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.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”