February 18th 2019. Barcelona. Pre-season testing and nine teams hit the ground running. But didn’t we have 10 teams in F1? Who are we missing? Williams. Immediately rumours start flying that they have a lot of money problems.
The car wasn’t ready. Trouble with suppliers?
The Grove-based team didn’t have a good start. Already two days into testing and Williams finally showed up but with a car that is put together but that’s it. No spare parts. They were even missing sensors to collect valuable data.
During the first week of testing, drivers weren’t allowed to touch the kerbs in fear of damaging the car. The pre-season test was a struggle for Williams and the signs were on the wall that they could enter a very difficult season.
Australia, the opening race, and the fear became reality when Russell and Kubica qualified 19th and 20th, well off the pace. They needed to catch up and the belief was, although they were lacking pace, that they would slowly catch up with the pack. They finished 16th (Russell +2 laps) and 17th (Kubica +3 laps)
Bahrain came and during qualifying, it became clear that both drivers were getting the maximum out of the car as they qualified in 19th (Russell 1:31.7s.) and 20th (Kubica 1:31.7s.) but were still at the back and again some 3.5 seconds off the ultimate pole time. During the race, it didn’t get any better and they finished 15th (Russell +1 lap) and 16th (Kubica +2 laps)
China presented a new chance but again, both drivers were slowest during qualifying with Russell getting 17th and Kubica 18th. Maybe they could do something in the race but it wasn’t meant to be as Russell crossed the line in 16th (+2 laps) and Kubica 17th (+2 laps)
Baku. A race with surprises where a lot can happen with the long straight and DRS. Williams, who has Mercedes engines, could do okay to pick up the midfield. Again, this wasn’t the case as Russell qualified in 17th position and Kubica in 18th. On Sunday, they could do better as their race-pace looked consistent. Turned out it was consistently slow as Russell finished 15th (+2 laps) and Kubica 16th (+2 laps)
Spain. The place where all teams test so Williams had some testing data they could use for better performance but so did everybody else and it meant that both cars were slowest again in qualifying with Russell in 19th and Kubica in 20th. The race didn’t go much better as both Williams drivers were the only ones that got lapped and Russell finished 17th (+1 lap) and Kubica 18th (+1 lap)
Monaco. A race where, if you get everything right, you can have an awesome race as starting position is key. Williams however, couldn’t provide both drivers with a car capable of doing a near-perfect lap and Russell qualified 19th, just one grid spot in front of Kubica in 20th. A glimmer of hope came on Sunday when at the finish line, Russell ended up 15th (+1 lap) but in front of Stroll, Raikkonen, Kubica in 18th (+1 lap) and Giovinazzi.
We had six races run and rumours started about Williams having two different cars. This was fueled by Kubica, who stated for a number of times that he and Russell must have had two different chassis or parts on the car that caused the Pole to struggle much more than the Englishman.
On social media, onboard comparisons were posted, showing Russell and Kubica on the same lap and while Russell seemed to have a “smooth” lap, Kubica was seen working hard at the wheel to keep it on track.
The pressure mounted to a point where according to various sources Russell and Kubica swapped chassis for the Spanish GP to see if there was indeed a difference but the outcome was the same.
All the team and both drivers could do was keep on working hard and try to improve the car enough so they can close the gap to the midfield as that was still substantial.
Canada. There were slight signs of progress but both cars ended up at the bottom during qualifying with Russell in 19th and Kubica in 20th. The race didn’t go much better with Russell finishing in 16th (+2 laps) but at least in front of Magnussen while Kubica had a terrible race and ended up 18th (+3 laps)
France. Improvements started to show on Saturday. Even though they were still slowest during qualifying, Russell was within 1.1 seconds of the midfield and started in 19th position while Kubica started in 20th position.
The race itself turned out to be a bore-fest and while on Saturday, things looked promising, on Sunday both drivers were lapped twice. The only difference this time was that Kubica, for the first time this season, finished in front of Russell. Kubica 18th, Russell 19th.
Austria. 9th race of the season and the updates that Williams are bringing seem to work as both drivers qualify within a second of the midfield with Russell in P19th and Kubica in 20th position. During the race, however, it didn’t go as planned as Russell finished in 18th (+2 laps) but again in front of Magnussen while Kubica had a race to forget in 20th (+3 laps)
England. A home race for almost all the teams so also for Williams. During qualifying, Kubica struggled a bit more than Russell but they were both within reach of the midfield. Russell would start in 19th and Kubica in 20th. Silverstone ended up to be an exciting race and even though both drivers didn’t manage to score points, both cars finished the race again, like they had done all season with Russell in 14th (+1 lap) and Kubica 15th (+1 lap)
Germany. Changing weather conditions meant it could be a fun weekend. On Saturday, qualifying didn’t go too bad but wasn’t spectacular either as Russell qualified in 18th position, in front of Kubica in 19th. Sunday would deliver an amazing race for Williams because, due to the wet track, staying between the white lines would be key for a great result.
After a number of drivers slid off or had engine issues, both Kubica and Russell stayed out of trouble and ended up 12th and 13th before the news came that both Alfa Romeo drivers received a 30 second time penalty. This meant that Kubica was promoted to 10th and a point for Williams while Russell just missed out but finished in 11th position.
Hungary. Slowly but steady, it looked like Williams got a handle on their car. On Saturday, the tension was high as Russell was set to go through to Q2 for the first time this season but it wasn’t meant to be as he just missed out and had to start in 16th position while Kubica couldn’t make the updates work and had to settle for 20th on the grid.
The race ended just like the season was going. Making improvements but just not enough yet. Russell came home in 16th (+2 laps) while Kubica managed 19th and final position (+3 laps).
Now it’s the summer break so what did we learn so far?
I think Williams didn’t expect to be so far off the pace when the season started. I do see improvements but if they are good enough to catch the midfield, I don’t know. As I see it, Williams are working very methodically and are not rushing updates, just to see if they work.
They are making progress and improvements but I think they have already given up on 2019 but are working hard to try and be in reach of the midfield and towards the end of the season, perhaps being in a position to fight for P11 to P16.
Seeing as the rules stay pretty much the same for 2020, they are focussing on improving the car enough to have a better start for next season.
So can they pick themselves up again?
Sadly, I feel that the once world-championship winning team will end up last in WCC in 2019 BUT hopefully have closed the gap to the midfield runners by the end of the season.