George Russell, Williams, Yas Marina

Williams has been “making up the numbers” – Lowe

2019 F1 season

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Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe admits the team has been “making up the numbers” for years in Formula 1 and says he can’t predict how long their turnaround will take.

The team finished the first two years of the V6 hybrid turbo era third in the championship but has failed to keep pace with the competition. It fell to fifth in 2016 and 2017, then registered a worst-ever 10th last season.

Lowe admitted the team’s cars have been flattered by the quality of its power unit. “There have been good years and bad years relatively and they can be explained by different factors that vary in your favour,” he said. “But the underlying point is we haven’t been competing in the way you need to compete to win, which is our objective.

“We have essentially been making up the numbers. We won a race in 2012 but I think you’d agreed that was an isolated result and then the win before that was a long time ago.

“Yes, we’ve had some reasonably good years, as an example 2014 was a good year. But I think you’d agree we were flattered by a good engine and other teams who for their own reasons didn’t have a good year. The underlying performance hasn’t been where it needed to be for a very long time.”

The team is in the early stages of a process of change in response to the shock of its 2018 performance, Lowe explained.

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“It’s not only about investment, it’s about a process and even culture. There’s a huge amount of change going on but it’s only starting. These things take a long time.

“This is why we won’t give any prediction of results. Because the first thing you’ve got to do is change your engineering and then when you change that you start making better products, i.e. racing cars, so even to make the changes in the organisation takes time for those effects to come through, it won’t be instantaneous.”

Lowe said he can see some of the fruits of the changes Williams has made in the quality of the work the team is now doing, but stressed he could not predict when that would be seen in their on-track performance.

“I can only tell you we’re going to get better and that’s not in terms even of results,” he said. “The engineering is already getting better and that’s directionally correct

“What that translates into in the short term I can’t predict because the other thing to remember is that the other nine teams are all very strong. Formula 1 has an incredibly strong technology base now, every team is populated by the brightest engineers from the best universities, they’re run by good management teams, they’re all very well-structured. It wasn’t always like that.

“It’s difficult to know the best way to say this but even to come 10th in Formula One now and actually be in touch with the grid is a very difficult job because of the standard. We can’t pretend to think it’s just straightforward and easy to be better than that so I can’t predict when that’s going to happen. I’m very optimistic that we are already moving forwards and that will translate in due course into better results.”

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31 comments on “Williams has been “making up the numbers” – Lowe”

  1. Soon to be featured as a case study in a leading business school.

    1. Hahaha ha hah to funny

    2. Soon to be featured as a case study in a leading business school.

      Maybe as a total failure. I just see wishful thinking in Lowe’s comments. Claire Williams is a wonderful person, but utterly incompetent to lead the organization. The Williams are just to small minded to tackle the current challenges of an F1 enterprise. The opposite of Ron Dennis, but leading to similar failures. Sell the freaking team, let it go.

  2. I doubt the team could survive another two seasons of tooling around at the back. The owners must be thinking of selling.

    1. Less than a quarter of Williams Grand Prix Engineering is publicly traded stock. Obviously they can be sold any time – but I doubt major shareholder – Frank Williams (51.3%) is thinking of selling… Ever? Only Brad Hollinger must be considering his stock right now. Patrick Head is in it for the long run – it’s almost as much his team as Frank’s.

  3. An Anonymous poster suggested there were fundamental flaws with Williams aerodynamic design which went back several years, and that these flaws didn’t just perpetuate from one year to the next, but increased in magnitude, which was why the FW41 was so difficult to drive.
    The lack of a definitive statement as to what was wrong with the FW41 is a bit worrying. I do hope the FW42 is much better than the FW41, otherwise this is going to be another long season.

    1. That’s the “advantage” of anonymous posting.. every rubbish remark or fake news find some believers.

      1. But aren’t most of us anonymous…? ;-)

        1. @BlackJackFan I’m not, i’m Bernasaurus.

          1. I look a bit like a dog

      2. erikje, given that Paddy Lowe discussed the aerodynamic correlation issues that Williams have been suffering over the 2018 season with the FW41, are you therefore trying to claim that Lowe himself is creating “fake news” to try and discredit his own team?

      3. You are correct to question whether or not it is right to pass on comments posted by someone anonymously. In this case the writer displayed a good understanding of the aerodynamics and kinematics of a car.
        Here is the relevant article with their comments. Searching for “anon” makes very interesting reading.

        1. @drycrust – And a bunch of us have requested this ‘anon’ to create an account (even if that account is itself named anon, or something similar), just to benefit from notifications, knowledge that it is same person, etc. Sadly, we’ve had as much luck as Paddy had with his car :-)

          1. @phylyp Yes, it would be good if they did. Anyone can post using the “anon” service, whereas registering and commenting under a unique name would enable us to discern they are them and not just anyone. Nevertheless, it is a free country (at least where I live it still is), so they are within their rights to remain anonymous. I guess it’s up to us to discern whether or not an anonymous poster is them or not.
            We are very privileged to have this person posting comments. I resorted to Google to find their comment regarding Williams and the FW41. You can see others were interested in their comments too.

  4. Yet another Williams article that makes it clear we need to judge Stroll only once he is in a better car. And that we shouldn’t expect too much from Kubica this year.

  5. We have essentially been making up the numbers for years. Not only about investment, it’s about a process and even culture.

    Shouldn’t this be the biggest F1 scandal in a decade? Is it not betraying their own share holder and sponsors?

    1. Well I don’t think it’s been intentional. They just don’t have the right mix of staff right now nor have for a while, and it is all adding up to very little in terms of competitiveness. They need a ground up restoration.

      1. @robbie:

        They need a ground up restoration.

        Maybe a restomod FW14B to start.

        1. @ruliemaulana @robbie @jimmi-cynic Lowe isn’t saying they’re literally fabricating numbers (what would be the point or purpose of that?). To ‘make up the numbers’ is an idiom which means they’re only participating, not really competing, i.e. to ‘make up the number’ of entries in the field.

          1. @keithcollantine: So… no restomod FW14 then? That’s makes the numbers even bleaker to make up. ;-)

    2. Yeah this is quite a statement. If I were a Williams owner, and I wasn’t already concerned, I’d be sounding the alarm bells now.

      1. Or I’d be happy I might finally have someone in the team who can call spades spades, and spuds spuds, and find a way to tartget a way out of the hole and might even get there @AllstarGP

        If Lowe can do it, he is a bit of a hero, I’d say!

    3. He doesn’t mean it literally

  6. Losing Martini as a title sponsor isn’t going to help. I wonder how many more years they can hold on?

  7. Well if the car is no better it will still be one second up the grid via better drivers. Though there are of course question marks over both drivers, I’s be more worried for their future if they lost the Mercedes powerplant.

    Im always a bit circumspect about quotes, the context is not always apparent but it does sound like he’s saying there are no easy wins anymore and any move up the grid is going to be painfully slow. It also seems to say he thinks he may not have any more answers

  8. Two pay drivers = pay driver results. Williams went for the performance in the check books and not on track. And in that process they also became liars. If williams wanted a fast driver they would have put massa into the car. Even if the car is difficult to drive a good driver can handle it better than a bad driver.

  9. Are they really “making up the numbers”, though?

    Because that would imply they’re just showing up for the sake of attendance and participation. I don’t think that’s the case. I think the desire to win is there, just that their attempts have gone awry and have been misguided over all these years.

    1. You could arguably say that about any of the teams other than the top 3 or 4

      It’s been a long while since any of the lower teams have had a hope of a win. Sadly there’s just not enough room for teams to come up with something earth shattering that will allow them to leap ahead because the rules are so restrictive.

      That being said, given that Williams have had Mercedes PU’s, their performance has been sub par for way too long and they truly have been making up the numbers.

    2. The bank account numbers @phylyp

      1. The question of “were they racing or just participating” in the last season is pretty clear. “Making up the numbers” is just another way of saying that they showed up for every race, but weren’t really putting forth the effort needed to succeed.
        From very early in the season, it was clear that the FW41 was a turkey. The fact that they were not able to improve it in any meaningful way, further indicated that either he car was totally screwed up or they were devoting all of their efforts to the FW42….. or both. The only visible upgrade that I saw was the revised aero package for Silverstone, and that clearly didn’t work.
        Shades of the situation when Lee Iococa took over Chrysler. He noted in his book that if he had known it was as bad as it was, he wouldn’t have taken it on. Paddy L is in a similar situation. Either he packs his kit and heads for the villa in Spain, or he jumps in (the deep end) and starts fighting. The latter seems to be the case, thankfully.
        Williams NEEDS a racer at the helm. Someone with the drive, technical acumen and chutzpah to bring it all together.
        We have been hearing that the influence of Robert Kubica is already helping, hopefully PL can use this to rekindle the fire in the team. Hopefully this fight will produce a winner.

  10. Sad to see a once great team fall like this, but that’s the nature of modern F1. How long did Tyrell hang in there? Too long. Finally, Ken passed and the team was sold. I think we will have to wait till either Frank or Patrick pass till we see the cycle of life of an F1 team come full circle again.

    It must be really frustrating to have to go to all the races knowing that you are not going to be competitive at all, even though you have all these team personnel, super computers, full manufacturing facility, state of the art this and that, only to come in last or close to last.

    I think even if you gave Williams the same budget as the big 3, they still would not be competitive for a few years, and that’s just not going to cut it in the current environment.

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