How Williams can follow McLaren to get back on the grid
In any sporting race, someone has to finish last. But nobody wants to do it often – and in F1, Williams has clearly had his fill.
Three years is more than enough to be the latecomer. It can even become four. However, Williams, one of the proudest names in Formula 1, is determined to follow its old rivals McLaren forward.
Jost Capito, the new CEO of Williams, said at the launch of their 2021 car: “It’s very difficult to put a two, three or four year time stamp, but I’m confident that we can achieve at least the same as McLaren. . “
Anyone who has followed Formula 1 in the 1980s and 1990s will know that Williams and McLaren were the two dominant teams during those decades.
Between them, the two have won 16 of the 20 proposed Constructors’ World Championships, spending 11 seasons without looking at anyone else during the glory years of Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell who all won World Championship titles. pilots during this instant.
But the sport is cyclical and F1 is no exception, although in recent seasons Mercedes has done its best to deny it.
Two decades after the last constructors’ crown for McLaren or Williams, the two teams found themselves on the other end of the spectrum, their fortunes having plunged to the point of crisis.
To their credit, Mclaren have changed things in impressive ways since the embarrassing days when Fernando Alonso told the world he had a “GP2 engine” and was pictured posing on a deckchair after his car broke down during qualifying in Brazil.
They ditched the Honda engine, which had caused them three years of misery, at the end of 2017, and then 12 months later they parted ways with Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne’s unbalanced rider lineup to bring in Lando Norris and Carlos, better matched. Twinning Sainz.
In two seasons, which also included plenty of behind-the-scenes restructuring, McLaren had won bronze at the World Championship – and now, with a Mercedes engine and a seven-time race winner. Daniel Ricciardo alongside Norris, they continue to look up.
This is what Williams has to do as well, albeit starting from a lower platform. Despite their disgrace, McLaren never finished last in the World Championship – they were ninth in 2015 and 2017 and their lowest point total was 27 in the first of those years.
Williams has scored seven, one and zero respectively over the past three seasons. Although they took off in 2019 via Robert Kubica in a wet and hectic German Grand Prix when they were lucky because big time penalties were imposed on the two Alfa Romeos, they were far from the pace of the following slower cars throughout this campaign.
From a performance standpoint, it was surely the lowest for Williams. Last season their pace improved and certainly Georges russel was at least tied with Haas and Alfa Romeo cars, although a top 10 proved elusive.
It was a step forward, but a lot of big breakthroughs are needed – and at least Williams is now on a much safer footing to make them.
Formerly a family team, financial insecurities were eased by the takeover last August by US investment firm Dorilton Capital which, among other things, is injecting much needed funds to replace aging equipment at the team’s factory.
You feel, however, that considerably more external revenue would be welcome – Williams only lists 15 business partners compared to 35 for McLaren.
But Williams has a technical partnership with Mercedes which allows their own staff to focus on the smallest details of the car and they have experienced operators running the show at Capito and team leader Simon Roberts.
The driving side, certainly at this point, isn’t a big deal as long as Williams is in his current position.
They can expect Russell, possibly a future Mercedes driver, to maximize any odds that come his way in the final year of his “loan deal” with the world champions, while Nicolas latifi brings significant sponsorship from his father’s Sofina company and comes across as a pretty secure pair of hands if there is no world drummer.
It is later, if they can begin to make real progress, that Williams will have to choose his drivers carefully.
So how far, how fast will they be able to ascend the mountain on which their own flag has been planted for so long?
“My goals? They are very clear,” said Capito, who had a short spell with McLaren in 2016.
“In the short term we have to fight hard on the track and try to make the most of every opportunity. But in the longer term, we want Williams to win races again.
“McLaren has done a fantastic job over the years. My idea on this is clear – there’s no reason we can’t do the same. We have all the ingredients to do the exact same thing.
The key will clearly be the investment of their owners. If Dorilton keeps his promise to be serious operators and not just have a team for fun, then the changes F1 is undergoing should strengthen their efforts to get to where they want to be.
After all, the regulatory overhaul for next year and the budget cap affecting their spending rivals were both designed to benefit teams like Williams.
But helping out doesn’t go any further. Ultimately, it will be up to Williams, as McLaren did, to identify where they can make gains and make those improvements.
The problem is that in F1 there must always be someone who finishes last. McLaren has taken steps to ensure that in terms of the championship, it won’t be them anytime soon.
Your turn, Williams.