Felipe Massa, Williams, Bahrain, 2014

Testing pace suggests Williams’ revival is real

2014 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa, Williams, Bahrain, 2014

Williams had a bad year but they’ve shaken up their technical department, changed engine supplier and hired a Brazilian ex-Ferrari driver. This all sounds very familiar…

The form of this once-great team has swung violently from under-performers to overachievers in recent seasons. They were pole-sitters in 2010, struggled to score points the year after, then won a race in 2012, and were back in the doldrums again last year.

The team began last season with a change of leadership as team founder Frank Williams’ daughter Claire was appointed to deputy team principal. As it became clear earlier in the season the team was heading off-course, she moved quickly to change direction.

Within the past ten months Williams have replaced Renault engines with Mercedes power, appointed Pat Symonds as chief technical officer to replace Mike Coughlan, snapped up Felipe Massa from Ferrari along with Rob Smedley and hired a raft of new technical staff, many of which will work in the field of aerodynamics where the team has struggled of late.

Massa’s arrival plus the hiring of Felipe Nasr as test driver has helped the team tap into Brazilian companies Petrobras and Banco do Brasil for sponsorship. A further deal is expected to be announced soon with one of motor racing’s great heritage sponsors, Martini.

The change of engine supplier may prove a real shot in the arm this year. It’s not just the case that Renault have endured a miserable start to pre-season testing, but that Mercedes have got their season off to a very strong start. As things stand it looks like Pastor Maldonado may regret jumping ship when he did.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Bahrain, 2014The team have been very pleased with the reliability of the FW36, which in testing covered more ground than anything that wasn’t a Mercedes. Indeed the car ran so reliably the team even dedicated some time to performing live pit stop practice – any area where they must make gains following last year’s costly wheel nut problems.

Williams were often near the top of the timing sheets during testing. Although Valtteri Bottas was unable to do his qualifying simulation on the final day, Massa’s quick lap the day before produced the fastest time by any driver in the Bahrain test, two-hundredths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton managed in the Mercedes.

Of course there are limits to the conclusions which can be drawn from testing times. Nonetheless this points to a team which have gone from being third-worst at best to being third-best at worst – a remarkable development if it is borne out by results in Melbourne.

The last time this team produced a decent car – in 2012 – its potential was too often squandered by its drivers making mistakes (Maldonado) or being off the pace (Bruno Senna).

Their line-up for 2014 promises to be more level-headed while giving away nothing in pure pace. Massa may have endured a bruising four years alongside Fernando Alonso but he is highly experienced and brimming with enthusiasm for his new challenge.

That Bottas somehow wrung a top-three qualifying place out of the FW35 on one occasion last year speaks volumes for his raw speed. The new car looks like it might be capable of that kind of performance on a regular basis, giving Williams the chance to enjoy their best season for a long time.

Williams’ F1 record


1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Championship position 9 2 1 1 4 4 6 3 1 1 7 2 4 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 3 5 3 3 2 2 4 5 8 4 8 7 6 9 8 9
Points 0 11 75 120 95 58 38 25.5 71 141 137 20 77 57 125 164 168 118 112 175 123 38 35 36 80 92 144 88 66 11 33 26 34.5 69 5 76 5
Wins 0 0 5 6 4 1 1 1 4 9 9 0 2 2 7 10 10 7 5 12 8 0 0 0 4 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Pole positions 0 0 3 3 2 1 1 0 3 4 12 0 1 1 6 15 15 6 12 12 11 0 0 0 4 7 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0

Over to you

Do you expect Williams to bounce back this year? Have your say in the comments.

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Images © Williams/LAT

79 comments on “Testing pace suggests Williams’ revival is real”

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  1. I was so unhappy when Crashtor Crashtonaldo got the Lotus seat and Nico Hulkenberg didn’t. But now I am happy that Pasta Smashdonado has a not entirely good car made worse by the unreliable Renault engine and Nico Hulkenberg has a reliable Mercedes powered Force India. It makes me even more happier that the Williams this year is much better than last year and has gone with Merc as well so Bashtor made the wrong move at the wrong time. I can only hope now that Romain Grosjean moves to a better team as he has much more potential than Pastor sauce…

    1. Tbh I actually think its a bit of a shame that the Lotus is so unreliable since I’d be interested to see how Grosjean and Maldonado compare

  2. It would be awesome if Felipe can notch a win this year. It would warm alot of peoples souls to see him prove his mettle after being dogged the last few years. Massa is a class act/ nice guy. It will be fun to see him fight with Alonso and not have to give way for team politics. Williams and Massa are a great match. I hope they improve one another. (it appears they already have) :)

  3. That Royal Blue Williams looks Majestic, Albeit I am assuming that they will have a new livery before the race. I am also little surprised that the Mercedes Logo is missing on the Williams.

    I am happy for both Massa and Williams. Hope they are able to recover well and show a good form through the year…..

  4. In F1, lap time generally correlates with budget – the lower the lap time, the bigger the budget. The great exception to this rule was when BMW got together with Williams in the late 90s. Despite massive spending, the performance wasn’t there, and as sponsors fled, the cash dried up and performance suffered further, in a vicious circle. That was one of the biggest mistakes Frank Williams ever made.

    Having said that, it seems Williams have found some money – possibly from Martini – and this has coincided with some wise, or at least fortunate, technical choices (or perhaps they’ve been saving for a couple of years and this year is a big push for them). This season’s technical changes mean we could be in for some unpredictable racing. If Williams can grab a handful of podiums before the summer break, their budget for next year will be bigger still, and that should put them back at the front, where they belong.

    1. @rsp123 That’s not always the case though. Sauber have always operated on a relatively small budget compared to the larger teams and have surprised them on a few occasions. Whereas Toyota had a budget as big as Ferrari’s and they were not exactly on the same pace

  5. They got a good start, now let’s see if they can develop the car equally fast as Redbull, Mercedes and Ferrari. Lotus did a pretty good job last year in that area, now let’s see if Williams can do it. It certainly hasn’t been one of their strong points over the last couple of years. But i hope they do well.

  6. Really looking forward to that Martini livery powering Williams to the podium (which I’m told may be hiding underneath that current blue)

  7. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
    4th March 2014, 9:12

    Every year before the season starts there is an article about Williams “revival”. It is getting silly really. Having said that I do hope they do well, but we will have to wait and see.

  8. To come back to the question or the OP, I really would love to see Williams back at the top with Massa (I don’t really dig Maldonado), even if, for me the name reminds me of some tragic events which shook my F1 history, I believe that they have made some interesting HR moves, and deserve to be back, maybe not for some big wins, but by exciting the paddocks and the races.
    I think it was a good move from Massa, who, end of the day, was more or less a puppet at the SF.
    Hopefully he will release some of his outrageous temper, as he showed in 2008, don’t forget that he did take the n°1 of the Scuderia from Raikkonen at the time…

    1. Hi @nomeg1, Maldonado has moved on – to the struggling Lotus. Massa is paired with Bottas this year.

      Also we mustn’t forget that the post-injury Massa doesn’t seem to have the pace he once displayed – maybe the temper you allude to was part of that.

      However, on-topic, I agree that it would be great to see Williams up there mixing with the top teams again. I suspect it might be with Bottas rather than Massa though.

  9. Wow, this is a great comparison of Rosberg’s pole lap of 2013 and Massa’s test time in Bahrain 2014. Startling to see the massive increase in the speed of the cars, sector times are lower, mostly I suspect to the loss of aerodynamic performance, which the teams are sure to recover at the later part of the season.

    1. Not sure it’s a fair comparison or at least I question the relevance. Tires are now different. Air and track temps probably different. Etc etc. It is interesting, but I think the real comparisons will be quali vs quali for the same venue, last year vs. this, and race times vs races times too. But regardless, the speeds are only one component, and mean little if the racing is not good. Hopefully the reduced aero will be hard to retrieve, and I’d love it if they would reduce it even more next year.

  10. Fingers crossed that 2014 is the season we’ve been waiting for. Hope this pace keeps up, but have a feeling that not all the players have shown their hand….

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