drivers’ crowns.

But the last of those came way back in 1997 courtesy of Jacques Villeneuve, and 2013 saw them collect just five points with a ninth-place finish confirming their worst ever season.

Bottas collected four of Williams’ five points last year and stays with the team after Lotus-bound Pastor Maldonado was dropped.

It was Maldonado who was responsible for Williams’ most recent success – at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, their first since Brazil in 2004.

Pastor Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix for Williams

Pastor Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix for Williams

“I think that with this amount of testing we are as prepared for Melbourne as we can be,” said 24-year-old Bottas.

Interestingly, Williams, having split with Renault as their engine partner, are now powered by Mercedes with the German giant massaging Massa’s undoubted speed with their trademark reliability.

They too will be key to a Williams rebirth in 2014 and the indications over winter testing were promising.

In Bahrain, the most laps were completed by Mercedes-powered teams — Williams with 421 laps, Force India did 388 while the factory Mercedes team of Hamilton and Rosberg completed 350.

Of the 12 test days in the winter – four in Jerez and eight in Bahrain over two spells, Mercedes-backed cars topped the times on 11 of them. (AFP)

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  • TheDudeson

    Call me old fashioned but it would be grand to have Williams again as a force in F1 – I miss Tyrrell, Brabham, March and the like – the garagistes of old…

  • Hugo Lafreniere

    Wondering if they return to championship-winning ways based on Massa recording the fastest lap of a troubled test where people focussed on reliability more than anything else? Getting a little carried away, perhaps?
    Don’t get me wrong, I want them to win, they deserve it. But come on…

  • McLarenfan

    I think that Williams have a fair crack at the moment, Championship is a bit of a stretch for any team at present the unknown factor is too great but moving forward’s towards the hot seats is a good possibility and the PU they have on board is the one to have at this stage. Looking forwards to some real action now!!!!!

  • hahaha

    I agree with all 3 of you + Felipe deserves that title! I as a tifosi will have my Ferrari flag on the couch with me :D, but also the Brazilian one.