Williams’ woes: Former F1 glories far away for British team

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SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — It has been 21 years since Williams claimed the last of its nine constructors’ championships, and a return to Formula One glory days seems just as far away for the British team.

Williams is last so far this season with just four points from nine races after rookie Lance Stroll’s surprise eighth-place finish in Azerbaijan. It continues a downward trend after finishing ninth, eighth and ninth in the last three seasons.

“It’s heart-breaking and it’s a little bit soul-destroying,” deputy team principal Claire Harris said on Friday of the team’s decline. “This is mostly my family’s team and it’s been within our family for four decades now.”

Only Ferrari, with 16, has won more constructors’ championships than the team founded by Harris’ father, Frank Williams, in 1977.

Alan Jones of Australia and Carlos Reutemann of Argentina won the first in 1980 and second the following year. But it was in the 1990s that Williams enjoyed its hey-day, crowned when Jacques Villeneuve and Heinz-Harald Frentzen claimed the second of back-to-back titles in 1997.

Nobody in the team suspected at the time that it would be the last. Ferrari dominated over the decade that followed, then Red Bull and Mercedes took charge.

Harris, who took over her role with the team in 2013, pointed to third-place finishes in 2013-14 and fifth-place finishes in 2015-16 as encouraging signs, though she was at a loss to explain the team’s current predicament.

“We must look at this as just a trough,” she said. “Every team in any sport goes through those moments. Personally, it’s incredibly difficult to see the team go through this.”

The 19-year-old Stroll, a former Ferrari Driver Academy member, and the 22-year-old Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin, who replaced the retiring Felipe Massa, have both been struggling with the car, which has proved even worse than last year’s.

“The teams that were weaker than us last year have suddenly catapulted ahead of us, and they’ve made great in-roads for a number of reasons,” Harris said.

She added the challenges facing the team are greater now than they were before, in part due to the consistently poor results.

“This situation in which we find ourselves is going to have ramifications for us financially. Not least the prize-fund money we’ll receive for taking home 10th place will be considerably less,” Harris said. “We lose Martini as our title partner at the end of this year. As much as we were expecting that and can budget for it, it still leaves a hole.”

Despite the difficulties, Williams is working on rebuilding and recovery.

“It’s not easy but we’ve got some very clever people working within that realm at the moment . doing everything they can to make sure we have a strong and healthy budget to go racing and compete successfully next year – but it’s not an easy world at Williams at the moment,” Harris said.

Williams is competing in its home race at the British Grand Prix this weekend.

“Coming here and being here yesterday has been a really nice boost for everybody and for me in particular,” said Harris, who married her partner Marc Harris in January. “You get to see all our great fans, who do still support us through these difficult times. . Hopefully we will do a better job for our fans this weekend.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.