Inside Line: If engines are equal why are Williams so bad?

The matter regarding Formula 1 power unit parity between works and customer teams took centre stage the week before the second test in Barcelona after the FIA put out a directive demanding that engine suppliers provide their customer teams with equal PUs as well as related hardware and software.

This, in turn, spurred Red Bull chief Christian Horner to stir the pot when he suggested that Claire Williams actually lobbied the FIA for this directive, implying that the Grove outfit were unhappy with the ‘equality’ of the engines they received from Merc, but a statement from Williams refutes the claim and said that the engines are equal.

In the wake of Horner’s ‘revelation’ Williams declared on Twitter: “Contrary to comments made recently in the press, we refute any suggestion that we have questioned the parity of the power units provided by Mercedes-AMG HPP.”

Horner’s claims also appear to have irked Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff who was adamant, “It’s not relevant for us, because the rules have been in place for a while that you must supply the customers with the same hardware and software from a power unit standpoint, and we’ve always done that.”

End of story? Well not quite because there is still a little niggle with regards to this engine parity matter that refuses to go away…

Let’s face it Mercedes have been untouchable in the new turbo era of Formula 1. In the 79 grand prix races since 2014 when the new engine formula was born, their drivers have scored 122 podiums, won 62 grands prix and brought home eight Formula 1 world championships. Utterly dominant is an often used description.

During this period Williams amassed 15 podiums but none of them victories, while a glance at fellow Merc-powered Force India reveal stats that are even bleaker as in the four seasons of hybrid turbo power the Silverstone based outfit have four podiums to their credit but no wins.

Another interesting stat is that a Mercedes has started from pole position on 71 occasions during this period, while Williams has had only one top spot start with Force India yet to enjoy such a luxury.

Now Wolff is adamant that the complaints did not emerge from the teams they supply and insisted his organisation are supplying equal power units to Williams and Force India, plus the exact same software to their customers.

Williams themselves have confirmed: “Contrary to comments made recently in the press, we refute any suggestion that we have questioned the parity of the power units provided by Mercedes-AMG HPP,” Williams said in a statement.

“We are absolutely confident that the power units used by Mercedes, Force India and ourselves are identical in terms of both hardware and software.”

From where I stand Williams have a huge problem: they either have a very bad chassis or very bad drivers during these four years in which they have been receiving identical kit to the work’s team.

Tackling the drivers first… it is notable that Valtteri Bottas in his three years with Williams never won a race, but in his first season with the Silver Arrows added three wins to his CV.

In his three years with Williams, he was in the top three on nine occasions, while in his single year with Merc he celebrated on the podium 12 times.

Mercedes chief and F1 legend Niki Lauda believes that on average Bottas was about two tenths off teammate Lewis Hamilton’s pace during the course of 2017.

So let’s attribute three tenths two the driver deficit, but on a rough average Williams were about 1.5 seconds off the Silver Arrows pace during qualifying and anything between half a second and a second in race pace.

Thus with engines equal as claimed by both parties, presuming the drivers account for around three-tenths of a second deficit then it must be that the chassis’ that Williams have produced for the past four years has been rubbish.

Which in turn suggests that the big gains by Mercedes are down to chassis and, more specific, aero advantage in the dominant cars they have produced during their eight F1 titles winning spell.

But I am not the brightest chocolate in the box, so maybe I am missing something here…

If I am wrong then please enlighten me in the comments below but the question begs to be asked: If the engines are equal why are Williams so bad?