Williams hold third despite pit stop problems

2015 F1 season review

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Williams team stats 2015

Best race result (number)3 (4)
Best grid position (number) 3 (5)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 5 (3/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,117 (98.28%)
Laps led (% of total) 20 (1.86%)
Championship position (2014)3 (3)
Championship points (2014)257 (320)
Pit stop performance ranking5

Despite lacking the budget of the top teams, Williams consolidated their status as F1’s leading privateers by repeating their third place in the constructors’ championship.

While not achieving quite the same highs as 2014 with no pole position and only two podiums apiece for Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, Williams secured an impressive third in the constructor’s championship for the second consecutive season.

With a strong driver line-up and an excellent engine mounted to a capable chassis, Williams sometimes found themselves occupying a hinterland behind the Mercedes and Ferraris but under little pressure from the rest of the midfield. Williams finished as ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes and Ferrari nine times in 2015 and did not reach the chequered flag before a Mercedes when both Hamilton and Rosberg finished a race once – a feat they achieved on more than one occasion in 2014.

The evolutionary FW37 was not quite as strong at low-drag venues as its predecessor, but this remained its key strength as attested by podiums in Canada, Austria, Monza and Mexico. Slow corners and wet conditions remained a significant weakness, with Monaco being a conspicuous low. There, as in Hungary, they left point-less.

Their home race looked like being the highlight of the season when Massa and Bottas rocketed past the two Mercedes into the lead to the roar of the British crowd. They remained there for 19 laps before being inevitably swallowed up at the first round of stops, and the subsequent rain shower ensured neither would reach the podium.

Pit work was another obvious weakness. Conservative strategy calls, slow stops that often cost their cars valuable seconds, an embarrassing mix-up at the Belgian Grand Prix that left Bottas with three soft and one medium compound tyre on his car and a handful of penalties for unsafe releases will likely mean plenty of pit stop practice for the Williams crew over the winter.

Massa produced a solid season, out-performing his much younger team mate at a number of races and maximising his opportunities in both Canada and Mexico to take two well deserved podiums, but lost more places on the opening lap than any other driver in 2015 and scored in just three of the final seven races to end the season sixth in the standings.

Bottas too was fast and consistent, despite suffering a broken vertebrae during the opening race weekend in Melbourne. Qualifying proved a particular strength as the Finn only failed to reach Q3 once in 2015 – in Monaco.

Over the final third of the year, Bottas found himself embroiled in a fascinating rivalry with Kimi Raikkonen over fourth place in the drivers’ championship – with the two dramatically colliding in Russia and Mexico. The Ferrari prevailed as Williams dropped further of the front-running pace at the final two rounds – a situation which might have been different had they received Mercedes’ late-season upgrade.

Having solidified their position back near the sharp end of the grid this year, simply staying there next year will not be enough for the Williams team. But after an underwhelming end to the season at Yas Marina, Rob Smedley admitted the team’s development emphasis over the later half of the year had been on next season.

“Our focus has been on the 2016 car for quite a long time,” said Smedley. “Now we’ve got a long winter ahead and we have to come out the starting blocks in a full sprint next year.”

The magnitude of the challenge it will be to overcome both Ferrari and Mercedes to genuinely challenge for victories once again cannot be overstated, but for a team that has taken on the world and won many, many times before in its long history, there can be no satisfaction without victory.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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13 comments on “Williams hold third despite pit stop problems”

  1. I guess it is good when we can speak of a team running third and feeling a bit disappointed. What mainly stood out to me was their issues in operations (procedures, pits stops, strategy etc), and off course their enduring weakness in wet conditions.

  2. It is a good sign that Williams is disappointed with third. Claire Williams laughed when she said Sir Frank asked them all why they were celebrating after Abu Dhabi 2014 because they hadn’t actually won anything. He was, as he always is, 100% right. Third is not good enough for Williams. That has always been Frank Williams’ attitude, that has always his been team’s attitude. It is the attitude of top figures like Smedley and Symonds and it seems to be the team’s attitude again.

    I really have high hopes for Williams in 2016, though it is obvious that they need to improve in a number of areas, it will not be enough to simply arrive in Melbourne with a decent car. They need to be operationally sharp, strategically bold and technically brilliant if they want to compete at the sharp end next season. I have no doubt they have it in them, I really do hope they can deliver.

    1. I just hope that one of their issues last year was that they thought they were in a pretty good spot before the season started. This year they know that they will have to sort out their operations and they know that the car will have to be better.

      1. @bascb @geemac I can see Williams having another good car at the start of next season – what will then determine the results are whether the rules change for 2017 (if so I can see them swapping development over early, to retain a good car after 2017), or if they are moved back to 2018, at which point there will be two years for the new car and they’ll probably try and push to stay ahead of a likely strengthening Red Bull.

  3. They reaped the benefits of a good engine two years in a row. Good for them. Could have had more points but they chose not to.

    However if Renault are able to improve their engine, I see RBR as the challenger to the factory teams. Honda and McLaren might come back strongly as well and that will increase the pressure on Williams, who cannot afford such operational mistakes then.

    Either way, after the low of the previous years, they seem to hit a stable patch in the turbo era. Will be interesting to see how they go against Mercedes next season.

  4. Although Williams finished 3rd again, they’ve fallen back this season.
    After winter testing they seemed to be ahead of Ferrari, leading the “chasing group”. I expected them to get stronger and stronger, as they were in 2014. But it became clear after the first few races that it would be very hard for them to even get on the podium, never mind to challenge for victories. The only race, where they actually had the pace to get on the podium, was Silverstone. And even there they blew it.

    If they want to challenge for the title in the future, they will have to get rid of their low-drag-design.
    Yes, it helped them the last two seasons, especially because it’s almost impossible to pass them, but that kind of design is way too dependent on the type of circuit. It worked brilliant at Silverstone and terrible at Monaco.

  5. I feel like Williams have already reached a ceiling in terms of performance for the past 2 years, in this new engine dominated era only the big teams like Ferrari and Mercedes can be consistently at the front, for Williams to catch up they would need a lot more resources to make up the deficit with better aero and in other areas… the fact that even the mighty Adrian Newey in Red Bull couldn’t do it tells us how difficult it really is.

  6. Massa produced a solid season, out-performing his much younger team mate at a number of races and maximising his opportunities in both Canada and Mexico to take two well deserved podiums, but lost more places on the opening lap than any other driver in 2015 and scored in just three of the final seven races to end the season sixth in the standings.


    A couple of notes on the quote above – Massa scored podiums in Austria and Italy.

    Also, while it’s true he lost more places on the opening lap, if you looked at those, they were due to contact caused by other drivers – it’s not a reflection of poor starting form throughout the year which you imply by how it’s currently stated. (For instance he lost 15 place in Japan when Ricciardo tried to squeeze between Massa and Raikkonen on the start and gave Massa and himself punctures).

    1. Good point. Massa has generally been a good starter, so I was wondering how he could have lost that ability. Where are the number-of-places-lost-in-the-first-lap tables?

  7. I think that the fact that Williams cannot win races and are also unlikely to be championship contenders over the upcoming years is even more disturbing than Red Bull’s inability to secure competitive engines. Williams have been competing in F1 since 1977, they have fallen down and got up again and again. They know what to do to win championships and how to do it. They do not threaten to leave the sport when the going gets tough. The only thing they are missing is money, without that they will not be able to spoil the party for the big guys. This is the issue FIA and FOM should focus on as Red Bull will sooner or later get decent engines and return to the front anyway.

    1. @girts I fully agree to that. It’s a little bit sad that they are stuck in such a way. I actually doubt Williams could win the championship even if FOM paid the teams equally. The big brands like Ferrari and Mercedes will always be able to invest more money, simply because the marketing benefits of such an investment are that much bigger for brands like theirs.

      The only way in my oppinion is if regulations are left untouched over a long period of time so that rich teams run into diminishing returns. Well established teams can then rely on in-depth quality of their staff to gain an advantage. Honestly though, with all due respect to Williams, I do not think they can out-engineer teams like Red Bull or Mercedes in their current state.

      1. And even if by magic they got extra 200M budget, it woukd take years to improve everything to a Mercedes level.

        Remember Mercedes team enjoys high budget for more than 10 years now, and despite lucky Brawn championship, they are only now dominant.

        Team that wishes to win a championshio, should expect to spend 1-2 billions before being in contention. Probably makes F1 the most expensive championship in the world?

        Hard to make it worthwhile unless you are a major car company.q

  8. Actually, they had a lot of problems.

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