With a total of just 20 races worth of experience under the belt of Williams’ driver line-up this year, the nine-time Constructors’ Championship winning team is at risk of falling behind the eight-ball right from the get-go of the 2018 Formula 1 season.
The coming season also sets up to be Lance Stroll’s breakthrough year as he takes on the role as number-one driver to lead both the Oxfordshire team and Russian rookie teammate Sergey Sirotken throughout the 21-race calendar.
Although they’re not the most inexperienced field this year (the Toro Rosso pair of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley only having nine Grands Prix between them), Williams – with a world championship winning Mercedes engine in the back of their Martini-sponsored cars – must not fall into the hole of driver inexperience and risk losing points early in the season.
The last time Frank Williams started a campaign this inexperienced was in 2013 with infamous racer Pastor Maldonado and freshman Valtteri Bottas (pictured above). The pair was only capable of racking up two points finishing results with Maldonado achieving tenth in Hungary and Bottas eighth in the United States in admittedly a very poor car. The team was reliable, once again running world championship winning Renault engines, however they could only manage an average finishing position of 14th, rounding out the season with just five championship points and placed ninth out of 11 in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Now leading driver Stroll averaged a race finishing position of 12th in 2017, his rookie season. Additionally, he concluded an average qualifying position of 15th, losing out in the head-to-head qualifying battle to outgoing teammate Felipe Massa 17 times. He only managed to outqualify the veteran Brazilian in Baku and in soaked conditions at Monza.
It must be said, however, that Sirotkin has had his fair share of experience in single-seaters prior to his upcoming debut in Melbourne. The 22-year old finished third in the GP2 Series championship (now known as Formula 2) both in 2015 and 2016 with three wins and 13 podiums overall. He also has been test and reserve driver in F1 at Sauber and Renault respectively since 2014. He will no doubt learn the ropes quickly.
As it is great to see new and upcoming talent enter Formula 1, it can come as a toll for teams risking experience for results. Stroll will be looking to start his season better than 2017 where he retired from the first three races. Meanwhile, Sirotkin will work to build his race craft knowledge come pre-season testing in late February.
The 2018 F1 season unofficially kicks off with testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on the 26th of February. Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit will once again claim its traditional mantle of Formula 1’s season-opener where the starting lights will go out on March 25.
Images via Williams Martini Racing (LAT)