With just 88 laps from the first week of Formula 1 preseason testing at Circuit de Catalunya and the rumours already swirling, Claire Williams has no choice but to face up to the fact that her team is indeed in a crisis.
One week into the 2019 season, and things could hardly be worse for Williams. They were late getting to the track, when they got there they barely ran, when they ran they were slow, and worst of all, their livery sucks.
Okay, so that last one might be a tad subjective, and not quite as bad as the others, but the point is Williams are in crisis, even if Claire Williams says otherwise.
At the most basic level, the goal of an F1 team is to field a competitive car. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be competitive compared to the front-runners, but it has to at least compare to the other also-rans, and in that respect, the FW42 is currently failing.
Even accounting for the lack of running on softer tyres, Williams’ best times in Barcelona (on the C2 & C3 tyres) didn’t manage to get within a second of any other team. That’s not a backmarker, that’s a pace car.
Making matters worse, discontent behind-the-scenes is already bubbling to the surface, with Robert Kubica’s remarks on Thursday painting the picture of a team in disarray.
“You can get a feel of it, it’s not like the car is completely off. I think there is still something to put on to the car, but probably not a lot, for sure there are things that were compromised.”
According to Kubica, the car was built “five times quicker than normal”, so maybe it’s no surprise the car is somewhat compromised, but why would they be forced to rush the car out the door if behind the scenes, everything was peachy?
The way I see it, one of three things – or a combination thereof – have caused this problem. Either Paddy Lowe and company botched the car (and the late rework had them scrambling) it was poor planning on management’s part (i.e. getting on top of suppliers, or when to shift focus to 2019), or that the transition from Martini’s title sponsorship to Rokit left them financially cash-strapped during development.
Whichever one it is, it’s a bad place to be in for any F1 team, let alone one with Williams’ history and a podium-scoring car as recently as two years ago.
Of course, we’ve still got another test to go, and two weeks to Melbourne beyond that, but even if they catch-up to the back of the pack, over the course of the season, is it realistic to expect them to be anywhere but last? Renault and McLaren will out-spend them.
Haas have been consistently mid-pack. Toro Rosso has already shown some surprising pace. Alfa is being tipped as having an outside shot at the podium. So maybe they can best Racing Point? You know, the team that has been a regular in the top-10 for the last four seasons? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Indeed, after finishing plum last in the constructor’s in 2018 for the first time in their history, Williams seem well poised to do it again this year. Both internally and externally, that’s only going to make the finger-pointing worse, and the whispers louder.
Only some stunning results could change that, and that’s something they don’t seem capable of. Sorry Claire, but this is a crisis.