Back in 2019/20, when the Williams Team faced an uncertain future in the face of mounting financial pressures, with a car that was a million miles off the pace, a shortage of parts, staff coming and going on a weekly basis among one structural review and reorganisation after another, Pirelli invited each of Formula 1’s ten teams to build a test car, or ‘mule car’ with which to test its new 18 inch wheels and tyres ahead of their introduction in 2021, later moved back to 2022 because of COVID.
Williams decided that the extra cost of building an adapted car, at that time, was too much of a strain on the team’s already stretched resources and opted not to build one, – the only team not to do so.
Since then, teams have racked up thousands and thousands of laps on the new tyre, while Williams watch on from the sidelines.
The final test prior to the introduction of the new-for-2022 cars approaches in Abu-Dhabi in December – again with the new tyre – and Williams’ Head of vehicle performance Dave Robson has admitted that the team will start the new era at something of a disadvantage to its rivals.
“We start the winter testing a little bit on the back foot probably but I would hope if the car is running well then after we’ve done the tests that we can catch up quickly.” Robson told Autosport.
“We know that the mule car would have been beneficial but unfortunately, at the time we had to commit to that, we just didn’t have the resource to do it.”
“It was a decision that was made an awful long time ago and we can’t do anything about it.”
With testing at such a premium I hope this doesn’t put Williams at too much of a disadvantage. The thought that the team might ‘catch up’ worries me slightly though – it’s not really possible for Williams to do more testing than any of the other teams, and while Williams are getting to know the new tyres, its competitors will be working on something else that Williams might then find itself behind with, and so on until testing ends.
Anyhoo, it was a decision that was made, it would seem, for the right reasons a long time ago and there’s nothing anyone can do anything about now. Let’s hope it’s not too much of an issue and we can start the new era off on a high!