Williams slipped to fifth place in the constructors standings in 2016, unable to replicate its form from the previous two years.
Williams’ renaissance had seen the Grove-based outfit finish third in the constructors standings for successive years in 2014 and ‘15. Such was Williams' upturn that questions were asked if it can take the fight to the big guns, despite it being an independent outfit that runs on a fraction of the budget.
However, as it turned out, Williams neither managed to move up, nor consolidate its position in 2016. Instead, it slipped behind both Red Bull and Force India, which operates on a similar budget and has the same power unit.
The team started the season on a strong note with Felipe Massa finishing fifth in Australia. Multiple top-five finishes followed and Valtteri Bottas claimed a much deserved podium in Canada.
However, as the season wore on, Williams started to lose its competitiveness to rivals. Several upgrades failed to deliver the performance upgrade that was expected from them, leaving them vulnerable to rivals.
Indeed, Williams could score only 44 points in the second half of the season, about half of what it managed before the summer break.
Unsurprisingly, Force India was able to overtake Williams in the standings, leaving the Grove-based outfit down in fifth place - it’s worst
Williams continued with their proven line-up of Bottas and Massa for the third straight year.
Bottas was again hailed for his consistency and also managed to score team’s only podium finish of the season in Canada. However, lack of other topline results meant that he didn’t receive as much public attention as he got in the previous two seasons.
Massa, on the other hand, had a difficult year, if you purely look it in terms of personal performance. The Brazilian simply couldn’t match Bottas, although a couple of fifth place finishes showed he still has a lot in him.
Williams is likely to go through multiple changes heading into 2017, with technical chief Pat Symonds resigning from his position. It is widely believed that Paddy Lowe will step in as his replacement in a bid to replicate his Mercedes success at Williams.
On the drivers’ front, Lance Stroll will make his Formula 1 debut after winning the European F3 series. While Stroll’s father has thrown more money than someone has ever done on a racing driver, there is little doubt that the teen is quick behind the wheels. An extensive testing programme will only prepare him better for his first outing in Melbourne.
While Stroll's drive is secured, question mark remains over the other seat at Williams, with Bottas widely rumoured to move to Mercedes.
If such a scenario takes place, Williams is likely to bring back Massa from retirement for another year. The outfit needs an experienced driver alongside Stroll, who is old enough to support the marketing campaign of title sponsor Martini.
by Rachit Thukral