F1 2015 team preview: Williams Martini Racing

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Williams Martini Racing

Drivers
No. 77 Valtteri Bottas
No. 19 Felipe Massa

First Race: 1978 Argentine Grand Prix
Grands Prix: 619
Pole Positions: 
128
Fastest Laps: 
133
Race Wins: 
114
Constructors’ Championships: 
9
2014 Championship Result: 
3rd (320 points)

After spending a decade in the doldrums, Williams came back with a vengeance in 2014. The British team made a clean break with the past, canning all negativity and ushering in a new backroom team under the leadership of technical director Pat Symonds. The switch to Mercedes engines was an inspired one, with Felipe Massa’s arrival also giving the team some much-needed experience as it soared to third place in the constructors’ championship with nine podium finishes in total.

For 2015, the team will be looking for bigger and better things. Valtteri Bottas was one of the breakout stars of 2014, and he is now chasing a maiden grand prix victory. The flying Finn has already won the attention of Mercedes, being named as a possible replacement for Lewis Hamilton should the Briton not renew his contract. Both he and Massa must remain focused this year and try to pick up the pieces in the wake of a Mercedes collapse should it occur, and judging by pre-season testing, the FW37 is leading the way for P2 in the constructors’ championship.

VALTTERI BOTTAS No. 77

If the Williams chassis is up to it, and judging by preseason testing it should be, Bottas could become a first-time Grand Prix winner in 2015. The nice thing about Bottas is that he doesn’t go out of his way to hide his hunger. While podiums at Spielberg and Silverstone were nice surprises, podiums by Abu Dhabi were expected. Compared to Ricciardo, who’s facing a new inter-team rival, Bottas and Felipe Massa should mesh even better for their second season together. He’s fast, focused, very good in terms of feedback and determined to improve upon what was already a breakout 2014 season.

FELIPE MASSA No. 19

Massa’s career took a positive turn in 2014 after he left Ferrari, faring far better than his replacement Kimi Raikkonen and looking far more relaxed with Williams. He certainly missed out on a number of big points-scoring opportunities, but many of these incidents were out of his control. A victory so nearly came in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year, and should Mercedes drop the ball in 2015, you can count on Massa to be there to pick it up. He may never reach the lofty heights of his near-miss for the title in 2008, but 2015 could prove to be one of the best years in Massa’s F1 career.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.