When the umbrellas went up in the paddock at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday morning, the Williams team members must have been left wondering which weather god they had annoyed.
The FW36 car has been superb in the dry, but struggled greatly in the wet. Lo and behold: four races, three wet qualifying sessions. Another Q2 exit appeared to be on the cards.
But no. The team finally appears to have conquered its wet weather problems as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualified in sixth and seventh place respectively for the Chinese Grand Prix today. Both drivers ran well in the tricky conditions to ease into the final part of qualifying, and once again their parity was clear as just one-tenth of a second separated the two of them.
“Today was a difficult day for us, as the weather was tough, but we got the most of out of it and showed that we have improved in the wet,” Massa explained. “It’s good to see forward steps. Tomorrow could be an interesting day as we are more competitive in the dry; it could make for a good race.”
Valtteri Bottas was also buoyed by the result in the wet, saying: “Today was a positive day for us as it’s clear we have made some improvements in the wet. The updates we brought here have helped in the dry but it’s good to see they have improved the car’s performance in the wet as well.
“It’s the right direction and it’s the result of a lot of hard work from the guys.”
However, the team will still be hoping for a dry race tomorrow in China. The pace of the FW36 means that Williams is certainly capable of a podium finish. The team nearly achieved this in Bahrain, only for the safety car period to ruin the races of both Massa and Bottas.
Despite all of this bad luck so far in 2014, the team is still lightyears ahead of where it was in 2013 when just five points were scored between two cars in nineteen races.
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 9th
Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.
Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.
Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.
Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.
Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.
Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.
Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.