On arriving at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix Williams hoped that they might be able to match rivals Haas and Alfa Romeo if not over a single lap then certainly for race pace.
A new front wing that had given them (and us) much hope for an upturn in fortunes towards the end of 2019 and going into 2020, coupled with the thin air at a circuit 6500ft above sea level lessening the impact of additional drag Williams’ FW42 carries with it wherever it races hinted at a much more competitive Sunday afternoon lay ahead for a team desperate for competitive Sunday afternoons.
2020 Williams driver elect Nicholas Latifi began the weekend in outgoing Robert Kubica‘s car in the first of a run of FP1 showings before the season’s close, and he duly slotted his car into 20th position, a second and one place behind team-mate George Russell.
Kubica returned for practices 2 and 3 and fared much better, almost matching Russell’s best time in FP2, but again, the pair were some way adrift of the competition.
In qualifying, both cars were out in FP1, once again slowest, despite Russell finishing just 3 tenths shy of the Haas cars directly ahead in 17th and 18th.
But we kind of knew this was likely. The Mexican Grand Prix itself was going to be Williams opportunity to get in amongst it, and get amongst it Russell did come lights out, gaining a handful of places before he was muscled out at turns 4 to 6 later in the lap and relegated to the back of the field.
Kubica by now ahead of Russell & feeling much happier with the car, drove one of his better races before having to make an unscheduled stop with 11 laps to go having fallen victim to a slow puncture, and Russell once again found himself as lead Williams.
The fight with Haas and Alfa Romeo didn’t quite materialise, however George did manage to finish ahead of Romain Grosjean who bemoaned his car’s lack of form saying ‘nothing was working’.
Robert would have too, but for his late tyre drama.
So another disappointing weekend for a Williams team edging towards the end of a difficult season and hoping for much better for 2020.
Another troubling aspect of the Mexican Grand Prix was the continued nastiness of some of Robert Kubica’s more active fans on social media, who continued their completely baseless attacks on the Williams team with accusations that the puncture was a deliberate and pre-meditated attempt to engineer Russell ahead of his team mate.
These attacks are becoming a scourge on the good name of many of Kubica’s more rational supporters (for whom I feel much sympathy), and are beginning to sour the Pole’s very return to Formula 1.
I’m but one of a growing number of fans (of not just Williams but of other teams & drivers too) who can’t wait for them to drift off elsewhere and spill their bile there instead of here with us at Williams and in Formula 1.
DTM (or wherever he ends up) won’t know what’s hit it.
Just another reason why the end of 2019 can’t come quick enough.