While Williams achieved its target of consolidating its position in the standings, operational errors and poor performances on low-speed tracks meant that the celebrations were slightly downtrodden this year.
Having returned to the forefront of F1 in 2014 after spending years in the doldrums, Williams would have been be forgiven for setting even higher targets for this season. But it rightly decided to keep a lid on its expectations, choosing to consolidate its position instead.
And it achieved its goal successfully, as the Grove-based team finished third in the standings for the second year running, bested only by Mercedes and Ferrari. Considering the outfit’s average budget, it’s an achievement which shouldn’t be underestimated.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas missed the opening round in Australia due to back problems and appeared to have slightly lost his lustre once he returned on track. But, nevertheless, there were some fine performances all season long, including two rostrums results in Canada and Mexico.
The Finnish driver nearly beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth in the standings, despite being in inferior machinery. The two drivers infamously tangled in Russia and Mexico, with neither willing to take blame for the incidents.
While third in the standings is an impressive result for any privateer (albeit one that receives an extra share of FOM’s prize pot), but the operational errors Williams made throughout the year meant much remains to be desired.
At Silverstone, Massa and Bottas passed the Mercedes pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the start to take the race lead, but the pitwall failed to impose team orders that would have put the faster Williams ahead. By the time the original decision was reversed, it was too late.
The delay allowed Hamilton to pass both drivers in the pits, as Williams handed an opportunity to win its first race since 2012.
While considerable improvements have been made on the strategy side since then, the team continues to keep a conservative approach in this regard.
Pit stops fumbles were also common from the squad. At Spa, the mechanics mismatched Bottas’ tyres, earning a drive through penalty and relinquishing any chance of a strong result on a track that supposedly suits the FW37-Mercedes package.
Similarly, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Bottas ran into Jenson Button’s McLaren in the pits, and the 26 year old limped home an entire lap with a damaged front wing.
Struggles at certain tracks and conditions
Another key area Williams must work during the winter is its performance on low-speed tracks. Being highly influenced by track characteristics and conditions, the FW37 was woefully of the pace in Monaco and Hungary.
Also, the team have made some strides in improving the car for wet races, but there’s still room for improvement.
Early focus on 2016
With Red Bull expected to improve, McLaren-Honda likely to get a horsepower boost and Force India ready to pounce, Williams face an uphill task to retain its position in the championship. The team switched its focus on 2016 car earlier than most of its rivals, which, theoretically, should pay dividends. But it remains to be seen where the teams heads in the long term.
by Rachit Thukral