Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

Williams challenged to repeat their high of 2014

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Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

The team

It’s telling that both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas have spoken in glowing terms about how much progress Williams has made over the past 12 months. ‘It’s like a different team,’ was a common refrain during pre-season testing.

There’s no denying their surge to third place in the constructors’ championship last year owed a lot to them having Mercedes power. But they were the top Mercedes customer team, and it’s hard to imagine how the wayward outfit of 2013, which got everything wrong from its car to their pit stops, could have managed that.

But it will likely prove much harder for them to achieve the same this year against the works-backed second-generation efforts from Renault and Mercedes.

The value of consistency is not to be underestimated, however, and Williams have enjoyed a stable winter both on the technical side and in terms of their driver line-up.

The drivers

19. Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015Felipe Massa was comprehensively out-scored by Bottas last year, but he came on strong in the final races and even kept Lewis Hamilton honest in the latter stages of the season finale.

Having put the dark days of his latter Ferrari years behind him, Massa looked like he was back to his best at times in 2014. He’ll need to deliver on that potential this year if Williams are to have any hope of repeating their top three championship finish.

77. Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 2015Valtteri Bottas has been on an upward trajectory so far: he did what he could with the difficult FW35 in his debut season, he grabbed a handful of podiums with a better car last year.

What 2015 may offer him yet isn’t clear, but it’s likely to involve sterner challenges both from the other half of the garage and from Williams’ front-of-midfield rivals.

The car

The FW37 is clearly an evolution of last year’s successful design. Williams have made some concession to smooth out the peaky performance characteristics of last year’s car – such as its shortcomings in wet weather conditions – while not sacrificing too much of what made it so potent, namely its excellent straight-line performance.

The power unit is a known quantity so they should be on form straight out of the box. After that the question will be whether they keep up with the development rate of their richer rivals – and how serious a threat Lotus might be.

Over to you

Can Williams hold onto third in the constructors’ championship this year? Is a win possible for them?

Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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23 comments on “Williams challenged to repeat their high of 2014”

  1. It’s telling that both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas have spoken in glowing terms about how much progress Williams has made over the past 12 months. ‘It’s like a different team,’ was a common refrain during pre-season testing.

    Aannnddd…….what does that mean in a World where Pastor Maldonado said what he said after testing the 2013 Williams?

    Hmm….I hope this one turn out well!

    1. Should’ve added a *though* at the end of the last sentence there.

  2. “Felipe Massa was comprehensively out-scored by Bottas last year…”
    Looking purely at the results, that’s true. But Massa actually performed much better than it seemed because he suffered from such a lot of bad luck in 2014. Here is an excerpt from a website called f1metrics that sums it up very well:

    On paper, Bottas was Williams’s leading driver, scoring 58% of the team’s points. In qualifying, it was 11-6 to Bottas (excluding Monaco and Russia where Massa was prevented from setting a representative time). In races where neither driver had a mechanical DNF, it was 10-8 to Bottas.

    However, Massa was a magnet for so many problems in 2014 that this match-up requires careful dissection. Here are the issues outside of each driver’s control.

    Australia: Massa was taken out at the first corner while ahead of Bottas. He had the pace to be 5th, demoting Bottas to 6th.
    China: Massa had a 1-minute pit-stop. Otherwise, he was set for 6th, demoting Bottas to 8th.
    Monaco: If not for his engine failure, Bottas would have been 7th, demoting Massa to 8th.
    Canada: Massa was taken out by Perez. Otherwise he would likely have been 4th, demoting Bottas to 8th.
    Britain: Massa had an unavoidable collision with Raikkonen’s car. He made a terrible start and would likely have lost ~20 seconds moving back through the field. That would have been 5th.
    Hungary: The safety car was unfortunate for Bottas, but Massa had slightly better pace anyway.
    Belgium: Massa lost an estimated 40 seconds due to tyre debris. He should have been 5th.
    Russia: Massa adopted a disastrous strategy to make up for issues in qualifying. Had he started further up, he would have at least jumped Perez and Raikkonen for 9th.
    Brazil: Bottas had multiple issues. He should have finished at least 4th.
    If we award back these lost results, the new tally is 11-8 to Massa in races and 197-184 to Bottas in points. The Williams drivers were actually very closely matched in 2014.

    I should say that, in my opinion, I don’t think Bottas wouldn’t have been involved in the Canada incident if he was the one overtaking Perez, so you could argue that the incident wasn’t outside of Massa’s control.

    Bottas’ season was certainly tidier even if you account for Massa’s bad luck, plus we should also remember that Bottas was only in his second season of F1, so his performance was very impressive and he certainly has a lot more potential to come. But in 2014 I would say that both Williams drivers performed very well, people just seem to look at the points standings and assume that Massa did a bad job.

    Massa seems to have been rejuvenated since he got fired by Ferrari – after they confirmed they were dropping him in 2013, he out-qualified Alonso 4-3 over the remaining 7 races (including out-qualifying him 3 races in a row between Japan and Abu Dhabi). Massa has often spoken about the mental pressure of being Alonso’s teammate having an effect on him, and the harsh political climate at Ferrari that was so focused around Alonso can’t of helped. Indeed, I remember him seeming really excited when he announced he was heading to Williams for 2014 because he was just happy to be heading to a team where he actually felt wanted.

    1. *Typo* I don’t think Bottas would have been involved in the Canada incident

    2. I like FM but I don’t feel bad for him wrt his Ferrari tenure. He knew the situation there. He knew he was not the rooster, as he was also the non-rooster with MS as his teammate. But it did seem better for him there when KR was his teammate, although I’m convinced they thought Kimi would be their new rooster and he just wasn’t really. Not in that dominant kind of way that it was with MS and FA anyway. I wish both Williams drivers only the best. One thing I can’t forget is the helmet cam shots from Bottas and I hope we see more of that from any driver really. Those were great and I thought added something to revealing for the audience what it is like to drive these cars, moreso than any other cameras on the cars imho.

      1. Even if you didn’t account for Massa’s more bad luck, It was 10-9 in races to Bottas.
        Massa scored 72% of Bottas’s points in 2014, I don’t think many F1 fans would think it’s someting comprehensive.
        By the way, Vettel scored 70% of Ricciardo’s; Kevin 44%; Perez 61%
        In the top 12 of WDC last year, ONLY Rosberg scored more than 72% of his team-mate’s points (http://www.formula1.com/results/driver/)

        1. I just post some interesting statistics, and I don’t want to bother anybody.

      2. @Robbie I agree that Massa knew the situation at Ferrari and so we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him.
        I was just suggesting some possible reasons why he seems to have rediscovered a bit of his old 2008 form this year. Oh and also, I agree with the helmet cam shots, they were great.

        @Park The 10-8 statistic excluded races where a driver suffered a mechanical DNF, so Bottas’ engine failure in Monaco was excluded. And those are indeed interesting statistics you posted, thanks!

        1. It should probably be mentioned that point differences between teammates can vary depending on the competitiveness of the car. Let’s use the example of Alonso versus Raikkonen in 2014:
          Alonso was usually fighting for mid-top ten finishes (around 4th – 7th), while Raikkonen was generally around 3+ places behind him (usually 7th – 10th).

          In a car like the F14-T, a normal result was Alonso finishing 6th and Raikkonen around 3 places behind, let’s say 9th. In this case, Alonso scores 8 points while Raikkonen scores 2, which means that Alonso scores 4x as many points for that race.

          In a more competitive car, let’s say Alonso finishes 3rd, with Raikkonen again finishing 3 places behind, this time in 6th. Alonso scores 15 while Raikkonen scores 8 – even though they finished the same number of places apart as before, this would build up less of a points discrepancy as Alonso scores only 1.875x as many points as Raikkonen for such a race.

          If they were in the Mercedes, then even a relatively poor performance was usually good enough for second, so they would likely finish 1st and 2nd. In this case, Alonso scores only 1.389x as many points as Raikkonen.

          Basically: in general, the more competitive your car is, the lower the percentage points gap between two drivers tends to be (with the current points system anyway).

          However, it should also be noted that the more competitive your car is, the more costly a retirement is (bigger opportunity cost), so this only really applies if the two drivers suffer a similar number of retirements.

    3. Bottas had a lot of bad luck as well. Mostly things like poor clutch settings at the start, but also some very poor strategic choices from the team. Especially in the latter part of the season.

      1. Finding right clutch settings with the help from engineers is the driver’s ability. Sometimes you have to ask why some drivers always make better starts while some certain drivers
        are keen to make poor/disaster starts.

        In terms of strategy, I clearly remember both drivers always had the exatcly same strategy.

    4. It’s called racing. Bring your own luck. Not excuses

    5. “Canada: Massa was taken out by Perez. Otherwise he would likely have been 4th, demoting Bottas to 8th.”

      4th? Man Massa was on new tyres he would have been around Vettel and chased after Ricciardo immediately

  3. Tough to know where they will stand this year, but I do hope they can hold on to third in the Constructors and perhaps even snatch a win. It just feels like it’ll be closer though. But they’ve got great continuity from last year so it’s hard to imagine them doing worse, unless of course RBR and Ferrari are stronger vs. them than last year.

    I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Williams, such is their rich history in F1, and my guy JV won the WDC with them (their last). I also knew a guy, who sadly has now passed, who was such a Williams fanatic, and such a great model builder, that he built every model kit done of Williams cars throughout the years, and if no company built a model of a certain Williams car, he’d scratch build one. I was and am honored that at one point a number of years ago he was constrained for time in his busy life, so had me build Tamiya’s 1/20th scale kit of Alan Jones’s FW07 for him for his collection. RIP Grant.

  4. Massa was on an upward surge so Bottas will be hard pressed to beat him this year.

  5. Predictions – I predict it will be difficult to predict outcomes ahead of Australia and even then I predict an unpredictable string of results until the European races. Having said that, and this is in no way intended to be an accurate prediction but I predict that Williams will be second best team this year, but who will be the first? That is not so hard to predict I think…

    1. You did predict!

  6. I can see Williams getting a win or 2 this season as everyone will be closer to Mercedes (hopefully), but they’ll earn fewer points overall due to the likes of Ferrari improving.

  7. I don’t see why anyone will get a win other than Mercedes tbh, unless we foresee another set of circumstances that affects both cars. But for 2nd in wcc I can see Williams being better – it looks looks like they have more downforce, they should be better operationally, and Bottas should be coming of age.

  8. I think Williams, Red Bull and Ferrari have a chance for a win or two this season. Theoretically Mercedes *should* win each race, but things will happen.

  9. While I believe Williams will probably be up there with Red Bull and Ferrari for speed, I had not named them as a victor in my comment yesterdays “20 questions”-article (unlike Ferrari and Red Bull). Why? They were lacking the winning attitude or mindset, be it on strategy, when they often screwed up (or seemingly didn´t care for track-position), be it in race-fights. I still believe there were races (Austria, Monza) where they could have finished ahead of at least one Merc. Yes, the Merc was the faster car, but once ahead and with that straight-line-speed Williams should have at least tried to maintain track-position.

    1. @crammond – I believe the car is there with RB and Ferrari too, it will take a driver to push for that elusive win. Bottas had some good drives in 2013 in a not so good car, podiums in 2014 and will fight for the win this season. He can do it.

  10. I’m hoping Williams finish behind Mercedes this year. Let’s hope they’ve improved at the same rate as their closest rivals. I doubt very much that Lotus have caught them up and I even think a resurgent Ferrari can’t have moved that far forward so quickly. So I think it’s going to be between Williams and Red Bull.

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