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Williams taking ‘wait and see’ approach on Massa’s F1 future

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Williams is taking a “wait and see” approach on deciding Felipe Massa’s Formula 1 future, preferring to focus on its performances on-track towards the end of the 2017 season than distract itself with driver discussions.

Massa, 36, had planned to retire from F1 at the end of last season, only for world champion Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement and Valtteri Bottas’ subsequent move up to Mercedes to free up a seat at Williams once again.

Massa has appeared to enjoy a new lease of life in 2017, finding the new-style cars both fun and challenging as well as leading Williams’ charge on-track alongside rookie teammate Lance Stroll.

The Brazilian’s performances have led to suggestions he could continue for a second year beyond his planned exit from F1, but deputy team boss Claire Williams is not looking to firm anything up yet.

“Felipe has done a fantastic job, it’s been a bonus year for us. He very kindly came back and he’s really delivered for us,” Williams said.

“Obviously the past couple of races have been tough for him with his medical issue [in Hungary] but we’re through that now and we’re looking forward to him delivering for the rest of the year and we really just have to wait and see.

“I think I’ve made it really clear that the team at the moment are focusing on the constructors’ championship, we need to make sure that we consolidate our P5.

“I don’t think we’re going to close the gap to [Force India], unfortunately, but there’s a lot of teams behind us that would love to overtake us and take that P5 and we can’t afford that.

“So for us the focus really has to be on track performance at the moment rather than diluting that effort with thoughts about driver line-up.

“There’s still eight races to go, there’s plenty of time to be thinking about next year.”

Amid 2017 F1 struggles, Williams admits it ‘can’t have another year like this’

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Williams is currently undertaking a complete analysis of where the weaknesses in its Formula 1 operation lie, with deputy team boss Claire Williams saying: “We can’t have another year like this.”

Williams recovered from a difficult spell in F1 to finish third in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015, only to slip back to fifth last year behind Ferrari and Force India.

Force India has emerged as the leading midfield team once again in F1 this year, scoring over double the points of Williams through the opening 13 races of the season, despite Lance Stroll hitting the podium in Baku.

Williams’ chief concern in the standings instead lies behind as Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault all threaten to shuffle the British team further down the table between now and the end of the season.

A number of internal changes have taken place at Williams in recent months, with the biggest addition being that of ex-Mercedes and McLaren technical chief Paddy Lowe at the beginning of the year.

Claire Williams explained how Lowe is working hard to identify where the issues within the team lie, knowing that a repeat of its 2017 struggles cannot be tolerated.

“As you would expect, someone of Paddy’s caliber has a plan and ever since he joined us back in March this year he’s been undertaking a full analysis of the team back at the factory, but also the race team operations on the ground trackside in order to understand where the weaknesses lie,” Williams said.

“We’ve gone through that as a board and now we’re looking at how we allocate resources moving forward into 2018 so that we can address those weaknesses.

“I think a lot of our weaknesses appeared at the midpoint in last year’s season and we can’t go into another season having the same issues that we’ve had so we have full trust in Paddy.

“But also we’ve brought in a number of other senior personnel to work alongside, so Dirk de Beer heads our aerodynamic department now as well, comes from Ferrari this year to us, and some other senior engineers who are hopefully going to turn things around for us.

“But as I said, we can’t have another year like this.”

Alonso to Williams rumor offers fresh twist to F1 silly season

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Just as Formula 1’s driver market ‘silly season’ appeared to be running out of steam, a fresh twist has emerged ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix following a report that a move to Williams has emerged as a possible option for two-time world champion Fernando Alonso next season.

Alonso is out of contract at the end of 2018, and has long made his desire to be in a winning car next season clear after three difficult years with McLaren, hamstrung by Honda’s underperforming power unit.

Alonso entered this season appearing to hold the keys to the driver market for next year, but his options have narrowed dramatically in the months that have followed.

Valtteri Bottas’ impressive start to life with Mercedes looks set to result in him sticking around for 2018, while Ferrari confirmed earlier this week that Kimi Raikkonen would be part of its line-up once again next year. A similar announcement concerning Sebastian Vettel does not appear to be far off.

With Renault still running in F1’s midfield and rebuilding after returning to the sport with a works team in 2016, a third stint with the French marque does not yet appear attractive enough to Alonso.

This appeared to leave the Spaniard two options for 2018: stick with McLaren, regardless of whether or not it continues with Honda; or take time out of F1, something he does not want to do given his affinity for the new-spec cars.

Auto Motor und Sport‘s Michael Schmidt reported on Friday that Williams has now emerged as a possible alternative for Alonso, as the British team bids to return to its past glories and boost its global profile with a blue-riband signing.

The idea of Alonso joining Williams for 2018 was put to deputy team boss Claire Williams by NBCSN’s Will Buxton over the British Grand Prix weekend in July.

“I would be very flattered if Fernando Alonso came and knocked on our door, of course,” Williams said.

“He’s one of the best drivers in Formula 1 history, that the sport has ever seen. He’s a phenomenal talent.

“What a great coup for any team to get Fernando. But as I said, we’ve got to focus on this year and maybe worry about drivers later in the year.”

Williams did however add: “He would be a proper Williams driver. He’d probably look good in Williams Martini overalls as well, right? We’ll see…”

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll in its race seats, the latter arriving in F1 this year off the back of a convincing Formula 3 title win and with significant financial backing from his father, Lawrence.

Massa had initially planned to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to quit the sport after his world championship win to free up a seat at Williams again when Valtteri Bottas moved up to Mercedes.

Were Alonso to join Williams, he would find himself racing with the strongest power unit on the grid courtesy of Mercedes, resolving his chief complaint from his time with McLaren.

Alonso has long said he would wait until September before making a decision about his F1 future, even joking at Spa earlier this week that he has “one more week of freedom” before he would start thinking about it.

Schmidt notes in his report that Alonso would only be looking for a one-year deal, regardless of where he moves to, with the driver market for 2019 set to be particularly fluid as more seats at the front of the field become available.

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Williams releases official images of FW40 Formula 1 car

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Williams has officially launched its new car for the 2017 Formula 1 season, the FW40, by releasing in-the-flesh images on Saturday.

Williams was the first team to present its new-look car for 2017, releasing a set of renders eight days ago ahead of today’s official launch.

The team issued the real-life images of its car on Saturday, two days before the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain.

Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll will pilot the FW40 through 2017 as the team celebrates 40 years of racing in F1.

Massa returns despite originally planning to retire from F1 at the end of last year, with his comeback being agreed following Valtteri Bottas’ move to Mercedes.

Stroll arrives in F1 as one of its youngest ever drivers, having won the FIA European Formula 3 title last season with Prema Powerteam.

Williams enters 2017 looking to bounce back from a disappointing campaign that saw it fall from third to fifth in the constructors’ championship, dropping behind Red Bull and Force India in the pecking order.

The FW40 follows the example set by the other teams with their 2017-spec cars, falling in line with the radical new technical regulations that have resulted in an aggressive look from teams.

The FW40 retains its thumb nose and also sports a large ‘shark fin’ engine cover that has also been implemented by a number of other teams.

Williams Martini Racing FW40 Mercedes Launch. Grove, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. February, 2017. The Williams FW40 Mercedes pre-test photo shoot. Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams Ref: FW40 side - 18
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams Ref: Heritage 001 - 18
Photo: Drew Gibson/Williams

Williams’ new car will hit the track for the first time in Barcelona on Monday with the start of pre-season testing.