After their worst Formula 1 season on record in 2019, Williams are looking for positive signs to show that the behind-the-scenes changes they’ve made in response to two truly dreadful years are starting to bear fruit, readying them to make a real success of 2020.
But what would these ‘positive signs’ look like? How much progress should we expect to see, and how will we know whether or not Williams’ changes can be regarded as a success?
Well, it’s sad to say but starting from such a low point, any progress would be considered a success to an extent. But ignoring that, I’ve put together six key areas where improvement will really demonstrate Williams are moving in the right direction:
WIN #1: If the team get to Barcelona on the 19th February (the opening day of 2020 pre-season testing), without any fundamental issues in the design and build of the car, then they’ve already improved on last season’s effort.
12 months ago with the FW42 having repeatedly failed crash tests, key parts being deemed not to comply with the regulations, and problems with the team’s supply chain Williams’ arrival in Barcelona was delayed, resulting in a thoroughly compromised pre-season, from which the team never really recovered.
WIN #2: The next ‘win’ will be if the FW43 can keep pace with its competition. It seems strange to think that would be a plus, but its predecessor, the FW42 was miles adrift of the rest of the field for much of the season. Haas, Alfa Tauri and Alfa Romeo need to be the target, and if Williams can get among that lot, we should consider it a real breakthrough.
WIN #3: Good reliability is the next thing we need to see. 2019 was a success in that respect, but it counted for very little since the FW42 was so slow. If the option was a quick but fragile car, or a reliable plodder I’d go for the former every time, but a DNF is a DNF irrespective of how it came about.
Williams were lucky in 2019 that they were involved in very few accidents. The bizarre Baku weekend aside, I can only remember a handful of times major spare partage was needed. If Russell and Latifi are to race more closely with other cars, the likelihood of contact is going to increase and so will the need for replacement parts.
WIN #4: Williams need to take this increased demand in their stride, where they seemed to struggle towards the end of last year. Factor in a competitive rate of development and the extra resources required to design and make new parts. If the capability is there to cope with all this, we’re well on our way to success city!
WIN #5: Williams need two content (or at least publicly content) drivers. George Russell‘s outward persona last year was a real credit to him in the face of such testing times. He didn’t point fingers, he didn’t badmouth his team and he remained positive throughout. His team-mate on the other hand was less so, and made it his business to create and then to fuel negativity towards his team, such was his dissatisfaction at how his much vaunted F1 comeback had panned out.
I’d like to see two drivers proving to be equally competitive, spurring each other on to greater things, but I fear that’s unlikely, given the promise George Russell has shown thus far. That being the case, I’d like to see Russell really kick on to the next level, emulating his drive in qualifying in Hungary last year, every lap of every Grand Prix.
WIN #6: Off-track stability. No key personnel leaving unless replaced with better. No sponsor dramas. Consistent suppliers. No financial issues.
Anything on top of that would be a bonus. Points would be fantastic, especially for George who when the whole of 2019 without, but I’d want to see them won on merit and not because of a freak result, or inherited as the result of attrition or disqualification.
But as Claire Williams says, she’s viewing 2020 as the second half of a double 2019/2020 super-season ahead of a fresh start in 2021, so we shouldn’t expect Williams to be suddenly knocking on the door of the top six, as great as that would be.
But if Williams can get the above six ‘wins’ then I’ll consider 2020 a real triumph.