Column: What now for Williams?

  • 08 Aug 2018 11:12
  • comments 7
  • By: Fergal Walsh

With the positive news emerging on Tuesday that Force India has been rescued from administration, securing the future of some 405 jobs, it could potentially spell bad news for another Formula 1 team.

Williams has found itself in a disastrous situation this season, building an aerodynamically flawed car that isn't allowing Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin to push it to its limits. So far in 2018, it has finished inside the top ten once - at Baku in the hands of Stroll.

But it now appears as though the Canadian driver will be departing the team at the end of the year and heading to Force India after his father Lawrence led a consortium that has secured the future of the Silverstone-based outfit, who celebrate ten years in F1 this year.

Stroll reportedly offers somewhere in the region of $30 million per year for a Williams drive, which aids the Grove squad in its car development. However, it will now likely lose that money, as Stroll senior, a capable and respected businessman, has decided to invest elsewhere in F1.

Williams was also dealt with a blow over pre-season testing when it was announced that Martini would be leaving the team at the end of the year as its title sponsor. With Stroll and Martini departing, Williams is set to see a significant drop in income.

Deputy team principal Claire Williams says that she is not worried about the future of the team her father built, claiming that they have a plan in the pipeline. Williams will purchase gearbox's from Mercedes for next year, but one theory that she has denied is that it could become a B-team for the Silver Arrows. 

"We will never be someone else's B-team, we have to look at all possibilities and assess what the best step is in each scenario. That is where the focus now lies. The last thing we want as a team is to continue as a team that once was great, but refused to change with the times."

With Sirotkin likely to stay on for 2019 with his backing with SMP Racing, the recent word through the paddock is that Robert Kubica, who holds a development driver role at the team, is now very unlikely to land a race seat there next year.

Much like its line-up for this season, Williams needs someone with cash to come in and race. There is also the possibility of Mercedes paying for one of the seats, allowing a junior driver such as Esteban Ocon or Formula 2 championship leader George Russell to partner Sirotkin.

GP3 racer Nikita Mazepin, who also has a billionaire father, Dmitry, was linked with a Force India seat after Dmitry was linked with investing in Force India. The Russian could now set his sights on Williams, with a seat set to open up.

Ultimately, things will look very different at Williams next year. New investors, a new livery and a new driver. Getting through the slump that it finds itself in now will be tremendously difficult. But with the right decisions from the seniors, it may very well pull through.

 

Fergal Walsh

Replies (7)

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  • boudy

    Posts: 1,067

    If you take away the current form there is nothing different to Willliams. They have always had paid drivers, that's how they started and that's what how they operate.

    I wonder how much of an issue their current line-up is. Perez or Ocon would be an asset to Williams the latter being preferred because of his ties to Mercedes.

    What they don't need is to associated with Force India's troubles in articles.

    • + 0
    • Aug 8 2018 - 11:44
    • Very true, but I think their financial situation is worse than ever now.

      • + 0
      • Aug 8 2018 - 17:10
  • mcbhargav

    Posts: 886

    The reason why ForceIndia managed to get out of administration is due to their consistent results from past 3 years. Williams might not have that luxury at the end of this year, with Strolls jumping the ship.

    • + 0
    • Aug 8 2018 - 17:50
  • Bhurt

    Posts: 320

    Lots of talk saying the future of Williams is with Renault engines. Would be another great coup for Cyril if he could land Williams from Merc on top of landing Ricciardo from Red Bull. Can't help but wish those rumors are true. Would be good for the sport to see Renault grow into a bigger player to challenge the top teams both on and, in these cases, off the track.

    • + 0
    • Aug 8 2018 - 18:58
    • Why would they move to Renault though? They'd quite literally go from the best (or at least one of the two best) engines on the grid to one of the worst. And unlike the likes of Red Bull, Williams really dont have the know how to push something good from that engine. And the Merc' and Williams collab already run pretty deep, deep enough that it'd be hard for Renault to come up with a cheap enough deal. In short, it would be a good coup for Renault, but it wouldnt benefit Williams in its current state.

      • + 1
      • Aug 8 2018 - 19:16
    • Bhurt

      Posts: 320

      I can think of a few reasons.

      If Renault offers them engines, gearboxes and maybe more than that, for less money than Merc, that would be a very tempting move I'm sure for a team that seems to be very much up against it financially.

      Second, the Oligarchs are now pretty much their main source of income after Martini and Stroll vacates the premises. I'm sure those Russians wouldn't be opposed to Renault sticking Artem Mareklov in the second car, and I'm sure Renault would be very keen on that as well.

      Working closely with Merc, even getting Paddy Lowe to build this "car" for them hasn't exactly been brilliant has it? One might even say the team was on a slow decline even before falling off a cliff in 2018. Their "car" seems to have been designed by committee rather than following a clear design philosophy, and now they find themselves very short of money to do anything about it.

      If they put themselves in this mess while working with Merc, is continuing with Merc by default the best route for them? If Merc was to give them a better (ie. cheaper) deal on their engines and gearboxes, I'm sure Merc would want things in return, and everything Williams have said indicates they're not willing to down the route of becoming a B-team. So where would sticking with Merc be a better deal for them in the future?

      And with Merc now even more closely attached to Force India, I don't see a great upside for Williams staying in a situation that has brought them to where they are now. I think a new engine, a new approach and a fresh start, with a new aero concept and looking towards 2021 is the way to go.

      • + 0
      • Aug 8 2018 - 21:36
    • It would, but as I say, it would be very hard for Renault to give them a cheaper and more cost efficient deal then what Merc' has already given them very recently. The deeper partnership has just begun, so switching just now wouldnt make sense when they havent even really started. Honestly, as it stands Merc' attempts to do exactly what Ferrari is doing with both Haas and Sauber.

      • + 0
      • Aug 9 2018 - 05:59

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