The Williams Martini Racing team came crashing back down to earth at Silverstone. After a pole position and a podium finish in Austria two weeks ago, Felipe Massa’s first session ended with his car in the Stowe barriers after he ran wide, while Susie Wolff was forced to stop on circuit on her free practice debut with a mechanical issue after just one flying lap.
Valtteri Bottas took over a repaired Williams from Wolff in the afternoon to set the sixth fastest time, but was forced to end his session early when some bodywork worked loose and broke in spectacular fashion down the Hanger Straight. Massa was able to join the session after the mechanics repaired his car but could only finish eleventh fastest.
For Wolff, the first female driver to compete in an official Formula 1 practice session since Giovanna Amati back in 1992 for Brabham, it was a massive disappointment to see her session end so soon. She thanked the fans that came out to support her, and will be hoping to show her true ability at Hockenheim in two weeks time when she returns to free practice one duty.
“A huge thank you to all the support and help that I have had to get me ready for today,” said Wolff. “It was a great feeling driving out of the garage. When I had my helmet on, it was just me and the car. I knew what I had to do and the car felt great.
“It was only one and a half flying laps but these things happen, I have another session in Hockenheim that I now have to work towards. Every time I step in the car, there is something to learn, so there are a few positives to take from today.”
Massa was disappointed with his free practice crash and knows the team is behind its planned schedule as he heads into Saturday. He praised the team for working hard to get his car repaired in time so he could do some valuable running in free practice two.
“This morning wasn’t the best as I put a wheel on the artificial grass and that was it, the session was over,” said Massa. “As a result I lost some time in FP2 and we struggled with the balance but we made some progress. Tomorrow should be a better day but we are behind on our run plan.
“I have to say a big thank you to the team as they worked very hard to get the car ready for the second session. We have a lot to do to get the set-up right for tomorrow and the weather may not help us either.”
Bottas sat out the first session so that Wolff could get some seat time, and felt that FP2 went well for him. He knows how close qualifying is going to be on Saturday, and despite the windy conditions at Silverstone feels he is on the right track to a positive result.
“FP2 was ok from our side; it was quite a good session,” said Bottas. “The main thing was the set-up work. We were fine tuning the set-up and managed to improve it quite a bit during the session. There’s still a lot of work to do tomorrow, in these windy conditions it’s not easy to set up the car. Anything we can do to improve it is going to be a big help because qualifying is going to be close tomorrow.”
Head of Performance Engineering of Williams Rob Smedley was happy how the teams worked to get the cars back out on track for the second session after the eventful opening session. He believes the pace is there to challenge up or near the front again much like in Austria, but knows it won’t be easy to repeat the Austrian result at Silverstone.
“It was an eventful day,” admitted Smedley. “We started off in FP1 with Susie stopping on the track. We all really felt for her as she was just starting to get into our morning programme. I’m glad she’s going to be back in the car at Hockenheim though to show us what we all know she can do.
“In FP1, Felipe also had an accident so both crews were extremely busy between the sessions to get both cars back out on track this afternoon. They did a really good job and the second session was slightly less eventful.
“The potential of the car is very much there. It was very windy, very low grip conditions, and the tyres are quite hard for this circuit, as we knew they would be. The car is performing more or less where we expected. The long runs were not consistent for anybody, but our long run pace looks quite good, especially against the teams we’re fighting in the championship, so we’re pleased with that.
“There are a lot of positives from the day and a lot of potential, but we do have a good amount of work to do to put it all together.”
Talking to Autosport, Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams was disappointed for Susie Wolff, and felt that the car issues that affected the Scottish driver had deprived the fans of seeing what she could do on in an F1 car.
“She’s put in a huge amount of work; she has really put blood, sweat and tears into what she was going to do today, so for her to have had that happen shows life and F1 can be cruel sometimes,” said Williams. “She will bounce back and is already focusing on getting back in the car in Germany.
“The most important thing is that she didn’t do anything wrong today, it was something wrong with the car. Who knows what she would have done if she had more time in the car, but we will wait and see what she can do in Germany.
“Valtteri had his engine failure in Monaco, so we have to be a little bit more aggressive with his engine strategy, and if he’d been in the car this morning he’d have been driving with the same engine, so the same thing would have happened to him. There was no option of having a different engine in this morning, it’s just one of those things.”