With 41 points through the first eleven races of the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, Williams have picked up right where they left off in 2016, once again in the top five.
No longer quite as advantaged by their Mercedes engine supply as in years previously, the team’s strength has been their consistency, scoring points on all but two occasions, falling short in only China and Hungary, while also getting the added bonus of a fortuitous podium at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
That said things probably haven’t gone as smoothly as they would’ve liked, both with the controversy surrounding Lance Stroll and the points gaps to their rivals.
Few drivers, if any have been as roundly criticised in their debut season as the young Canadian. The 2016 European F3 champion, Stroll has endured a rocky start to his career in the major leagues, being consistently outclassed by teammate Felipe Massa while having to deal with the additional scrutiny of having his seat paid for by billionaire father Lawrence Stroll. That said there have been signs of improvement – at least in composure, if not pace – with his three consecutive points finishes from Canada to Austria, but he’s no Max Verstappen and at just 18, he’s yet to prove he had to be rushed to the big-time.
Having second thoughts after his five-second retirement in 2016, Massa has been much of his usual steady self in his “comeback” season. Unfortunately, Lance Stroll’s on-the-job development has made it impossible to gather any meaningful insight into his pace, but the Brazilian clearly knows his way around a racetrack, earning six of the team’s nine points finishes. More than anything, he’s been a much-needed stabilising influence at Williams, and such value could very well see him back at the team in 2018.
Having enjoyed a standout season with regular podiums in 2014, each of the past two years has seen Williams slip further away from the frontrunners, and that trend has continued in 2017.
The FW40 is by no means a bad car, but it’s not particularly quick either, and that means unless another bonkers Baku-esque race transpires, the best Williams can hope for is to occasionally win the midfield battle.
Also it’s worth noting that while fifth is acceptable for a medium-budget team, they are only two points ahead of sixth-placed Toro Rosso, which is far too close. Certainly, they’ve been hurt by the struggles of Lance Stroll, but it’s not like they were forced to sign him, and that more than anything could cost them in the standings come year’s end.
Big Question: How do you rate Williams and their drivers so far this year?