ROKiT Williams Racing has endured the worst two seasons in their history in 2018 and 2019, scoring only seven points with Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin in 2018, and only scoring one single point in the 2019 German Grand Prix with Robert Kubica, courtesy of crashes and penalties for the two Alfa Romeo cars. In the last 2 seasons, the team has had the best race finish of eighth place with Lance Stroll in the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix and has finished 10th and last in the constructors’ standings both seasons.
Can Williams close up to the midfield teams, and if so, how much?
With car regulations for 2020 remaining unchanged from 2019, along with new regulations coming in for the 2021 season; Williams has opted for an evolution of their 2019 machine rather than a revolution, leaving 2020 expectations for the team rather low. The team and its drivers are still optimistic they can close the gap to the cars in the midfield.
“No doubt we’re in a better position,” second year Williams driver George Russell told Motorsport.com.
“I think realistically, we are still the slowest car. We’re not going to get carried away with ourselves, but we’ve definitely reduced the gap.
“That’s all we could have hoped for over the winter. We’ll go into Melbourne and see, but don’t expect to see us in Q2 or Q3. We’ve definitely improved but expectations are all under control.
“Williams isn’t in Formula One to race around at the back of the grid.”
Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams struck a more serious tone when asked about Williams 2020 prospects.
“It’s a critical year because we’ve had two bad years and Williams isn’t in Formula One to race around at the back of the grid. We’re here because we want to race the competition,” Williams told Reuters.
“Having a third [bad] year and to subject our team personnel to a third year of racing around by ourselves at the back of the grid is going to take its toll. And we don’t want that to happen.
Williams opted for a hint of symbolism during the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona scrambling to be the first car on track, after the team embarrassingly missed the first 3 days of last years pre-season test.
“That for us was a shameful moment last year, not getting our car out. We’d managed to do it 42 years prior to 2019 and we failed last year,” Williams added. “That was our rock bottom.”
Could a new driver equal new fortunes, on and off the track?
Williams Racing has also brought in rookie Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi for the 2020 season, replacing Robert Kubica after Kubica struggled to keep pace with George Russell in his comeback effort. Latifi finished second in the 2019 Formula 2 championship after 4 seasons, and will help the team pad up its finances a bit; as he is rumoured to bring an upwards of 30 million euros to the struggling team through his sponsors Sofina, Lavazza and The Royal Bank of Canada.
Latifi’s finances are vitally important to the team, as it will offset some of the losses the team has sustained from finished last in the constructors standings for the last 2 seasons running, and it will also help them spend more on the new for 2021 car, as well as sustain multiple upgrades throughout the 2020 season.
Latifi, who was Williams reserve driver in 2019 and did 6 FP1 sessions with the team last year, says the 2020 Williams FW43 is an improvement on last years FW42 but doesn’t know if it will change their competitiveness this season.
“Have we made as much progress as the others? More than the others? The certain thing is that we have improved, Latifi said.
“I’m really impatient and excited to see where we are. On the last day of testing, George (Russell) was doing Alfa Romeos times, but that doesn’t mean much.
For Williams in 2020, progress of any kind will be the main target for the team, as it looks to the new for 2021 regulation changes as its springboard back to competitive ways.
I think I speak for the whole of the Formula One community when I say, I wish the team well.