The first two official sessions of the 2019 F1 season took place in Albert Park, Melbourne on Friday, and it was a disappointing watch for fans of Williams F1.
It’s far from surprising that Williams seem to be struggling in the Australian Grand Prix, after a compromised two weeks of testing and their hastily modified car that would have otherwise fallen foul of FIA rulings.
Following such a turbulent pre-season, Williams were always going to have to park any thoughts of competing and instead use the first Grand Prix of the season as a glorified test session with a view to unlocking the potential of their 2019 car, the Williams FW42, in the near future.
And so the inevitable happened. Williams drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica were firmly planted to the foot of the timesheets in both practice sessions, with the quickest time set by a Williams driver 3.8 seconds off the pace of quickest man Lewis Hamilton and 1.8 seconds slower than Williams’ closest rival Lando Norris in a McLaren.
“We didn’t have the best of days with lap times” George Russell told Sky F1.
“We are quite a long way off the rest but we know what we are in for and we know what this weekend is going to be about. We just need to build on that.”
“We just need to make sure by mid-season and the end of the season that we have something better.”
“I’ll be very shocked if we qualify better than the last row of the grid.”
Robert Kubica also revealed that a lack of spare parts was hindering his efforts in trying to set a quick time in practice, because he was having to avoid running over kerbs to avoid any potential damage to the limited parts they have.
“It’s a great feeling [being back in Formula 1]” said the Pole “but the feeling is compromised a bit with the difficulty we are having”
“We faced similar in Barcelona. We have to stay off kerbs which is not easy when you are fighting to stay on track.”
“Unfortunately we are quite compromised with what is happening.”
But perhaps not wishing to sound wholly negative, Russell also hinted at better things to come:
“It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t say it was feeling as bad as the laptimes look, really”
“We’ve obviously got our improvements to come and fine-tuning to make, but I don’t think we’re a million miles from out optimum.”
So while the car appears slow in practice, Williams are still quite early on in their testing programme, and a key objective of the winter was to build a car that was driveable – a platform upon which they could develop throughout the season, and they seem to have done that.
So while the team seem slightly adrift at the back of the field at the moment, development should be steady, and by one third distance into the season, Williams will be fighting those currently ahead of them.
He said optimistically.