2020 wasn’t a particularly easy year for the Williams F1 team, and after scoring no points at all for the second year running, something needs to change. So, Williams has opted to further expand its technical partnership with Mercedes, the head of the pack.
Williams has avowed time and again that it will not be a B-team. But with its performance suffering drastically in the past several seasons—it was the only team that failed to score points in 2020, following its single scored point in 2019—there seems to be fewer and fewer choices for Williams on the horizon. But with the Williams family itself actually taking a step back in favor of new investors, it seems like becoming a B-team is actually fairly likely.
But it kind of has become a B-team. Williams has been running Mercedes engines for the past several years, and it has given a seat to George Russell, who will very likely end up in a Mercedes in the near future. And from 2022 on, Williams will also be running Mercedes’ gearboxes and other related hydraulic components, F1 reports, in a move fairly reminiscent of Haas’ relationship with Ferrari. Not that Haas has been running particularly well lately, either.
It makes sense. Something is obviously very wrong over at Williams. A former championship-winning team now struggles to finish in the top 12 no matter the conditions. Reducing the amount of parts manufactured in-house will give Williams a chance to get the house in order so to speak, to focus on the things that desperately need changing instead of technical components that take up time and resources.
“I’m pleased to see our great relationship with Mercedes extend beyond the supply of engines. Williams is an independent team, but Formula One is always evolving, and as a team we must be agile to react to the current climate in order to put the team in the best position to be competitive on track. This long-term agreement with Mercedes is a positive step and forms part of our strategic objectives for the future whilst we will still retain our design and manufacturing capabilities in-house,” said Williams team principal Simon Roberts.
While Mercedes also furnishes power units for Racing Point—soon to become Aston Martin—the lowly state of the Williams team hints at it becoming something of a feeder team for future Mercedes drivers. After all, Merc is the only one of the top three teams that lacks one: Ferrari has Alfa Romeo and Red Bull Racing has AlphaTauri. Whether that comes to fruition or not remains to be seen, but it would make sense with both Mercedes drivers hinting that they’re reaching the ends of their careers.