Williams Grand Prix Engineering had some real wild up and down times in Formula One across the 2010s. Despite showing some promise in 2014 and 2015 with Mercedes power at the start of the hybrid era, the team dug itself a hole and has thus far not been able to haul its way out. In 2018, 2019, and 2020 the team has scored tenth and last in the World Constructors Championship, and the 2020 season marked the first time in history that Williams failed to score any points at all. It’ll take a lot to get the team turned around, and I think 2021 is that time.
Despite all the negativity surrounding the team, I think young George Russell proved himself worthy of praise. He did quite well in qualifying, hauling the Williams up into Q2 a number of times, and had a few opportunities to score points, but famously and unluckily fell short. With ten laps remaining in the Imola race last year, leading the grid and looking to finish quite well, the kid looped it under safety car, smashing the car to bits. There were flashes of brilliance, but the underlying chassis was just so wrong that predictable and reliable fighting lap after lap was near impossible. One-lap pace is on par with some of the mid-fielders, but race pace has been a problem.
I don’t want this to seem like I’m laying the blame at the shoulders of Sir Frank or his daughter Claire, but perhaps it will be good for the team that they have decided to step away from the sport. With the sale of the team to Dorilton Capital, hopefully the team can get the capital investment it needs to really take a step forward again. There are rumors that the pink BWT sponsorship, which was seen on the flanks of the Racing Point car in 2020, will be migrating to the Williams camp, which would be tremendous for the team from Grove.
Since Valtteri Bottas left the team for Mercedes there has been a revolving door of talent walking into and back out of the Williams team. This will be the first season that the team has kept its driver lineup static from the previous year since 2015, when it finished 5th. Having George Russell and Nicolas Latifi for a second year will build some rapport between drivers, team, and engineering staff, hopefully allowing the crew to build something a bit better. That’s a solid driver lineup for 2021.
Don’t think I’m under any delusion that Williams Racing will find itself on the podium this season, but I expect a few off-season improvements will find the team a bit closer to the middle of the pack than 2020 results portrayed. Certainly I expect the team to be back to its points scoring ways, but we’re still a long way off from the last time the team won a championship 24 years ago.
Here’s hoping that with an increased budget and a series clearly interested in decreasing costs the Williams team will kick off a renewed effort toward the front this year, and maybe their 2022 car will be regularly fighting for points with the new regulations set to drop. I’d really hate to see this legendary and storied team fall off the grid due to lack of performance. I’ll be watching with a keen eye toward the Williams team this year. Join me?