Development struggle sees Williams sink to fifth

2016 F1 season review

Posted on

| Written by

Williams might have expected to be beaten by Red Bull in 2016, but losing to fellow Mercedes customers Force India was a bitter pill.

The team went into their third season with the three-pointed star upbeat that having turned their attention to the FW38 early in 2015 they had cured some of the key weaknesses of its predecessors. But as the season went on it appeared more as though their high-speed strengths had been lost yet the usual slow-corner and wet weather weaknesses remained.

Williams team stats 2016

Best race result (number)3 (1)
Best grid position (number) 2 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 4 (4/0)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,347 (92.47%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2015)5 (3)
Championship points (2015)138 (257)
Pit stop performance ranking1

They were never in the hunt as far as Red Bull was concerned but their nip-and-tuck battle with Force India could have gone either way.

In pure performance terms Williams had a fractionally quicker car on average – 1.71% off the pace compared to the VJM09’s 1.72%. Given Williams’ phenomenal record in the pits they might have been expected to come out ahead. But once Force India got their car hooked up Williams looked likely to lose this fight.

It didn’t help matters that a retirement-bound Felipe Massa turned in a lacklustre season. This included a ten-race spell during which time he contributed just ten points.

But as Valtteri Bottas ended the season behind Sergio Perez in the standings it would be wrong to lump all the blame on the Brazilian’s shoulders. Nonetheless Bottas delivered the team’s only podium finish of the year, in Canada.

The team kept a stream of upgrades coming, though as they lacked the budget of the front-runners sometimes these were only for one car. More troubling was the success rate of the new components.

Group CEO Mike O’Driscoll admitted “the development of this year’s car hasn’t gone as well as we would have like”.

“All of the upgrades we brought haven’t been as effective as we would have wished.”

“I also think it’s fair to say that we made an early decision in the season to focus on the 2017 development,” he added. However the same was also true of last year’s car.

However as 2016 drew to a close it emerged the team was undergoing significant upheaval. Chief technical officer Pat Symonds departed amid rumours he was to be replaced by Paddy Lowe.

The traffic between Williams and their engine supplier is widely expected to be a two-way affair, as Mercedes are believed to be pursuing Bottas following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement. Massa has already been enticed back from what will prove to be a very brief retirement.

Go ad-free for just £1 per month

>> Find out more and sign up

2016 F1 season review

Browse all 2016 F1 season review articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

7 comments on “Development struggle sees Williams sink to fifth”

  1. At leased there is one thing they have dominated on this year. Their pit stop performance has been mighty impressive.

  2. Paddy Lowe should bring some lap-time improvement. Daddy Stoll’s cash too. But these won’t start to show until later in the year at the earliest. I wonder if Lowe has been offered a stake in the firm. Apparently Adrian Newey asked for some shares in 1996 and was turned down. How things might have been…

  3. I had been hoping that Williams lack of performance this year was because they’ve spent the majority of it developing a beast of a car for 2017, but given they seem to no longer want to keep Bottas, I suspect we’ll see another below average 2017.

  4. Sacking the daddy’s girl who is clearly out of her depth might help them move up the grid also

    1. Claire Williams is smarter and more successful than you will ever be, so I guess I understand your poisonous comment.

      1. @ferrox-glideh first of all you nothing about me not one thing..2nd Claire is a daddy’s girl who is a figurehead of the team (because of family legal reasons) with a lot of talented people around her making the real decisions..You clearly know nothing about her and her skill set which is a bit of ‘PR’…There are loads of talented women in F1 and Claire is not one of Frank ages, Williams will go the way of Brabham and Lotus ect and less there is a merger in future…do some research in future!!!!!

        1. As it is Sir Frank’s team to do with what he wants, I applaud him for giving his daughter the chance push against the glass ceiling. Enzo was a believer in family too, and his team’s done alright. Her role as “figurehead” is actually quite valuable to the image of the team that Frank Williams consciously projects in the 21st century. Maybe you work with the team, or have insider information, but since you don’t give sources about your claims, I suspect that they may reflect personal bias on your part.

Comments are closed.