Getty Images

Formula 1 2017 team preview: Williams

Leave a comment

After two years back in Formula 1’s top three, Williams came back down to earth with a bump last season.

Just one podium finish left Williams to end up fifth in the constructors’ championship, trailing privateer rivals Force India and struggling to take much of a fight to the lead runners.

The knock-on effect of Nico Rosberg’s retirement announcement hit Williams hardest, but will the British team recover and bounce back into the top three this year?

DRIVERS

18. Lance Stroll (Canada)
19. Felipe Massa (Brazil)

CAR

Williams FW40

ENGINE

Mercedes M08 EQ Power+

TEAM CHIEFS

Frank Williams (team founder/owner)
Claire Williams (deputy team principal)
Mike O’Driscoll (group CEO)
Paddy Lowe (chief technical officer)

MONTMELO, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes in the Pitlane during the final day of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 10, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

What went right in 2016: Williams had spates of good pace, particularly in the early part of the year. Valtteri Bottas led its charge once again and took a well-earned podium in Canada. Otherwise, the form that made Williams so impressive through 2014 and 2015 was very hard to find. It was a pretty average, uninspiring year for the team.

What went wrong in 2016: The inability to keep up with Force India was concerning, particularly given Williams’ heritage and experience against a comparatively new team. Felipe Massa’s form was very patchy indeed, taking a best finish of fifth on just two occasions and scoring a single point between June and the end of August. Williams looked absent of any killer instinct last year.

What’s changed for 2017: Quite a bit. Firstly, technical boss Pat Symonds has left and been replaced by Mercedes man Paddy Lowe, who has also become a shareholder in the team. On the driver front, 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll has arrived in place of Bottas, who had been set to stay with Williams before Rosberg’s retirement announcement. Instead, Felipe Massa has returned for a final hurrah, having initially planned to retire at the end of last year.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: Battling with the leading trio of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull would be a stretch for Williams. Instead, the team will be looking to regain its status as top privateer and move back ahead of Force India in the pecking order. With such a varied driver line-up – one rookie whose testing periods were dotted with crashes, one veteran who was way off the pace last year – this may be a year of ‘making do’ for Williams and staying in the top five.

MONTMELO, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during the final day of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 10, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

MST PREDICTIONS

Luke Smith: I’m struggling to see how Williams can improve for this year – or for that matter, stop falling back even further. The new-style cars appear to suit Felipe Massa more, yet his 2016 performances left much to be desired. I’m excited about Stroll, and think the naysayers in the wake of his testing crashes are jumping the gun. But the Canadian will take time to bed in. Williams will be in the battle for P4 once again, but I don’t see it beating Force India. Its line-up is far weaker by comparison. P5 at best and not a single podium is my bet.

Tony DiZinno: A tough year lies ahead here, even despite Felipe Massa’s determined comeback and heavy lifting in preseason testing. Massa, who was good as gone from the moment he announced his retirement in Monza last year, now must carry the load for a team that risks losing another spot or two in the constructor’s championship if either or all of Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas can step up. Canadian rookie Lance Stroll must sink or swim on his own, with a lot of eyeballs fixated on how the talented – if incident-prone – teenager adapts to a full season at the highest level. That said, he’ll have been an improvement on Pastor Maldonado as a rookie if he scores points more than once this year…

Kyle Lavigne: Williams Martini Racing ranks alongside Sahara Force India as perhaps the most intriguing of the teams in the midfield. The FW40 has turned quick times, it isn’t clear if that pace is genuine. Lance Stroll struggled mightily in the opening week of testing, spinning and crashing on multiple occasions. However, he made a significant improvement during the second week and appears to be improving more and more every time he gets behind the wheel. Teammate Felipe Massa was a revelation during testing, in fact beginning the second week atop the time sheets, and looks every bit as strong as he did during his prime. It remains to be seen if their testing form was a mirage, but they nonetheless have surprised many an observer. And they just might continue to do so as the year develops.

Defending winner Takuma Sato to grace front of 2018 Indy 500 tickets

Photos: IMS/Chris Owens
Leave a comment

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has unveiled what the ticket for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will look like.

The ticket features blue and red foil stamped with a sculptural embossing of last year’s 500 winner, Takuma Sato, in victory lane, holding the ceremonial winner’s bottle of milk. Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, driving for Andretti Autosport.

The ticket was revealed Thursday during a ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse that featured Sato, now with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as well as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark Miles, IMS President J. Douglas Boles and Hulman Motorsports Senior Vice President of Events Allison Melangton.

The Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be held Sunday, May 27 at IMS.

Follow @JerryBonkowski