F1: Williams drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica prepare for long-term recovery
After pre-season delays the troubled team play catch-up at the back of the grid
Following the disappointment of finishing rock bottom of the 2018 Formula 1 constructors’ championship Williams came into the new season full of hope that their fortunes would improve both on and off the track.
It was a tough campaign for the Oxfordshire-based outfit in 2018 as they ended in tenth position in the standings after winning just seven points - six by Lance Stroll and one by Sergey Sirotkin.
Since the end of last season though Stroll and Sirotkin have been replaced by George Russell and Robert Kubica. British rookie Russell, 21, steps up to F1 after winning the Formula 2 title in 2018 while 34-year-old Pole Kubica is making a fairytale return after suffering a serious injury in 2011.
With the driver line-up in place for 2019 and the announcement of ROKiT as the team’s new title sponsor Williams launched their FW42 car in February feeling optimistic that their 2018 struggles were behind them.
However, things did not go to plan at the first pre-season test in Barcelona…
While their nine rivals tested their 2019 challengers at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Williams were forced to miss the opening two days to work on the FW42.
Calling the delays “embarrassing”, Williams Racing deputy team principal Claire Williams said in pre-season: “We’re not just disappointed. It’s embarrassing not bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to do that, particularly a team like ours that has managed to bring a race car to testing for the past 40-odd years.”
The team has been playing catch-up ever since and in the first grand prix of the 2019 season in Australia the delays showed. Russell and Kubica crossed the line in 16th and 17th place respectively after three drivers failed to finish in Melbourne.
Light at the end of a long tunnel
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix Russell admitted that the team have to be patient and that their recovery is a long-term process.
He said: “There is certainly light at the end of the tunnel but that tunnel’s quite far away. We’ve just got to not do anything drastic because at the end of the day even if you’re one of the top three teams you can’t just overcome that lap time in a day, a week, a month or whatever.
“It’s a process. The team made it clear from the end of last year that this is a longer-term project for them and we’re not looking in short term.”
Famous team is in trouble
ESPN’s F1 associate editor Nate Saunders wrote this week about Williams’s “fundamentally flawed car” and how the “famous team is in trouble”.
While Saunders believes there’s no doubt Williams have the “ability to recover” he does not imagine seeing them “anywhere but the very back of the order for the foreseeable future”.
The car troubles look set to continue this weekend in Bahrain. Crash.net reports that a lack of spare parts will hinder them in Sakhir.
Williams driver Kubica said: “It’s not an easy situation from driver point of view, because we will be limited with spare parts and everything. As I said we have to try and make sure I’m doing my best.
“It is already having difficult performance, or lacking performance, and we are adding another factor which is complicating our lives.
“But I know in the factory, everybody’s working hard so we just need a bit more time to fix the issue.”
Despite the FW42’s performance troubles Autosport.com says that Kubica won’t walk away from Williams.
Jonathan Noble writes: “Kubica’s return to Formula 1 has been blighted by the kind of uncompetitive machinery that would have caused the old Kubica to demand answers. But his time away from F1 has made him a different driver.”
What next for Williams?
That’s the question asked this week by SportsKeeda writer Aditya Gokhale. He said: “Things have never looked worse for Williams, the drivers have declared that things are still being sorted out by the technical team and results won’t be any better than they were at the Australian GP.
“Things may not seem up right now for Williams, but we definitely hope there’s more to look forward to in the coming years from the British giants.”
Russell and Kubica will be back on track this weekend at the 2019 F1 Bahrain GP. The race on Sunday 31 March starts at 4.10pm (UK time).