Why are Williams F1 so bad? With the dawn of the 2014 Hybrid era, Williams shot back to the sharp end, fuelled by the dominant Mercedes Power Unit, but since then the team have slowly returned to the midfield, and finally for 2018, the back of the grid.
In an attempt to arrest this backward trend, Williams agreed to let go Bottas to Mercedes in return for Mercedes technical man, Paddy Lowe. Bottas fulfilled a requirement for Mercedes who needed to replace Hamilton’s team mate Nico Rosberg after his shock retirement. Thereby, giving Williams a technical director who had a hand in the dominant Mercedes setup.
The 2018 Williams FW41 car is the first fully Lowe design and commenters noted how radically different it was to any previous Williams car. Could Lowe and the car design be the reason why are Williams F1 so bad in 2018? The short; yes.
Why are Williams F1 so bad in 2018?
After two races, Williams are the only team with zero constructors points, and consider they managed to finish 5th last year, it would be safe to say that Lowe’s car is a disaster. Australia and Bahrain the car overheated hugely, a result of a mixed aero concept of Ferrari and Mercedes. The Ferrari style radiators and sidepods have not worked well with the Mercedes Power unit cooling requirements and the team have had to flare out the Williams bodywork at the rear to try and extract as much heat as possible.
The Williams management are very angry at the results (or lack of) with Paddy Lowes’ FW41, and rather than flying out to China, Paddy has return to Grove in the UK to analyse the data in an effort to arrest the performance drop.
Even Lawrence Stroll, father of Lance, who strongly wanted Lowe to the technical management of the team has many doubts about the technical direction of the team. Rumours have been heard that upper management of Williams are already considering bring Robert Kubica into FP1 for China in an effort to give some reliable data to Lowe back at base.
The next couple of days will be critical for Paddy Lowe and Williams with the Chinese Grand Prix just around the corner.
What to expect from the Chinese Grand Prix
With only achieving a 14th place with Massa, Paddy Lowe probably can’t be blamed for why Williams were so bad in 2017 but here’s hoping for another battle all the way to the line in 2018. While Lewis Hamilton’s grid penalty smoothed Sebastian Vettel’s route to victory in Bahrain, there is no denying that Ferrari looked a lot more threatening in Bahrain than in Australia, and Mercedes will have their work cut out to regain the momentum in the title race. China was the scene of Mercedes breakthrough performance in 2012, when Nico Rosberg recorded the marques first F1 win since 1955, and while they have won here every year in the PU era, last year Ferrari showed great race pace here, and the Scuderia will be looking to keep the pressure on Mercedes.
Red Bull had a terribly disappointing race in Bahrain after showing good pace through the practice sessions there, so much so that they have slipped behind slow but reliable McLaren in the constructors championship. After a brilliant race last year, Max Verstappen will be determined to put his early season struggles behind him and get a decent result to prevent him from falling out of the championship picture early on, and as he showed once again in Bahrain, he’s not afraid to go wheel to wheel, even if the result doesn’t always come out to his advantage!
Toro Rosso and Honda will still be celebrating their wonderful fourth place finish in Bahrain, and will look to pile more misery on McLaren at the Chinese Grand Prix. McLaren may be third in the constructor’s championship and the leading Renault-engined team, but they are in need of a serious lift in performance, and will hope they can show some serious improvement this weekend.
Haas managed to put some points on the board last weekend, and will once again be a factor in the midfield battle, while Renault continue to make steady if not spectacular progress. While Toro Rosso stole the show amongst the midfield teams, Sauber also pulled off a stunning result in Bahrain to see them leapfrog Mercedes customer teams Force India and Williams in the standings, and it was the much maligned Marcus Ericsson who delivered the points for them.
Ericsson’s first points finish since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix will put more pressure on his rookie team mate, reigning F2 champion Charles Leclerc, as he will need to outshine Ericsson if he is to convince Ferrari his wonderful showing in F2 last year will translate into F1. Force India will be pleased they sneaked into the points in Bahrain, and will be hoping they can start to close the gap in pace to their midfield rivals, while for Williams a trying start to the season sees them the only team yet to register a point, and the signs do not look good for the Grove outfit, but Sunday will be another chance for them to kick-start their season.
Last year’s Chinese Grand Prix saw Mercedes Lewis Hamilton emerge as the winner of a rain affected race to level the scores with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had taken the season opener in Australia two weeks earlier. There was not much separating the top two teams in qualifying, with Hamilton getting the upper hand to take pole position from Vettel, with Valtteri Bottas ahead of Kimi Raikkonen on the second row. Red Bull looked the next fastest team, but some way off the top two, Daniel Ricciardo took fifth on the grid while Max Verstappen suffering technical trouble that would see him start from a lowly 16th place. On Sunday it rained, and the race would be started on a damp track, inters the order of the day. Lewis converted pole position into the lead at the first corner, with Ferrari and Vettel then taking a gamble in a bid to gain track position by pitting early for slicks as the Virtual Safety Car was deployed on lap 2 after Williams Lance Stroll spun out following contact with the Force India of Sergio Perez.
Unfortunately for Vettel, the decision would backfire, ironically the strategy ruined as Ferrari young driver Antonio Giovinazzi (who was subbing for the injured Mercedes junior Pacal Wehrlein at Sauber) lost control of his car in the damp conditions and hit the wall on the pit straight on lap 4, bringing out the safety car and allowing the leaders to pit for slicks, leaving Vettel the big loser down in fifth when the dust settled. It would have been sixth for Vettel, but Valtteri Bottas, who had put in a solid drive to third on his Mercedes debut in Australia, blotted his copybook by spinning while trying to warm his tyres under the safety car, dropping down to 12th as a result. When the safety car came in, Max Verstappen (who had moved from 16th to 7th over the course of an absolute stormer of an opening lap), moved from fourth into second with moves on the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and his Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo, with Max initially pulling clear of Ricciardo and the two Ferrari’s behind in the still slippy conditions.
As the track dried out the superior pace of the Ferrari showed, with Vettel coming through past Raikkonen and the Red Bull’s to finish in second place behind race winner Hamilton, the Ferrari showing great race pace but not able to recover the time lost due to the unfortunate timing of the safety car. Verstappen held on to finish third, with Ricciardo hounding him to the line taking fourth, with a disappointed Kimi Raikkonen coming in behind both Red Bulls in fifth place, crossing the line just ahead of the recovering Bottas in the second Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in the history of the Chinese Grand Prix, with last years win bringing his tally to 5 victories, 2 from his McLaren days and 3 won with Mercedes. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has only every won the Chinese Grand Prix on one occasion to date, and although he has been on the podium on each of his visits here for Ferrari his sole win came with Red Bull back in 2009. Kimi Raikkonen won the Chinese Grand Prix for Ferrari as part of his amazing late charge to the driver’s title in 2007, while Fernando Alonso has also won two Chinese Grand Prix, dating back to his days with Ferrari and Renault.
History of the Chinese GP
Despite only arriving on the F1 calendar in 2004, the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai has already earned its place in F1 history, witnessing debut wins for Red Bull, Nico Rosberg and the modern Mercedes team, as well as Michael Schumacher’s final F1 victory.
It all started back in 2004. F1 arrived to the latest freshly constructed Hemann Tilke circuit in a relaxed state, with the championship having already been sealed by a dominant Michael Schumacher for Ferrari, who had 12 wins and 2 second places to show for his 14 finishes that season. In fact, Schumacher’s only failure to appear on the podium had been caused by retirement, after he was taken out in the tunnel at Monaco, under the safety car! For once Michael would have to play second fiddle, as Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello secured pole and raced to victory in the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix. As for Schumacher, a torrid weekend saw him start from the pitlane after a mistake in qualifying saw him fail to set a time, and in the race he could only manage to progress to 12th place, having collided with the Jaguar of Christian Klien, spun off, and picked up a puncture for good measure. A most un-Schumacher like performance.
In 2005 Schumacher’s luck was still out in China – he had another disastrous weekend, colliding with Christian Albers Minardi before the race had even started, Schumacher seeming to simply not pay attention as he weaved about on his way to the grid and was collected by the oncoming Albers. Schumacher was given a reprimand, but was able to take the start from the spare car, although he subsequently spun out of the race. Fernando Alonso, already crowned world champion to end Schumacher’s period of dominance in the sport, signed the season off in style by taking the win in China from pole position for Renault. Schumacher’s bad luck in China would finally end in 2006 (read more), when he produced a wonderful win in wet/dry conditions over title rival Fernando Alonso that seemed to put him on the brink of regaining the drivers title. It would however prove to be the final victory of Schumacher’s career, and not enough to wrest the tile back from Alonso.
In 2007, it was McLaren and Lewis Hamilton’s turn to suffer in Shanghai (read more). The rookie seemed on course to seal the driver’s title at the first attempt, only to slide off the track on the way into the pits, opening the door to an unlikely Raikkonen recovery in the championship. In 2008, Lewis made amends for his 2007 nightmare with a lights to flag victory from the Ferrari’s of Massa and Raikkonen, to set himself up to take the title he had let slip the previous year.
For 2009, the race moved to early in the season from its previous end of season slot. Sebastian Vettel, who had already secured a win for Toro Rosso in the wet in Italy the previous year, now took the senior Red Bull teams first ever victory from pole position, leading home team-mate Mark Webber for a memorable Red Bull 1-2 (the first of many!) in a wet race. 2010 would see another wet dry race, this time reigning champion Jenson Button took the victory for McLaren with a well judged drive in the changing conditions.
The 2011 race produced one of the classic dry races of recent seasons, with McLarens Lewis Hamilton coming out on top of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling dry race that saw 4 teams vie for the win, Hamilton passing Vettel on track shortly from the end as Vettel paid the price for getting the tyre strategy wrong (read more).
2012 was notable for the first Grand Prix victory for Mercedes in the modern era, current world champ Nico Rosberg taking his maiden F1 victory in a dominant display from pole positon, ending his long run in F1 without a victory (Nico’s first F1 win coming at the 111th attempt), and recording the first Mercedes win in F1 since 1955!
Fernando Alonso triumphed for Ferrari in a dry race in 2013, before the new PU era kicked off a period of Mercedes dominance, with Lewis Hamilton taking a pole to flag victory from team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2014, although the chequered flag in question came out a lap too soon after a mix up!! 2015 saw a member of the public invade the track during practice on Friday, apparently hoping to try their hand at one of the Ferrari’s, but on track it was yet another dominant 1-2 for Mercedes, with Hamilton leading Rosberg, with Nico bitterly complaining that Hamilton was backing him into the Ferrari’s behind in the early stint of the race! If the hostility within Mercedes wasn’t bad enough, Lewis also faced a backlash from the public after he was accused of being ‘selfish and inconsiderate’ (not an F1 driver surely!!) after spraying champagne directly into the face of one of the podium hostesses!
2016 race saw the wheels come off Lewis Hamilton’s championship challenge, well the MGU-H anyway, with energy recovery problems meaning Lewis was unable to set a time in qualifying and would have to start from the back. This, added to a puncture for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and a collision between the other Red Bull of Kvyat and the two Ferrari;s of Raikkonen and Vettel on the opening lap, meant it was all rather too easy for Nico Rosberg, who romped home to victory for Mercedes, to take his third straight victory at the start of the season.
There is just 7.4 m of elevation change on this 5.451 km circuit, not surprising when you consider the track was built on marshland, with some 40,000 concrete pillars providing stabilisation of the track! The track was designed by Hermann Tilke, and with two long straights featuring DRS, we should hopefully see more overtaking than was on offer in Melbourne anyway.
Off the grid there’s 380 m burst to Turns 1 and 2, the cars seeming to wind forever through a very long winding double right hand corner, eventually dropping downhill into a winding left hander Turn 3, before flicking left thru Turn 4 and running wide over the kerbs onto a short straight. Force India’s Sergio Perez showed good aggression here last year in the damp conditions as the race resumed after the safety car, overtaking both the Williams of Felipe Massa and the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat through turns 3 and 4 after initially outbreaking himself in the slippy conditions into Turn 1! Exiting turn 4 the cars stay on the right hand side of the track as the track lifts slightly through the right hand kink at Turn 5, the cars moving immediately to the left before braking hard into Turn 6, a slightly downhill 90 degree right hander. Turn 6 saw plenty of action last year, with Max Verstappen making moves on the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, while Sebastian Vettel also used Turn 6 to get past both the second Ferrari of Raikkonen and Ricciardo’s Red Bull, with Vettel and Ricciardo touching as Seb rolled around the outside of the Red Bull! The cars run wide left over the kerb on exit before launching forward towards Turn 7, a high speed looping left hand curve that feeds into a right hand bend Turn 8 (Max Verstappen pulled a wonderful move around the outside of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari here last year).
Exiting Turn 8 the cars come to a pair of 90 degree left handers, braking hard into Turn 9. During his recovery drive in 2016 after being forced to start from the back Mercedes Lewis Hamilton got past the Williams of Valterri Bottas here, taking a wider line and getting a good exit from Turn 8 and diving up the inside of Bottas Williams into Turn 9.
Exiting Turn 9 the cars get back onto the throttle through Turn 10, the cars running wide right onto the kerb on exit to propel themselves down another short straight (the scene of Bottas embarrassing spin under the safety car last year) before braking into the left hander Turn 11, a left hander that feeds past the first DRS detection point into a pair of right handed curves, slowly first through Turn 12 and building up speed as they move to the outside around the long winding Turn 13, catapulting onto the back straight. This straight is over a km long and features the first DRS activation zone, so we are sure to witness plenty of action here over the course of the race. After getting a breather on the long straight the cars have to brake hard into the right handed hairpin at Turn 14 (Max Verstappen braking a tad too hard as he tried to hold of Sebsatian Vettel last year, with Vettel able to nip through as a result), the cars running wide on the left on exit past Turn 15 (well, technically a turn, blink and you miss it) and trying to hold position on the short run into the final corner, braking past the second DRS detection point passing the pit entry as the cars turn sharply left for Turn 16, and onto the pit straight, where DRS is available to have a look at overtaking into Turn 1.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
The season’s third race presents the first nomination of the year with a gap between the selected compounds – medium, soft and ultrasoft – and in China there’s always a chance of the Cinturato wet weather tyres appearing as well. The Shanghai circuit offers a roughly equal mix of straights and corners, with the corners themselves additionally offering a wide range of speeds and radii. It’s one of the races where strategy has often made a particular difference in the past.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- Turns 1 and 13 are the most demanding corners for tyres. Turn 1 is a decreasing radius corner leading straight into Turn 2, while the long Turn 13 is taken at high speed.
- There’s a very long straight that can have the effect of cooling the tyres, meaning that drivers need to pay attention to the braking area: this is also a key opportunity for overtaking.
- The circuit isn’t used much during the year, which can make it quite ‘green’ and slippery.
- The 2017 strategy was influenced by rain and safety cars. Lewis Hamilton won with a twostopper, starting on the intermediate and then completing two stints on the soft.
- It’s quite a fast and flowing circuit, with lateral forces (cornering) more predominant than longitudinal forces (acceleration and braking).
- In cold weather, some graining has been observed in the past: especially in free practice.
- The surface is quite smooth, making it easier to find a consistent set up: the main challenge is to identify the best compromise between downforce and drag to find the right wing level.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“The new wider range of 2018 P Zero compounds have allowed us to come up with some nominations this year where there is a gap in the tyres selected: in the case of China, alongside the medium, we jump from soft to ultrasoft, leaving out the supersoft. There’s quite a big gap from medium to the softer compounds, which are quite close together (with the exception of the hypersoft). So, by missing out the supersoft in China, we end up with three choices that are quite evenly spaced out, which in turn opens up several different possibilities for strategy. These strategy calculations have of course already begun, with teams selecting different quantities of the ultrasoft heading into the race, and we could also see some different approaches to qualifying as well. With China being an unpredictable race anyway, thanks to a number of different overtaking opportunities and notoriously variable weather, this tyre nomination introduces another parameter, which should hopefully contribute to an even better spectacle.”
- The P Zero Purple ultrasoft makes its Chinese debut, while the supersoft that was nominated last year is absent.
- China is slightly later on the calendar, swapping places with Bahrain for 2018.
- Formula 1 Pirelli Hot Laps continue in Shanghai, with Mercedes-AMG joining the programme.
MIN. STARTING PRESSURES (slicks)
EOS CAMBER LIMIT 21.0 psi (front) | 20.0 psi (rear) -3.50° (front) | -2.00° (rear)
2006 – Michael Schumacher’s last Grand Prix victory, a tense see-saw battle in changing conditions with Fernando Alonso as the two fought for supremacy at the end of 2006.
2007 – Lewis Hamilton had one hand on the title in his rookie season but saw it start to slip away as he slid off while entering the pits in a wet/dry race, opening the door for Kimi Raikkonen to steal the title.
2011 – A thrilling race which saw Lewis Hamilton emerge victorious to temporarily interrupt the early season dominance of Sebastian Vettel.
The Porsche Carerra Cup Asia kicks off this weekend, and will provide the only racing outside F1 trackside.
|2009||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|