Despite securing third in the F1 constructors’ championship for the second year in a row, fans of the Williams team will once again wonder what might have been.
A quick look at the race by race results reveals that the Grove based team is fully justified in being the third best F1 team this year. However, there are obvious weekends to forget, such as Monaco, Hungary, and the USA together with Brazil and Singapore for Massa – and Australia and Russia for Valtteri Bottas.
Williams are 150 points behind Ferrari and given they are powered by the Mercedes engine, this is a big disappointment. Further, in 2016 Ferrari are expected to be closer to Mercedes making any improvement for Williams on their current championship ranking, even more difficult.
The FW37 has caused headaches all season for the predictive modelling, given its propensity to either over-heat or under-heat the tyre. From circuit to circuit. Bottas admits, “We have some tools to try to cool the tyres and create temperature, but we are at the limit at the moment. We can’t do any more with the brake ducts or anything to make the tyres even more cool. We know it’s not enough but at least for this season there’s nothing more we can do.”
Each race weekend, Williams have been forced into a reactionary setup rather than being able to accurately forecast the way the FW37 will treat its tyres from circuit to circuit. Rob Smedley explains, “Fundamentally you know how to use the tyre – you know what ranges to put the tyre into – but there are very clear nuances from track to track. The very best people, they understand all the nuances from track to track and they’re able to be proactive. They’re able to come to the track with a plan.
This year Williams have been regularly nowhere in the Friday practice sessions, only finally getting it together just before qualifying begins. “I think we have good contingencies and we work well in a reactive kind of way,” admits Smedley. “We still don’t have yet all of our scientific bases covered in order that we can be entirely proactive and simulated and we can come here knowing exactly what we’re going to do. We cope very well reacting to situations but we need to go a step further than that and be proactive.”
Williams need to focus their attention on the failings of the FW37 to improve their chassis offering for 2016. If Red Bull Racing find themselves with a vaguely competitive power unit, it may be an uphill challenge in 2016 for Williams to stay third in F1’s constructor pecking order, never mind challenge Ferrari for second.