Well, what a great Japanese Grand Prix for Williams!!
…is what I look forward to writing one day in the not too distant future, rather than the weekly lament on the fortunes of a team that seem to be lurching from one low point to the next. Obviously not this week though 🙁
Let’s talk about the positives first…
With Typhoon Hagibis tearing its way towards Suzuka & destined to make landfall just ahead of Saturday running it was considered wise to pre-emptively move qualifying to Sunday morning when the weather was due to be a lot more settled.
The knock on effect of this unusually rational (for F1) decision, was that any team finding their car buried in the wall in qualifying would face a monumental task to ready themselves for the Japanese Grand Prix that would follow in under four hours.
And guess what! Not uncharacteristic of Williams’ 2019 season, that was exactly what happened to Robert Kubica on his first flying lap.
Running wide exiting the Casio triangle (it always makes me laugh that Monaco has ‘Casino Square’ and Suzuka has the ‘Casio Triangle’ – an ‘n’ and a side shy) and on to the start/finish straight, he seemed to lose concentration, left two wheels trailing on the grass and speared off into the barriers as a result.
The front end of his car was destroyed, and with but a few hours until lights out, the team looked certain to start the Japanese Grand Prix with a single car.
Amazingly, with Kubica’s FW42 considered too damaged to repair in time for the race, the Williams garage managed to rebuild a new chassis for Kubica and have it ready for a pitlane start, in as clear a demonstration as you’re likely to see that the Williams team is made up of good people with incredible determination and spirit despite their car’s on-track tardiness.
Sadly, that’s where the positives end.
Kubica, it would turn out, was furious that Williams’ new wing had been removed from his car for qualifying, despite that being the plan all along.
Unlike George Russell who found it to be little or no improvement to the old spec front-wing, Kubica had seen a noticeable benefit and apparently requested it remain on his car for the remainder of the weekend.
Williams, however, stuck to their plan, and wishing to protect their new bit of kit so that they could evaluate it further in Mexico and with new parts famously in short supply, replaced it with the old version, much to Kubica’s chagrin.
Kubica’s anger was evident from the moment his mangled car came to a standstill as he muttered ‘It’s a f*cking joke’ over team radio.
Whether this anger affected his decision making going into his flying lap is unclear (read into that what you will!).
Kubica continued his tirade on Polish television on his return to the paddock, quite clearly unaware of the irony of his ire being directed at Williams F1 for wanting to protect a part that would have been destroyed in his little off, fully vindicating their decision.
Team-mate Russell would qualify slowest of those to set a time, lining up 18th for the race.
Predictably, the two Williams quickly settled in last and second last, inheriting a place when Max Verstappen retired his car on lap 15, positions they’d hold to the flag, George (himself suffering from brake issues throughout) over A MINUTE AND A HALF(!) ahead of Kubica when they crossed the line.
Up at the sharp end the Japanese Grand Prix was won by ex-Williams driver Valtteri Bottas from Sebastian Vettel and world-champion elect Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ 1-3 finish sealing them their sixth consecutive World Constructors’ championship and ensuring that one of their drivers is guaranteed to win the drivers’s title.
On to Mexico! ARRIBA!