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Williams problems were “under the radar” at start of hybrid era – Russell

2019 F1 season

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Williams’ poor 2019 season has given them the opportunity to tackle long-standing problems which were present during the its most recent periods of success, says George Russell.

The team began the V6 hybrid era strongly after switching to Mercedes power units. Williams finished third in the championship in 2014, ahead of Ferrari, and beat Red Bull to third place the following year.

However it then quickly slipped down the order. Williams was last in the 2018 championship and is on course to repeat that result. Its FW42 has been the slowest car at all bar one of the 16 races so far this year.

Russell says the depth of the team’s plight has allowed them to make significant changes behind the scenes which he believes will pay off.

“I think having this big reset has been beneficial for things back at the factory to get things right that perhaps weren’t correct,” he said.

“The team definitely had a very fast car back in ’14, ’15, ’16. But there were definitely some issues then that were probably under the radar because the car was so quick and the engine was very strong.

“So it sort of all comes at once and you start looking at the details more now, when you have a situation like this.”

While the performance of the car has shown signs of improvement in recent races, neither Williams driver finished the last race in Russia. A wheel nut problems caused Russell to crash, following which the team decided to retire Robert Kubica’s car as a precaution following crash damaged sustained at that race and in Singapore.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 13 comments on “Williams problems were “under the radar” at start of hybrid era – Russell”

    1. Russel will be hoping (or wishing) for rain during the race.

    2. He’s probably correct, but even then it was clear they had aerodynamic issues (like before that, in 2012 when they couldn’t get the blown exhaust working, or their failure in 2015,2016 to actually add more df and be faster), and they were blind to the bigger issues or certainly if they did see, they didn’t find a way to start addressing it. I hope this time it’s different, but …

    3. It’s about denial, I believe. Someone comes to the boss and says “we have a serious problem”. But you’re second in the championship, and you think “yeah, right!” and keep going.

      Some thought Paddy Lowe was the solution for that. He had important information from his Mercedes era. Guess what? Problem was still there, he couldn’t do much about it.

      Any guesses on what it was (or is)?

        1. Frank doesn’t start with a C. Claire – or anyone – can’t run the team with him haunting the factory like the Ghost of Championships Past. Whether it’s true or not, it creates the impression that anyone who disagrees with one of the boss’s decisions can go over her head, and that’s an impossible situation in which to try and run things.

          1. Dave, there is something of a fashion to blame Claire, but if we’re honest, Williams have had design problems fairly frequently for the past couple of decades.

            Consider, for example, some of the flawed cars they’ve had over the years:
            – the 2004 “Walrus nose” FW26 was a failure, with the team forced to redesign the car after the nose design failed to work in practise;
            – the FW208 in 2006, which was horrendously unreliable and showed erratic performance;
            – the FW33 from 2011 was plagued with handling problems, which some suggested was linked to a lack of torsional stiffness in the radical “low line” gearbox they developed that year;
            – the FW35 from 2013, which had the problems with exhaust blowing that gave it erratic rear grip and an unpredictable handling balance;

            Even the 2015 FW37 and 2016 FW38 were, in many ways, something of a failure – those cars were evolutions of the 2014 FW36, and in that process carried over problems that car had (with Williams’s designers admitting that, to some extent, they were trying to mask the problems with adding extra downforce).

            If we consider the car from this season as well, then you could argue that, over the past 15 years, about a third of the cars that Williams have designed have turned out to be technically flawed. Really, to me this speaks of there being severe dysfunction within the technical department at Williams, and I would say that you probably should be directing questions towards the Chief Designer.

    4. The team also had fast driver(s) in ’14, ’15 and ’16. Then they went for the money.

    5. In 1991 Senna and Berger were shouting to McLaren: “We’re having problems with the car and the engine!”
      Senna won first four races, so McLaren’s answer was “yeah, right, boys!”. Then Williams sorted their reliability issues and the real fun has begun for both McLaren stars.

    6. Well, they weren’t so bad in ’17. In Baku they were near the top and could’ve won that race with Massa had his car not failed him.

      What did make things take a turn for the worse was the new approach to aero trying to use Ferrari’s ’17 ideas on their ’18 car and it turned out to be that dog of a car. Losing Martini and Stroll’s money only dig them deeper into the darkness.

    7. Wrong people, looking in the wrong directions, doing and saying wrong things, and closing eyes on real problems – headache of many entities, not only sport teams.
      F1 has another glaring example – McLaren (with their problems stretching back to 1999-2000, but there’s not a single man who will admit it).

      Williams team is at least humble enough not to claim that they are the best, but circumstances don’t let them shine.
      Hope they get through, though I will not be surprised if this doesn’t happen.

    8. Williams have the money to be higher up the grid so it must be people that are the issue, whether they don’t have the right skills to succeed or more likely, the wrong culture to succeed.

    9. Sort of a weak article. Was hoping for some insight. Hmm.

    10. Don Smee @david-beau

      There is an Joe Saward interview with Claire Williams in a recent edition of Grand Prix Plus in which she details how the Williams team are moving forward. (I know you have to pay, but it is worth reading.)

      I think the team having a budget of £200 million per annum less than Mercedes, Ferrari & Red Bull has a substantial effect on everything.

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