Hopes high at Williams for a successful Belgian GP

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With Formula One’s summer break now over, Williams is ready to start making their push for “best of the rest” status among the constructors behind the Mercedes works team.

First task at hand is this weekend’s Shell Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps, which emphasizes big speeds and good aerodynamics – and should play into the hands of the Merc-powered Williams camp.

Last time out in Hungary, Valtteri Bottas’ streak of podiums was snapped at three with an eighth-place showing, while veteran teammate Felipe Massa did somewhat better with a fifth-place result.

But both drivers believe that Spa will see them fighting a bit higher up on the leaderboard.

“The long straights should suit our car and we can kick the second half of the season off with some success,” said Massa of the beloved, notorious Spa. “I won here in 2008 and so I know what it takes to win.

“I have had a really nice summer break but am ready to get back to racing. We have some great tracks to look forward to and I hope we can carry on developing our car like we did the first half of the season, and continue to be near the front.”

Bottas also said that he too was ready to get back to business after the break.

“To be competitive in Spa, you need a car with efficient aerodynamics, so we expect to be strong and are aiming for a good result,” said the Finn. “The break has been long, so I am really looking forward to getting back in the car.”

The first half of the year was a well-received return to form for the Grove gang, which currently sits fourth in the constructors’ standings.

But if they’re to overtake Ferrari for third (+7 on Williams) and then reach their lofty goal of hunting down defending World Champions Red Bull for second (+84 on Williams), they can’t rest on their laurels.

“…Everyone is living and learning how to race back at the top again,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “Hopefully, everybody has come back refreshed and motivated for the second half of the season.

“The objectives within the team are clear: We want to finish as high up in the constructors table as possible.”

You can see if Williams gets off to a good start on that mission by watching the Shell Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”