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F1 2016 Team Preview: Williams Martini Racing

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After proving that the upturn in fortunes in 2014 wasn’t a one-off, Williams enters 2016 hoping to build on the success of last year and cement its place as one of Formula 1’s front-running teams.

Quite how much more can be achieved given the strength and budgets of the manufacturers remains to be seen. That said, if any team is going to break the Mercedes-Ferrari stranglehold at the front of the pack, one would expect it to be Williams.

TEAM: Williams Martini Racing
ENGINE: Mercedes
CAR: Williams FW38

2015 STATS

Races: 19
Wins: 0
Podiums: 4
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 257
Laps Led: 20
Drivers’ Championship Positions: 5th (Valtteri Bottas); 6th (Felipe Massa)
Constructors’ Championship Position: 3rd

2016 LINE-UP

77. Valtteri Bottas (FIN)
19. Felipe Massa (BRA)


For ‘Williams 2015’, see ‘Williams 2014’. Last year was very much a case of the same again. After ending a barren few years of form and finishing third in the constructors’ championship in 2014, Williams did it again in 2015 with relative ease. Red Bull’s struggles meant it had little competition from behind, while Ferrari grew in strength through the season, putting P2 out of reach. Both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were solid if unspectacular, with the only opportunity to take the fight to Mercedes being squandered when the team played it safe with strategy at Silverstone.


It is difficult to see Williams moving any further forward this year. Pre-season testing pointed to big gains by both Mercedes and Ferrari, appearing to leave the rest of the pack a step behind. Williams will be wary of the renewed fight from Red Bull this year, with the Renault power unit’s issues reportedly being remedied to some end. If anything, a ‘boring’ third-place finish for the third year in a row might be the best thing for Williams, allowing it to focus on prepping for the regulation change in 2017 and giving Valtteri Bottas to car to become a grand prix winner – if it can hold on to the Finn, that is.

Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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