49 days. That’s all that remains until the end of the 2018 Formula 1 season. It can’t come soon enough for Williams Martini Racing.
That’s why the seventh of October has been a success for Williams, not because of their results or performance in today’s Japanese Grand Prix, but because it’s one day closer to the end of a wretched campaign that has yielded so little and proved so incredibly difficult.
Post race there was a slight difference of opinion about the Japanese Grand Prix within Williams: Paddy Lowe claiming Williams ‘had the pace and grid positions to beat some cars’ (‘Some cars’ – That’s how low the bar is at the minute!) whereas Sergey Sirotkin stated that he thought ”we as a team did the absolute maximum from what we could today”.
Either way, Martini Williams Racing had a disappointing afternoon.
On lap 1 Stroll, starting 14th, was caught up in an incident with perennially unhappy superstar Fernando Alonso, who, unhappy that the young Canadian had the temerity to pass him around the outside of 130R, left his front wheels alongside going into the chicane as if to dare Stroll to move across on him, Stroll duly obliged, and off-track went Alonso, happy that his quota of drama for the Grand Prix had been met early doors.
The stewards (including six-times Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen) deemed Stroll at fault for the incident and saddled him with a 5 second penalty. They also adjudged Alonso to be in the wrong for gaining time furiously racing across the chicane to rejoin and he too got a 5-second penalty, irking the already massively irked Spaniard even further.
With Stroll’s Japanese Grand Prix already compromised, a safety car brought out to clear debris from an earlier incident prompted Sirotkin to try a two-stop strategy which, while quicker on paper, was always going to be tricky to exploit fully with 2018’s notoriously difficult to overtake cars, on a track upon which it is notoriously difficult to overtake.
And so it panned out. Sirotkin came home 16th, and Stroll 17th from 17 finishers.
Next up it’s the USGP in Austin, and the likelihood is that in the remaining four races of the season, neither driver will be able to fare any better. It sounds pessimistic, but it’s better to be realistic to avoid disappointment!
My hope, as a Williams fan, is that the team are in the process of securing a game-changing multi-year sponsorship deal and on the brink of signing a couple of super-quick, super-talented drivers for next year, with plenty of support from Mercedes. (Well, just enough not to put the team’s independence into question of course!)
Added to that, I hope that the team turned their attention to the 2019 car pretty early in the 2018 programme when they realised the FW41 was a dud, and that they arrive in Barcelona for pre-season testing with something good to build on.
But first we must see out the remaining 49 days of Team Williams’ worst ever season in Formula 1. It won’t be easy, but to help dull the pain, here’s a photo of a kitten. His name is Phillip. Look at his little face. Whenever you see a Williams car being lapped, just think about Phillip and you’ll feel so much better.
Unless you don’t like cats, in which case I’ve just made it worse.