Part two of my Williams 2018 Formula 1 season review. Check out part one here.
Hungarian Grand Prix
Having made it through to Q2, Williams’ Lance Stroll was forced to start the race from the pitlane after changing front wing under parc-ferme conditions from the newly introduced latest-spec but limited in quantity front wing to the old spec as a result of contact with the wall, much to the chagrin of team Stroll.
In the race, again, the Williams pair finished line astern, Sirotkin leading Stroll home in 16th and 17th.
Belgian Grand Prix
The main talking point prior to the Belgian Grand Prix was Force India’s descent into administration, and their takeover by Williams driver Lance Stroll’s father Lawrence.
This would inevitably mean that Lance (and his money) would leave the team at the end of the season, despite it being another four months before it was made official.
The slowest two cars in qualifying, the Williams duo made it through the Grand Prix unscathed, Sergey finishing 12th and Lance 14th.
But there were reasons to be cheerful. Williams were due to bring a major upgrade package to the FW41 for the next Grand Prix at Monza. Could it remedy the problems that had hamstrung the team all season long?
Italian Grand Prix
The upgrade package paid off straight away. Lance Stroll made it through to Q3 for the first time since 2017, planting his car in 10th for the start. Sergey just two places back in 12th.
In what would prove to be Williams’ best race of the 2018 F1 season, and thanks in part to Romain Grosjean’s car being judged illegal promoting Sirotkin up a place, both drivers scored points in the team’s only double points finish of the season.
It looked like the updates had at least partly cured the flaws with the Williams FW41 that the team had struggled with from the car’s debut in Barcelona testing.
But more than that, it pointed to the team having found the source of the issues at a crucial time in the development of the FW42, Williams’ car for the following year.
So while by now, 2018 was pretty much a write-off. But there was hope that 2019 would be much better!
Singapore Grand Prix
Possibly Williams’ most trying race of the season. Both cars were well off the pace all weekend, the nature of the Marina Bay street circuit leaving Williams 1.5 seconds off its nearest competitor in qualifying, and over five seconds off pacesetter Lewis Hamilton.
A chaotic race in which Sirotkin picked up a piece of debris from an accident ahead of him left him in 19th at the flag after a forced improvised race strategy. Stroll profited slightly more from the safety car and the chaos going on around him to bring his car home in 15th, which became 14th once penalties were administered.
Russian Grand Prix
Sergey Sirotkin’s first home Grand Prix proved to be his ‘most painful of the year’. Starting 13th he was squeezed out at turn 1, losing a bucketload of positions. He was never able to recover from this and in a race where nothing seemed to go right for the Russian, he eventually finished 18th and last.
Lance Stroll, qualifying slowest of all, profited no less than six places on the grid as a result of penalties elsewhere. Affected by serious graining to his tyres in the race, he was able to maintain position, just losing out on p14 to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso at the death.
Japanese Grand Prix
A difficult race for Williams. After qualifying 14th and 17th, both Lance and Sergey struggled with tyre-life and after losing positions at the start of the race were never able to fully recover.
Stroll received a penalty for causing a collision with Alonso before finishing the race in 17th position, one place behind team-mate Sirotkin.
United States Grand Prix
Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll started the USGP in 14th and 15th places respectively.
At the start of the Grand Prix, each Williams tangled with a different McLaren, both sustaining damage – Sergey would suffer floor damage but would continue to struggle to the chequered flag, whereas Lance was forced to pit to replace his front wing and received a time penalty for his trouble.
With cars that were already aerodynamically flawed being compromised further by collision damage, unsurprisingly both drivers found themselves a long way adrift at the back of the field but battled to bring their cars home, Sergey in 13th and Lance in 14th – the last to take the flag.
Mexican Grand Prix
A relatively good Grand Prix for Williams given their 2018 performances.
Stroll started 17th and Sirotkin 19th, each making headway at the start and able to battle cars around them to come home in 12th and 13th.
Williams opted for a two-stop for Stroll and one for Sirotkin. Post-race, Stroll suggested that with a different strategy he may even have been able to fight for points.
Brazilian Grand Prix
The penultimate Grand Prix of the 2018 Formula 1 season saw the teams arrive at the Interlagos Circuit, in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
From 14th (Sergey) and 19th (Lance) on the grid, both drivers struggled for outright pace, and after, again, splitting strategies drove long, hard, but uneventful races to finish in 16th and 18th.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The final Grand Prix of the 2018 Formula 1 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix put to bed an extremely frustrating and disappointing season for the Williams Formula 1 Team.
It was announced, prior to the race that Williams’ 2018 reserve driver Robert Kubica would be replacing the outgoing Sergey Sirotkin at Williams in 2019.
With George Russell already announced, it officially signalled (albeit indirectly) the end of Lance Stroll’s Williams career.
And so, in both drivers’ last race for the Grove team, it was almost fitting that they qualified in 19th and 20th position.
Sirotkin struggled with cooling – the bane of Williams’ season – for large parts of the race, and with outright pace for the duration, finishing in 15th and last place.
Lance Stroll found the ultrasoft tyre allowed him to up his pace towards the end of the race and he was able to race those around him en route to 13th place.
And so concludes statistically the worst season in Williams history!
Williams are a team in transition, and so 2018 could have been a result of the shakeup that’s happening behind the scenes in order for the staunchly independent Williams Team to compete with teams around it.
Many of these teams are becoming increasingly reliant on ‘parent’ teams for hardware, driver placement and IP which is making Formula 1 a more difficult environment in which to compete for a non-works, non-buddy team.
The root of the fundamental issues affecting the Williams FW41 appear to have been sourced, and big names have left the team assuming culpability for its failings.
Hopefully Williams’ new structure, and its learnings from such a difficult year informing the design of its 2019 FW42 allied with its exciting new driver line-up can give us something to get excited about in 2019.
Bring it on!