Having finished 9th in the F1 constructors’ championship in 2013, Williams F1 have returned to something like form climbing to third in 2014 and retaining this position in 2014.
The Grove team has recruited well, particularly securing the services of Pat Symonds and Ferrari’s Rob Smedley. Yet there is a growing air of disquiet from those imported into the team as to whether it has at present ‘got what it takes’ to deliver the kind of results which should be reasonable expected.
When asked whether this season’s performance has been acceptable, Rob Smedley was catagoric at the Austrian GP. “No Way! Absolutely not! Williams is such a strong and iconic name within the sport and mediocrity is not where it should be.”
A glance at the constructors’ table almost half way through the season may suggests that Wiliams are in a battle royal this year – to only slip one place to fourth – because a confident Force India team are pushing them week in week out.
The gap between he two at present is a comfortable 33 points, yet with Williams having just three failures to score points in 18 finishes this year, this is surely a disappointment.
Red Bull by comparison have 4 none scoring finishes however the battle behind Mercedes and Ferrari looks like this at present.
- Red Bull 168 points
- Wiliams 92 points
- Force India 59 points
Force India are at present the Monte Carlo or bust F1 team, having failed to score in 9 finishes this year, yet 30 points from Sergio Perez in Monaco and Baku may be flattering the team’s capabilities somewhat.
So what are the reason’s for Williams F1 ‘mediocrity’? Rob Smedley refuses to accept having a smaller budget than the top three F1 teams as an excuse. He points to Force India’s pace and recent results and strongly implies William’s is failing to meet their potential.
“We’ve gotta put our heads above the parapet,” Smedley argues. “We’ve gotta get more ideas down on paper, we’ve gotta be braver in how quickly we can develop the car.”
The tone of the comments from the Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, would suggest he believes the team is operating in far too conservative manner.
Commenting on the missed opportunity to win the 2014 Austrian GP, Smedley reflects: “Very simply, we lost that race because we didn’t think we could stop as early as the Mercedes… we were in the steeper part of the resurgence… and it was a great opportunity for us to get a podium.”
Drivers are not the problem at Williams, as Rob believes the team is in a “really fortunate position” having Bottas and Massa who both contribute ‘greatly’ on and off track.
Further, with the advantage of having a Mercedes power unit diminishing, the concern is that Williams F1 will soon return to the lower regions of the midfield in the near future.
Rob Smedley contends the solution is for Williams to think bigger and less conservatively, because this is the route to climbing the F1 constructor’s ladder – and ultimately the route to a much coveted F1 race victory.
Whilst Williams F1 is generally a happy ‘family’ outfit, something Claire Williams repeatedly refers to – TJ13 has been informed there are at present voices of disquiet within the team.
Questions regarding the ambition of the team are being asked of the senior management and suggestions that expectation management is taking priority over ruthless performance improvement measures.
Unlike Ferrari, there can be no ‘coup détente’ at Williams – no ‘rivers of blood’ in Grove. However, the delectable Claire Williams ambition is increasingly being scrutinised as a leader of the team.
When asked by Ted Kravitz in Austria about the team’s current performance , Ms Williams replied, “I really do think the results we’ve managed to achieve over the past couple of years have been a massive achievement for this team.”
Telling was her concluding comment that “we’ve gotta do better commercially to support the interests of the team.”
Williams F1 must resolve the ‘doing well for who we are’ existential state of thinking which appears to be pervading Grove. And the question is whether Claire Williams is really the one to take things forward in her role of ‘deputy team’ principal, or whether she should withdraw, leave others to manage the F1 operation, and leave the daughter of the great Sir Frank to focus on managing sponsors and clients.