While the Formula 1 field takes a well-earned moment to rest and recharges its batteries ahead of the second half of the season, the RichardsF1.com team has taken the opportunity to review each driver and team and their performances over the first eleven rounds of the season.
In today’s review, we take a closer look at the long-overdue revival of the Williams F1 team, which entered the 2014 season with a new look, new engines and a new veteran Brazilian behind the wheel.
The Williams team’s recovery is undoubtedly the greatest turnaround in form that we’ve witnessed so far this year. After an appalling 2013 campaign that netted just two points’ finishes and the departure of Pastor Maldonado and his millions in Venezuelan sponsorship, the 2014 campaign could not, so far, be in sharper contrast.
Making the switch to Mercedes engines might have been an umpteenth change in engine partners, but it’s proven to be a smart choice given the three-pointed star’s powerplants are the best in the field. Add to that a solid chassis that’s quick in a straight line and pretty decent through the corners. Mix those ingredients together with a stylish retro look and two sharp drivers, and it’s perhaps not a great surprise to see them nipping at the heels of the front runners.
Credit must be given to Pay Symonds, whose technical management has allowed the FW36 and a team of talented engineers to shine. The no-nonsense Englishman brought in some experienced players from other teams and reshuffled the existing ranks to bring about a competitive and motivated crew who are hungry to return to the winner’s circle.
It didn’t all look rosy, however, with pre-season testing uncovering high tyre wear and rear-end handling issues that took a little while to resolve. That carried into the opening races where the team ran in the lower reaches of the points – with the added complication of not grasping the opportunities that a few wet-weather qualifying sessions presented – but the white cars shot to prominence in Austria where they locked out the front row.
An overly conservative race strategy meant that it threw away a realistic chance of victory – that’s in part because the team has become too conservative, so used is it to not being a regular frontrunner. Earlier on, it tried – and failed miserably – in a ham-fisted attempt at team orders in the final laps of thew Malaysian Grand Prix.
Perhaps finally learning from those lessons, it claimed further podium finishes after austria for the impressive Valtteri Bottas next time out in Britain and Germany.
If the team can continue to build on its solid start, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t overhaul Ferrari’s third place in the Constructors’ Championship at a minimum.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 8/10
|Rank||Constructor||Races||DNS||Poles||Wins||Podiums||FL||Laps Led||Laps Raced||DNF||Pts.|
|4th||Williams Martini Racing||11||0||1||0||3||1||21||1193/1396||5||135|
Bottas arrived on the Formula 1 grid in 2013 after earning high acclaim by winning the GP3 Series championship. The team locked him into a long-term contract and he spent the 2012 season honing his skills in Friday practice before being promoted to the big time. Unfortunately the FW35 was a complete dog of a car, but he plugged away and secured a rain-assisted second-row start in Canada, followed by his first points’ finish in the United States.
Now blessed with a much more competitive package, the quiet Finn is positively thriving and proving at almost every Grand Prix why Williams is a great talent-spotter.
He blotted his copybook by giving himself a puncture in Australia – he still finished a fine fifth – and then spent the next few races building a consistent foundation and racking up solid points’ finishes. He was unlucky not to nab pole for himself in Austria, but drove much better on Sunday to be the only driver to threaten the Mercedes’ and claim his maiden podium finish.
His stock rising, he put in a stellar drive at Silverstone to finish second from near the rear of the grid, and matched the result in much easier circumstances next time out at the Hockenheim circuit. In the right future circumstances, Bottas should be the man who can return Williams to its former championship glory.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 9/10
It’s difficult to know how to appraise Felipe Massa’s 2014 campaign to-date, as he’s had an awful lot of bad luck. He’s not had a bad season when you compare it to his previous years spent at Ferrari, but when pitched against a young hungry teammate in Valtteri Bottas, he’s sometimes been found wanting when the cards have fallen his way.
There’s been bad luck: punted out at the first corner by a brake-less Kamui Kobayashi in Australia, along with two more race-ending first-lap accidents in Britain and Germany. He also lost a certain points finish with a bungled pit stop in China, and was then hit by Marcus Ericsson in qualifying at Monaco, forcing him to charge through the order from well down the grid.
There’s no question the former race-winner still has plenty of speed in the twilight of his career – his pole position at Austria was superb and he landed the fastest race lap in Canada – but his race craft has definitely been lacking. He couldn’t make a three-stop strategy work in Spain and then dithered in the final laps in Canada on much fresher tyres, both of which were in conditions where his rubber advantage should have seen him slice through the field.
However loud he may protest, he has to take some responsibility for the crashes that took him out of the Canadian and German Grands Prix. Stemming from those incidents – plus Australia – has also been the fact that he has whinged and moaned at many an opportunity. We get his frustrations, but it starts to quickly grate when he shouts his mouth off before actually calming down and doing some fact-checking. Given his own early F1 record, criticising other ‘younger drivers’ for their driving standards is more than just a little hypocritical.
Massa simply needs a trouble-free weekend to show what he’s capable of. He has the package to return to the three rostrum steps, but he also has a mighty teammate he’ll need to beat to make that happen.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 6/10
Having a Brazilian lead driver in the team, corporate Brazil stumped up the necessary cash Williams’ way to give the country’s next young charger a reserve driver role at the Grove squad.
Nasr had three error-free Friday practice outings for Williams at Bahrain, China and Spain, on top of a full-time campaign in the GP2 Series with Carlin Motorsport.
It’s in the latter where Nasr has made his mark, claiming his maiden series race win in Barcelona before backing that up with further drives to the top step of the podium at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. A further four podium finishes have shown him to be one of the most consistent performers on this year’s feeder series grid, which have put him a solid second in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 7/10
Many may question whether it’s her talent, gender or marital connections that ultimately got her the gig, but no one can take away the achievement of being the first woman to drive in a Grand Prix session in over twenty years.
Many column inches were penned ahead of her planned Friday practice outing on home soil at Silverstone, but that come undone after a handful of laps when her FW36 struck mechanical trouble.
Her DTM experience gave her another outing in Germany and unbelievably the technical issues hit once again, this time on her out-lap. Fortunately the problem was a quick fix, and she was back out on track, promptly posting what was provisionally the quickest time of the session.
Granted, the major players hand’t yet posted a time, but she finished the session just two-tenths adrift of Felipe Massa. Ultimately, it rendered her efforts very respectable. She was there to get a job done – evaluating the car’s set-up following the field’s decision to disable their FRIC suspension settings – and she ultimately did it.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 7/10
Images via XPB Images