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.
I do not know who’s fault it is but I hope they fix it before is too late. Massa should be replaced for next year and Jenson is not the solution in the long term. WilliamsF1 facilities and more than adequate and they can punch above their weight.
I agree, taking on a Massa/Button is great for a rebuilding team and great for someone like Bottas to learn off.
Its now time Williams should be looking to the future, Bottas now has to step up and be the team leader and bring on someone young to push him.
They should be looking at someone like Sainz, unfortunately now signed up, or Wherlein, which would tie in nicely with their Merc engine contract
I must admit I was having doubts about Claire Williams for the past few years. (And it isn’t run-of-the-mill sexism, as you’ll see me defending the indefensible in other instances: Monisha at Sauber…)
For one, Claire has no expertise to run an F1 team (a bit like Arrivabene), as her experience in the past was being a communications officer. To me the telling thing about her is that I often read quotes of hers, when queried on delicate and pointy subjects, that simply sound like a checklist of platitudes: like “yes, maybe this, maybe that…” There’s very rarely any “bite” in her positions or opinions, and without bite and clear philosophy you drown in this business. I may be off, but I think she lost a tad of authority when Massa came in and there was the team orders spat between Massa and Bottas, and for me Massa basically run roughshod over Claire.
Long story short, I think the assessment that Claire lacks the ambition and the vision is spot-on. She feels to be a bit overwhelmed, hanging on, definitely not leading. And it seems to me that people like Pat Symonds and Rob Smedley have more natural authority in the team than Claire. Perhaps it would indeed be better for her to assume more of a Wolff-role at Williams to manage commercial aspects, and leave the technical stuff to a Lowe-style character.
“I think I’m always surprised by my father’s passion for racing. To have that commitment is extraordinary. The determination and the single-mindedness to do what he has done I find a bit incomprehensible because I couldn’t do it myself.”
Claire Williams (in Maurice Hamilton’s “Williams”)
Williams never inspired me. I liked them in the BMW years but somehow they always felt and still feel distant.
Even McLaren Has some joye the vivre, there never seems to be that at Williams.
Getting their stock out helped them financially but not in creativity.
Claire is I believe a wonderful personality to have on the grid, her enthusiasm and sense of humour make everyone smile.
But to me she is lacking in experience needed to steer a formula 1 team. What opened my eyes was how she as a member of the strategy team who as a committee were responsible for that ridiculous new qualifying format, afterwards quickly withdrew her support after that had proved a disaster. Done and dusted. To have someone like her on a policy making team is frankly speaking irresponsible. It’s like asking Madonna to lead the United Nations, a catastrophe waiting to happen.
The only time Williams were ever successful when you had a visionary like Sir Patrick wielding the axe.
I don’t know what can be added to the quote I posted above – and there’s plenty more in the book about her which would give one pause for thought when considering who to appoint as team principal. She’s condemned herself out of her own mouth.
Nepotism has never been the greatest management strategy although in such a corrupt and manipulated “sport” as F1 it’s almost ubiquitous.