Williams' 2017 prospects


A disappointing 2016 and a winter of upheaval – what will 2017 bring?

Where it’s been

As an independent team, Williams was always on-course to fall away from its third-place status of 2014 and ’15. Keeping both Red Bull and Ferrari at bay as an independent, even a Mercedes-powered one, was always going to be a big ask. But losing fourth place in the constructors’ to the much smaller Force India outfit was worrying.

The FW38 proved stubbornly resistant to aerodynamic development, particularly around the front wing and into the second half of the season was leapfrogged by the identically-powered Force India. Production of new parts was too slow to keep the wind tunnel programme as productive as it needed to be and the car was an inconsistent performer.

Where it’s going

There have been major changes behind the scenes during the winter. Director of engineering Pat Symonds has been dismissed, lead driver Valtteri Bottas has been taken away by Mercedes, the chief of aero has been replaced (Dirk de Beer taking over from Jason Somerville), a new chief of vehicle dynamics, a new project manager, new team manager (Dave Redding) and – still to be confirmed but all agreed – the biggest change of all: the recruitment of Paddy Lowe as technical chief (and potentially more).

This is all within the backdrop of a team that is seeking to find its way forward amid a big investment by Lawrence Stroll, father of the team’s rookie driver Lance. This potentially shapes Williams’ future, defining it as a team in transition.

All this upheaval amid a major technical regulation change suggests that 2017 won’t be the easiest for the team. A rookie driver paired with Felipe Massa, fresh out of the retirement that never was, isn’t the strongest line-up in the pitlane but may be more than enough for the sort of holding season that could be in store.

Unlike the Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren there’s nothing about the FW40’s surfaces that suggest a radical interpretation of the new regs. It remains to be seen whether this will be a limitation or a much needed base of stability and consistency. 

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