ANALYSIS – F1 2014 THE STORY SO FAR: Williams
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Apr 2014   |  8:35 pm GMT  |  90 comments

With the first four ‘flyaway’ grands prix out of the way, it’s a good time to assess the start each team has made to the season and look at how each team has fared so far with the new hybrid turbo technology.

And the subject of our third analysis piece is a team that set the pace in winter testing, but which hasn’t made the most of its pace and doesn’t have as many points on the board as most people expected at this stage…


Williams

Best result: P5 (Bottas, Australia)
Best grid slot: 3rd (Bottas, Bahrain)
Average grid slot: 9th.
Retirements: 1
Constructors Championship: 6th, 36 pts
Drivers’ Championship: Bottas 24 pts; Massa 12pts

Fastest race lap, gap to pace setter
Australia: +0.090s
Malaysia: +1.831s
Bahrain: +2.257s
China: +1.977

What’s gone right?
Bright new shiny paint scheme, reflecting new sponsorship from Martini, the iconic stripe running down the car makes it look fast! Other sponsors on the car hint at a team that is turning itself around. The winter testing showed that Williams has a good car, good reliability and a Mercedes power unit in the back, which is the benchmark unit at this point.

Williams were the second best team overall in pre-season testing (after Mercedes) so they will be very disappointed to be currently lying P6 in the constructors. But unforced mistakes have ultimately cost them precious points.

Bottas was exciting to watch in Australia and could have been on the podium had he not made a mistake, hitting the wall when climbing through the field. His qualifying performance in Bahrain was strong too, with third on the grid.

The car package looks good, although they were clearly initially lacking downforce relative to the leaders, which was highlighted in the wet conditions. With a number of updates in China they appear to have improved the balance of the car in the wet and they qualified both cars in the top four rows of the grid in both Bahrain and China, so it’s all there for the taking.


What’s gone wrong?
Getting the points the car’s potential deserves. A haul of 36 points from four races, equals an average result of 8th for each car, or 9 points per race for the team, which is poor in comparison with Force India which has 54 points, using the same Mercedes power unit.

So why hasn’t it happened? Largely a series of errors; driver errors, operational errors and mishaps.

One moment to forget was the “Valterri is faster than you” radio call to Massa, asking him to let his team mate through in Malaysia, which the Brazilian was unimpressed by. Bottas felt he had the speed and the fresher tyres to challenge Button’s McLaren for 6th place, but Massa had track position.

Was it worth the risk of damaging Massa psychologically and potentially undermining his trust in the team at this early stage for the sake of an extra two points?

The team clearly felt he would understand the strategic side of their intentions and they had a heart to heart afterwards to talk through how they will deal with this kind of thing in future.


Strong points of the team and car
They made a good choice moving to Mercedes engines this year from Renault and have done a good job on integrating the power unit with their chassis and appear to have an efficient cooling package. It’s a simple car, but no less effective for that. Given that their exhaust blowing was probably not as effective as others in 2013 the banning of this highly beneficial aerodynamic feature impacted Williams less than other teams.

The new technical signings, led by Pat Symonds and with experienced operational figures like Rob Smedley will help bolster the team, but they need to cut out the unforced errors.

Weak points of the team and the car
High tyre degradation is one thing. The car showed a tendency to overuse its tyres in Malaysia and Bahrain, which cost them dearly.

The team made a strange mistake in Bahrain by not doing much running in free practice as they had so much data from testing at the circuit. But the conditions were different and they didn’t have enough homework come race evening. Bottas went from 3rd on the grid to 8th at the finish as tyre degradation nailed them.


In China Massa was rather lively off the start line and tagged Alonso. A strange mix up with his tyres being on the wrong side lost him any chance of a good result.

In other words a series of largely own goals have left Williams feeling rueful about what might have been.

Where do they go from here?
No need to panic..yet; the car is fast, the power unit is strong and there are plenty of races to go. The others will develop, but lead times for major changes on the power units are very long.

Williams need to start capitalising on their performance in the next few races as one would expect Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren to start to pull ahead. However McLaren are definitely struggling (they also have to integrate a completely new Honda power unit for 2015 and will have less and less input from Mereces engines so have a massive task on their hands this season as they are effectively developing two completely different cars).

Depending on how all that goes and how well Williams convert pace into points, the fight for Williams this year may be for fifth in the Constructors’ Championship with Force India, assuming McLaren can raise its game.


So far Bottas has scored double the points of Massa, which is slightly surprising, but we can only judge properly after half a season.

One final footnote: Williams as a group has been quietly restructuring its operation to concentrate more on the F1 racing side and remove non-core and non-profitable activity from its business portfolio, meaning that there is less potential distraction (ie other non-F1 related projects) for the design staff.

Overall Marks out of 10

Williams – 5/10

Felipe Massa – 5/10

Valterri Bottas – 6/10

How many marks out of ten do you give Williams so far? Leave us your comments on this post in the comments section below.

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1

While it is very interesting to read the remarks made on this subject and I congratulate the organises of this forum I find that nobody has hit on the actual reasoning behind performance being not what was expected. It is a simple answer and that is as follows—–

2014 is the year that is Mercedes turn to win and the organiser is waiting trial in Europe for a similar action. Red Bull, in the eyes of the money organisers had to be stopped and so far it looks like the action will be successful. Obviously Vettel knows this and doesn’t like it and I wonder what will happen there as in Vettel’s rather large 4 year contract there was a clause that said Red Bull had to supply a car that was capable of winning the championship or he could leave. Where would he go? At the moment he would slot in very nicely at Williams, that is providing they can pay the asking price which I think is 16 million U.S. Dollars. Of course that is if that clause is still in his contract and if another team is prepared to pay it. Or, does Vettel know all this and is sitting tight when this year is over. Red Bull may wear this for one year but not two and the money from the European billionaire that backs them will also be available again next year but even he must follow the rules. That is just Formula One and I doubt Anyone will agree with me on this but it has happened time and time again.

2

Not reached perceived potential. Limited resources may keen them mid field at end of season.

Team order saga was an episode to forget

3

Big fan of Bottas here. He’s got very strong talent and is both quick and efficient in his driving style. He also has some maturing to do, but we are just four races into the season.

4

During winter testing there was an interview with Pat where he hinted that their driver line up fits in with their current objectives.

Interesting that he thinks they’re high level but not top shelf, a bit like when they had Patrese and Boutsen in 89 and 90.

Sounds like they still need a top line driver to help motivate the team, direct the development of the car and eek every bit of performance out of it, maybe a job for someone like Alonso!

5

Unfortunately they are a mid-field team and we and they might as well get used to that because how it is going to change unless they win a few lotteries?

6

Williams are an interesting case. I think the car is quick, more so in the dry, than in the wet, and I believe the drivers are quick. However, they have not been able to put it together across a weekend.

The drivers have been good, but they have had their problems. Bottas should have had a podium in Australia if he didn’t hit the wall and damaged the tyre, but has been solid in the other races without being a shining light. Massa was taken out in Turn 1 in Australia, and his race in China was destroyed by a shocking pit-stop. Other than that, he hasn’t done much wrong.

Overall, Williams have potential, but need to execute better to achieve really good results.

7

James, have you looked at multiple camera angles of the Massa-Alonso start line incident in China?

I have, and frankly, it is only Alonso’s own car-cam that supports him being hit by Massa.

Others, including two cameras independent of either car, show Fernando hitting Massa.

8

“Was it worth the risk of damaging Massa psychologically and potentially undermining his trust in the team at this early stage for the sake of an extra two points?”

For such an experienced driver, he’s rather fragile mentally, if that’s the case.

Bahrain was a self-inflicted wound if they’d only practiced more, they might have avoided the 3-stop strategy which is what scuppered their results.

9

James, ratings are quite unbalanced. You gave Alonso 7/10 for driving faultlessly and taking a maximum from every weekend, while you gave Bottas 6/10 for hitting the wall completely unnecessary, costing them potential podium, being outqualified by Massa 2 out of 4 times and being outraced by Massa on few occassions too.

10

Actually Massa is 3-1 in qualifying.

Also, Bottas lost costly time at Bahrain when he went off at Turn 1, so it’s certainly been a patchy season for him so far.

11

I don’t see why Massa’s mark is lower than Bottas’s. Neither why Williams mark is lower than Mclaren’s. Still totally in desagreement with these marks… How the hell Mclaren was given a 6/10, totally nonsense. Too much credit to Mclaren’s podium finish in Australia.

12

Peter Windsor was at Bahrain for testing, and he observed the Williams was geared much shorter than the Force India: Williams were at 7th gear on the straight whereas Force India rarely went above fifth.

Could this be the source of their tyre troubles: too much torque when accelerating leading to wheel spin? It might also explain some of their problems in the wet.

13

Actually, Williams was already in EIGHTH gear on that straight. So they are even more incredibly short. This, IMO, was a massive mistake. It’s clearly behind the tire trouble at a place like Bahrain, but it’s also a very possible source of the team’s struggles in the wet, as they are laying down the power way too aggressively in the low gears. Having said that, I would really watch out for them at a track like Monaco, where getting the car to rotate and burst quickly out of tight corners is the name of the game.

I think we all got quite excited during winter testing when Williams was looking clearly very strong. I don’t think their performance at that point was fake, but clearly Mercedes had a hell of a lot more pace in their pocket than they showed in testing. Also, I think it’s pretty clear that Red Bull has had a very quick car all along, but they needed to sort out their reliability, and with their resources, I am prepared to believe that they were able to leapfrog everyone into second place by Malaysia. So I wouldn’t say that, given all the factors, Williams has been completely disappointing this year.

14
David in Sydney

I think we forget that ratios are fixed all season – meaning teams like Ferrari who gear for Monza (doh) don’t look as good on twisty circuits.

Perhaps Williams are gunning for a Monaco and Silverstone (what with the new twisty bits) win?

Come to think of it fixed ratios all season is just as articial a device as DRS and spec tyres (which I also hate).

15

They are allowed one gear ratio change this season.

16

Compared to last year, this year Williams has gone very well but they have definitely not fulfilled the full potential from the car. They just need a couple of weekend’s where they get everything right and podiums are definitely within their reach. Now that the European season is about to start the development race is on and lotus (last year) and force India (this year) have shown that it is possible to compete at the front on a much smaller budget. With the right belief and well targeted developments 4th or higher is possible. I think it is time to give the sports psychologist who has done such a great job with Liverpool football team a call. They have everything in place to do well but they just need the belief in themselves and to stop making mistakes. I believe it but do they??

17

Hi James,

Please can you put me straight on why the left/right mix up on Massa’s rear tyres in China mattered.

Do they run at different pressures dependant on the circuit being clockwise/anti clockwise, slightly different properties, or what?

Many thanks.

Chum

18

The construction is not symetric inside the tyre. Each tyre has to go on a specific side. I think now its in the rules, right tyre must go on the right side and same on the left. In previous years teams discovered that the pirellis gave slight better performance if mounted otherwise, but since last year there is a rule to avoid that.

19
David in Sydney

Which race was it last year that teams were swapping tyres from left to right resulting in exploding tyres?

20

Silverstone.

21

Yes, the tyres are directional in their construction but I think what really messed things up for them is that one side of the car axles has a left hand thread and the other side has a right hand thread. The wheel nuts are mounted into the wheels so if you get them the wrong way around, they simply will not fit.

22

williams don’t seem to be able to get the correct wheel onto the correct axle and then make sure it stays there – pretty fundamental stuff.

also pretty hopeless on the aero side. the car is not efficient and so the team can’t crank on more wing otherwise the drag kills the fuel consumption.

if it wasn’t for the benz engine the team would be nowhere. it hurts me to say that.

23
David in Sydney

I was pretty appalling. Says a lot about how sloppy the team is run. I’d love to see an interview of Williams after the race; if it was all smiles for the camera (just like their MAS call to move over) then they are, quite frankly, hoping it works out but doing nothing about it…

24

I expect Bottas to beat Massa over the course of the season with relative comfort, thb.

The sense I’m getting is that Bottas isn’t even near his career’s current – nevermind ultimate – potential, whereas Massa is pushing fairly hard.

By year’s end I suspect Massa will have scored about 70% of Bottas’ points tally. Next year, given the same lineup – the diffence will likely be bigger.

Having had to drive the FW35 has hurt Bottas’ image, and now a few solid, but unspectacular races seem to justify that notion. Same goes for Bianchi to some extent. Both are no weaker, and possibly stronger, than Ricciardo.

25
David in Sydney

I think your reasoning that MAS is operating at his best but BOT is still a rookie is close to the mark but to say BOT and BIA are ahead of RIC is fanciful; we have no real way to judge that one with anything other than personal bias.

I wasn’t expecting RIC to be any closer to VET (I rate highly) than WEB but I have been amazed by his composure and speed.

26

I would like an article just on Massa’s start. What is he doing so well. This is one area where he seems among the very best.

At Ferrari he was also very good, but was often way back after quali so it could have looked better than it was .

but he is still doing it this year. Nico Rosberg should really get a close look at that if he wants to challenge Lewis

27
David in Sydney

Williams has been it’s own worst enemy for years… this year looks no different.

28

Someone like Massa or Button acts as a good litmus test for the strength of the driver in the other side of the garage.

Based on his performances compared to Massa, Bottas simply isn’t a top tier driver.

Williams should be having Force India like results. Their drivers have woefully under performed.

29
Guybrush Threepwood

I’d rate Massa above Bottas. He is ahead in qualifying and if not for a Kamui Kamakaze and pit error Massa would be well and truly in front of Bottas who has made a few of his own errors – like in Melbourne.

30

To be fair to Kamui, his brakes were faulty off the start line, and he was pretty much a passenger as his car ploughed into the rear of Felipe’s Williams.

31

I agree, and I must say I’m surprised by Felipe’s (relatively) good form. I still believe Bottas has a little more potential than Massa (in this stage of their respective careers, anyway), and I hope both of them start getting some good results soon.

However, my real point is this: you fight like a dairy farmer 😉

32

Lol – this is never going to get old 🙂

33

No idea, but it is a bit strange given that Germans have a reputation for being highly efficient.

34

I don’t know if its been noted on this forum, but have you noticed the Germans have staggered Mr E’s courtroom appearances so he can also do his F1 commitments?

Hmm………why not get the trial over and done in a month rather than drag it out until September?????

Pardon my ignorance, but I’m not that up on the ins and outs of the German justice system, so I don’t know how it works compared to the English common law systems used in UK, AUS, SA, CAN and NZ.

35

Maybe not Gaz – 9 out of 10 scientists agree that porridge causes aging 😉

36

Just like Mr E?

37

“So far Bottas has scored double the points of Massa, which is slightly surprising, but we can only judge properly after half a season.”

This is because Massa was taken out at the first corner in Australia and had a 1 minute pitstop in China. In Malaysia and Bahrain, Massa was narrowly ahead (on track at least, though not necessarily in pace).

38

..and that’s why we have to judge at half season….

39

Well why give Massa a lower rating then?

40

Agreed. I would rate them both the same at the moment, probably a 7. The team though, I would only rate them a 4. They have done an excellent job of making their drivers look second rate.

41

“And the subject of our third analysis piece is a team that set the pace in winter testing, but which hasn’t made the most of its pace and doesn’t have as many points on the board as most people expected at this stage…”

Sadly situation normal.

The really sad part though is that the potential for Williams to get good results is there, they’ve just to go and get them.

If you divide the WCC into three tiers (Caterham to Lotus, Williams to Red Bull, and then that other one) there’s not that big a gap so there a chance for Williams to end up at the top of their group – but the bottom line is they have to do better.

42

Agree, must try harder (or do better – kind of the same thing??)

Having said that, with those straight talking blokes called Symonds and Smedley overseeing Williams European/Canada summer season development, then at least Frank and Claire have two wise heads to get the development programme on the right track (no pun intended).

43

PS Considering Daniel learnt to drive in the dry as a bone desert of Western AUS, he does drive remarkably well in wet conditions!

Are there any wet weather skidpans in Perth?

44

Massa has had superfast starts…but is showing a recklessness which may land him with a few points on his super licence.

His eagerness to shed his driver no.2 status will be his undoing. Unless he realizes that he cannot just position his car into a space that doesn’t exist.

Bottas shows a level headed attitude & is showing sparkle. He is the real deal (though he does constantly remind me of that actor from the USA cop series Southland) & will be in F1 for alot longer than the aging Massa.

Williams need to show more performance to break free from the mid pack label they seem to be stuck with.

Did they hire any ex-Mclaren pit stop crew from 2012?

45

I think it’s a bit rich to call Massa “reckless” when his 2 non-scores thus far were down to a brake failure on Kobayashi’s car and his team forgetting which side of the car his wheel should go on. The incident at the start with Alonso was, by most observers’ reckoning, Alonso’s fault as he moved across, but a racing incident nonetheless and one with limited consequence. Bottas is a very talented driver and will be a real asset for Williams, no question, but Massa is hardly the old duffer you are portraying him as. Had he finished where he was expected to in Australia and China, he would be ahead of Bottas by 11 points (based on an anticipated 3rd place in Melbourne and 6th place in Shanghai, which again is the consensus on what was achievable on those days). As James says, this is why we need to wait until mid season before drawing conclusions.

46

I agree, Massa definitely hasn’t shown a reckless streak by any means.

47

I think 5 for Massa is a bit unfair. 2 races were not his issue as Kobayashi took him out in Aust and Williams stuffed up his race in Chins. I would give him a 6 like Bottas.

48

According to Pirelli Barcelona and Suzuka put the most energy into the tyres, so we should find out if Williams have got on top of their tyre wear issues or if the cold track in China helped them out a bit in this regard. All of the smooth drivers who suffered in China with a cold track should be able to keep their tyres switched on in Barcelona, it is likely to shake up the running order a bit.

It looked to me as if Fernando drifted into Felipe at the start of the China race and the pit crew need to improve process control to prevent mixing the tyres up. The car looks fast and they were unlucky on tyre strategy in Bahrain, after the safety car, because it brought the Force Indias back into it. They’ve been a bit unlucky so far. Felipe has done some cracking starts but they need to watch out that they don’t fall behind the other teams who have bigger development budgets.

49

Force India had 3rd and 4th to them clearly… it was williams who were benefitted by the safety car against force india but they lost to red buls in the safety car… get your stats right pls

50

yes you’re right, my mistake on Force Indias. I just remembered Perez overtaking Massa, but watching it back that was on lap 28, the safety car was on lap 41. Great race though. Thanks for correcting my memory error.

Cheers

51

5 is probably about right based on expectations from last year, but based on pre-season I don’t think there’s any doubt Williams have flattered to deceive yet again. Apart from Australia they haven’t shown anything more than midfield pace, and despite the knocking McLaren have taken they’re still behind them.

“So far Bottas has scored double the points of Massa, which is slightly surprising, but we can only judge properly after half a season.”

Not really…

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