Williams are looking to soon become a Mercedes B team – as of next year, the Grove team will finally drop their own designed gearbox and rear axle setup.
Williams have had an awful season in 2018, with only 4 points and sitting at the back of the field. Nevertheless, there does appear to be a ray of hope finally.
So far, all attempts to stabilise the car dynamics have gone nowhere, but the new front wing brought in for Germany has brought some progress.
“The car does what we expect it to do,” noted technical boss Paddy Lowe in Hockenheim, seeming more satisfied. In other words. The flow under the car and to the rear has finally become more stable, the team hope high speed snap oversteer moments like at Silverstone will be a thing of the past.
The 12th on the grid start of Sergey Sirotkin was the best result in a long time. The Russian made it into Q2 and was only 45 thousandths slower than Fernando Alonso but 0.034 seconds faster than Marcus Ericsson. Recently, McLaren and Sauber were still out of reach for Williams.
The new front wing was only a first step, but it’s showed the engineers that they had taken the right path.
“Unfortunately, this is not our only job to do,” Lowe admits. “The more you dig, the more vulnerabilities you reveal.”
Williams expects another upgrade for the Belgium GP with new baffles and underbody parts, that have yet to be adapted to the new wing concept.
After that, it’s expect the design office in Grove will then focus solely on the 2019 car.
Next year, Williams will not only get the power unit from Mercedes, but also the transmission and the rear suspension, as is similar with Force India, who purchases Mercedes transmissions and hydraulics.
Unfortunately for hardcore Williams fans, this is the first step toward becoming a Mercedes B team, similar to the Ferrari and Haas F1 arrangement.
Of course Williams would deny that at the moment, taking extreme pride in their engineering roots, but unfortunately the historic team will have no choice in the medium term.
Traditionally Williams have always engineered their own gearbox, purely so they can have 100% influence on the rear design of their car. Back in 2012, the ‘skinny’ gearbox they pioneered allowed the team to run nearly zero bodywork, maximising the rear wing efficiency.
If Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence, puts his money on Force India as has been rumoured, Williams budget will be significantly lessened. Couple that with the current Martini sponsorship deal ending, and it becomes very clear that Williams will have to go shopping at Mercedes even more intensively.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who still has strong ties with Williams will certainly see the opportunity to mirror the Ferrari / Haas model, giving the German manufacturing giant an ideal chance to share data and development at Grove.
Ferrari has out-developed Mercedes in the engine department, but also the extraordinary aero developments on the Ferrari over the last two years has only really been possible with the somewhat dubious advantage of having two teams operating in a single wind tunnel.
Look no further than Red Bull and Toro Rosso to see how advantageous an A and B team system is in F1. Something that will no doubt help when Honda come onboard with Red Bull Racing.
If officially no teams must collaborate and to do so is breaking the rules, I know from personal experience that is total rubbish having met only last month a Red Bull employee software engineer in Milton Keynes who works solely on the Honda Toro Rosso.
Of course this is a sad day for fans of Williams. A proper group of engineers and racers, who take pride in their ability to out engineer everyone else.
Unfortunately the days of independent teams competing at the top is no more.
Origins of Williams
Frank Williams started the current Williams team in 1977 after his previous outfit, Frank Williams Racing Cars, failed to achieve the success he desired.
Despite the promise of a new owner, Canadian millionaire Walter Wolf, and the team’s rebranding as Wolf–Williams Racing in 1976, the cars were not competitive.
Eventually Williams left the rechristened Walter Wolf Racing and moved to Didcot to rebuild his team as “Williams Grand Prix Engineering”. Frank recruited young engineer Patrick Head to work for the team, creating the “Williams–Head” partnership.
The team’s first race was the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix, where the new team ran a March chassis for Patrick Nève.
Williams started manufacturing its own cars the following year, and Switzerland’s Clay Regazzoni won Williams’s first race at the 1979 British Grand Prix.
At the 1997 British Grand Prix, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve scored the team’s 100th race victory, making Williams one of only three teams in Formula One, alongside Ferrari and fellow British team McLaren, to win 100 races.
Williams won nine Constructors’ Championships between 1980 and 1997. This stood as a record until Ferrari surpassed it in 2000.
Drivers for Williams have included Australia’s Alan Jones; Finland’s Keke Rosberg; Britain’s Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jenson Button; France’s Alain Prost; Brazil’s Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna; and Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve. Each of these drivers, with the exception of Senna and Button, have captured one Drivers’ title with the team.
Of those who have won the championship with Williams, only Jones, Rosberg and Villeneuve actually defended their title while still with the team. Piquet moved to Lotus after winning the 1987 championship, Mansell moved to the American-based Indy Cars after winning the 1992 championship, Prost retired from racing after his 4th World Championship in 1993, while Hill moved to Arrows after winning in 1996.
Williams have worked with many engine manufacturers, most successfully with Renault, winning five of their nine Constructors’ titles with the French company.
Along with Ferrari, McLaren, Benetton and Renault, Williams is one of a group of five teams that won every Constructors’ Championship between 1979 and 2008 and every Drivers’ Championship from 1984 to 2008.
Williams F1 also has business interests beyond Formula One racing. Based in Grove, Oxfordshire, UK, Williams has established Williams Advanced Engineering and Williams Hybrid Power which take technology originally developed for Formula One and adapt it for commercial applications.
In April 2014, Williams Hybrid Power were sold to GKN. Williams Advanced Engineering had a technology centre in Qatar until it was closed in 2014.