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What Williams learned from first pre-season test

February 25, 2019

Friday saw the end of F1’s first pre-season test and before everyone’s attention now turns to the second and final four day pre-season test which begins tomorrow, Tuesday 26th of February, we assess what Williams fans can take from week one.

Delays in the build of their FW42s meant, as has been widely publicised, Williams arrived in Barcelona two days late with driver George Russell taking to the track at lunchtime on Wednesday and Robert Kubica the following morning.

With just one and a half days running compared to everyone else’s four, it’s little surprise that Williams lap count was way down on other teams with the Grove outfit completing around a third of the laps of their closest competitor (Williams’ 88 vs Force India’s 248).

It’s far from a coincidence that the team with the littlest running (Williams) finished bottom of the timesheets, second slowest team (Racing Point) completed the second fewest laps, and the third bottom of the timesheets (Haas) was the third most frugal in terms of mileage.

Such was Williams delay that the first test was completed without their FW42‘s full, latest-spec aero package, allowing for limited testing of the car’s full capability leaving the team to focus mainly on the car’s mechanical performance.

“I’ve only done about 11 proper laps in the car, but it gives us a good understanding of where we are at and the limitations and what we need to work on.” said Russell on completing his truncated test programme.

It’s too early to make any attempt to gauge the FW42‘s potential or any kind of pecking order based on what the stopwatch says, but to be a mere second behind Racing Point with all the compromises Williams has made has to be seen as a bit of an achievement.

Another silver lining (okay, maybe a bronze lining) is that, unlike a lot of the teams likely to be their competition in the midfield of the F1 pack in 2019, Williams did not suffer a mechanical breakdown in testing (although their programme was compromised and so any issues may only surface during longer runs).

The issues that other midfield teams are experiencing can also give Williams a degree of solace in that they’re not alone in having a less than perfect pre-season.

Haas are suffering reliability issues, McLaren have oft been seen stopped on circuit, and Renault have appeared to be behind play at times too and have expressed sympathy for Williams’ plight.

It can also give Williams the hint of an opportunity – if other teams slip up then positions could be there for the taking come the start of the season.

The competition amongst the teams vying for the ‘best of the rest’ title in 2019 looks to be as strong as its ever been, with Alfa, Toro Rosso and Renault each topping daily timing screens in Barcelona.

So it’s not only important that Williams match those teams’ improvement from last year, they also have to better it to close the gap as a result of the near tectonic pace of the 2018 Williams FW41.

When asked whether he felt Williams had done this, Robert Kubica offered caution:

“In some ways it is a step forward.”

“The question is if we have done a bigger step forward and smaller backwards, because of regulations. Then it’s a question of balancing.”

“At this stage it’s not correct to talk about the performance of the car, or feelings. We will see next weekend.”

George Russell also spoke of the galvanising effect the problems have had on the spirit within the team:

“Everybody is obsessed about it and they are working their socks off to make it right. That was refreshing for me.”

“It made me quite proud of the guys and how much they are working. They have been up since yesterday at 2:30 in the morning working on the car to make it ready.”

“It is a privilege to be part of this team.”

So despite the obvious issues, there are still positives that Williams can take from the first pre-season test of 2019.
Hopefully Williams will have all of their parts aligned for week two, and we can make a judgement on where the team really lie in terms of pure performance.
But as it stands, the only conclusion that we can draw for certain is that it’s a bloody complicated business building a Formula 1 racing car.

Combined times from the first Formula 1 pre season test

1 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m 17.393s 247 laps
2 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso Honda 1m 17.637s 268 laps
3 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Honda 1m 17.704s 214 laps
4 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1m 17.762s 252 laps
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team R.S.19 1m 17.785s 186 laps
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m 17.857s 303 laps
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m 17.977s 307 laps
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m 18.046s 295 laps
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m 18.161s 303 laps
10 Lando Norris McLaren 1m 18.431s 236 laps
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1m 18.511s 255 laps
12 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1m 18.558s 209 laps
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 1m 18.563s 198 laps
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1m 18.720s 125 laps
15 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1m 18.780s 238 laps
16 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m 18.787s 237 laps
17 Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 1m 19.249s 61 laps*
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1m 19.664s 151 laps
19 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1m 19.944s 97 laps
20 George Russell Williams 1m 20.997s 40 laps
21 Robert Kubica Williams 1m 21.542s 48 laps


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