It’s the news that no Williams fan wanted to hear, but we all half expected after their worst start to any season in their 42 year history in Formula 1.
Williams’ tumultuous pre-season began when the Grove team cancelled a shake-down test prior to the official four day first official test of 2019.
Things went from bad to worse when they failed to show for the first Barcelona test, arrived a couple of days later sans parts meaning any laps they did complete were sorely compromised, ‘sacked’ CTO Paddy Lowe then had to redesign several key elements of their FW42 to conform to FIA regulations.
And now, after qualifying last and second last for the Australian Grand Prix 1.3 seconds behind the next slowest qualifier – lightyears in F1 terms – Williams have announced that they have found a major flaw with their FW42.
After a 2018 plagued by ‘fundamental issues’ Williams hoped they’d overcome the problems with the FW41 that compromised their entire campaign and that in the FW42 they had a car that, while not immediately quick, was at least a platform on which they could progress towards the midfield.
But the latest announcement sees their current state more closely aligned to the Williams of 2018 than the bright future Paddy Lowe, Claire Williams et al painted prior to the start of the year.
“There is one fundamental problem which I don’t want to discuss publicly” said George Russell, the quicker of Williams’ two drivers in qualifying at Albert Park.
“We understand what that is, but it doesn’t mean we can wake up on Monday morning and rectify it”
“To change something so fundamental will take months of development, work in the simulator and designers working out how to do it.”
“Unfortunately we are looking at a number of races before we are going to be able to fight, and that is just where we are at the moment.”
So the steady but solid foundations Williams were waxing lyrical about prior to the start of the season seem to be as fragile as the ones upon which they tried and failed to build last year.
Paddy Lowe has obviously taken the bulk of the responsibility for the failings of the FW42, however, with the high profile comings and goings of the previous few seasons it would seem that in whatever guise it appears, Williams is currently unable to build a functioning Formula 1 car.
One wonders at what point someone at Williams is going to wrestle control of the spiralling fortunes of this once great team, or whether they will continue their current shambolic descent into complete oblivion.
For f*ck’s sake.