MEDLAND: A low point or a Lowe point for Williams?
By: Chris Medland | 17 minutes ago
Pre-season testing can often throw up the potential for a crisis. When a car is not performing or proves unreliable, questions start being asked. And quickly.
It’s partly due to the way so much is hidden from view and kept secret, with teams trying not to show their hands. With a lack of knowledge of the whole picture, a situation can look worse than it actually is. Or it can look better…
Over the past few seasons it’s been McLaren that has faced a tough situation in Barcelona, not only with Honda but then with Renault installation issues a year ago.
This time, Williams is well and truly in the spotlight, and already was before the car had even been seen.
At the team’s 2019 livery launch a little over a week ago, there was no mention of a date the car itself would be unveiled. Then came confirmation the FW42 would not run during a filming day planned for Saturday, before the far more concerning announcement on the eve of testing that day one would not feature Williams.
That was a bad enough situation to be in, but even the approach of underpromising and overdelivering failed as Monday’s missed running was soon pushed back to include Tuesday and most of Wednesday.
The new Williams livery was on display Monday in Barcelona — while the FW42 only arrived at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya early Wednesday. (Image by Hone/LAT)
It smacks of a situation that is not being well managed, given the constant drip of delay after delay, bad news after bad news. Either there was a genuine lack of knowledge of when the car would be ready, or someone was not telling the full story internally. Regardless, those are worrying messages.
As a result, it didn’t take long for the knives to be sharpened within the team, and Paddy Lowe’s name was one that kept cropping up.
Williams knew a delay was likely a number of weeks ago, but warnings didn’t turn into action to fix the situation. Whether that really is Lowe’s doing or not, his record so far is not a good one.
Since joining from Mercedes, Lowe had no real impact on the 2017 car that finished fifth in the constructors’ championship, but last year certainly featured his input. It would be foolish to suggest Lowe could have everything he wanted in place after less than 12 months, but the FW41 was a real step backwards.
In an interview I did with him in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year, Lowe acknowledged his failings in thinking he could have a more immediate impact at Grove, expecting there to be quick fixes he could implement following his time with the dominant team of the V6 turbo era.
With those lessons learned, the FW42 was supposed to be the car on which Lowe really stamped his authority. But so far all that’s happened is the car missing more than 25% of testing and being significantly delayed on his watch. He is the chief technical officer, after all.
Deputy team principal Claire Williams faced the press in Barcelona amid Williams’ car delay. (Image by Bingham/LAT)
Williams was clearly relieved to see the car running on track on Wednesday afternoon, and despite the massive task ahead of the team to make up for lost time, the on-track focus is probably a welcome distraction for Lowe too, after some of the rhetoric that came from deputy team principal Claire Williams when only one installation lap had been completed.
“We’re not just disappointed; it’s embarrassing not bringing a race car to a circuit when everyone else has managed to do that, particularly a team like ours that has managed to bring a race car to testing for the past 40-odd years,” Williams said.
Inevitably, she was pushed on Lowe and the unrest coming from within the team. Tellingly, when asked if the chief technical officer’s position was in doubt, Williams did not put up much of a defense.
“I’ve read a lot of speculation about his position. Right now all I am focused on and the team should be focused on is making sure the car is in the right place.”
Hardly something that will help Lowe sleep at night.
It must be said that Lowe has yet to have a right to reply, but there was originally a media session scheduled for the CTO that was delayed by a week as the car hadn’t run properly. Clearly there were plenty of questions to be answered, so if that was a change made at Lowe’s request he passed up on the opportunity to provide the defense that his boss didn’t.
George Russell put down 23 laps in Wednesday testing. (Image by Hone/LAT)
While the car’s delay is one thing, fears that it will also prove slow have been voiced as well. Given Lowe’s track record at McLaren and then Mercedes, it would be somewhat of a surprise if he has got things so wrong at Williams twice in a row, and at the very least a more stable and drivable car will be an improvement on last year. A stable base to develop is the least that is required.
The problem is, while many questions remain unanswered, Williams clearly does not have a stable base to work from in terms of the team itself.
If the car does turn out to be off the pace, the current competitiveness of the grid — where the other nine teams are probably all currently harboring ambitions of being in Q3 in Melbourne — means any Williams failings will come into ever-sharper focus. This is not an era where there is a Caterham, Marussia or Hispania — with the greatest respect to those teams — to soften the blow and keep the more established outfits off the back row.
Making sure the car is competitive is already a major headache — and not one any team wants to be dealing with in February — but addressing the reasons for a situation that threatens to further damage the team’s reputation is an even bigger issue.
Posted 20 February 2019 - 21:55
Posted 05 March 2019 - 13:50
Robert Kubica estimates he only completed 20 percent of the work he needed to do ahead of his return to racing in Formula 1 at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Posted 07 March 2019 - 02:00
Bas ih krenulo ove godine. Da nemaju kuratu srecu ne bi imali nikakvu.
Posted 07 March 2019 - 08:29
Nema tu para, bojim se da ce se desiti da pojedine trke gledamo bez Williamsa na stazi jer zbog finansijskih problema nece biti u mogucnosti da obezbede transport
Posted 07 March 2019 - 11:37
Strašno. Mislim da je ovo početak kraja, jednog velikig tima.
Posted 13 March 2019 - 17:54
I am a dyed-in-the-wool Williams fan and I hate seeing what is happening to the team today. It actually pains me. My first Grand Prix as a spectator was the team's first victory back in 1979 and I gradually got to know everyone involved from the mid-Eighties onwards. I was very close to FW, one of the most inspiring people in F1, and Sir Patrick is a wonderful voice of reality, although a little more muted these days. I was also a huge fan of Ginny, Lady Williams, who wrote the best book I ever read about F1 (A Different Kind of Life) and who was so important in the way the team developed. I'm very glad that her role has been highlighted by the recent documentary about the team. What has happened in recent years is incredibly sad. Frank had at least three succession plans that all went wrong, the first as long ago as 2005 when Chris Chapple was appointed CEO. In 2006 Adam Parr arrived, a very clever man, but he made important enemies early on (read Bernie Ecclestone) and in 2012 he was thrown out with FW getting nudged to make the move (so they say) by Mr E, when there were discussions about Williams getting an annual historic payment. And then, of course, there was Toto Wolff, who arrived as a shareholder and ran the team for a bit before being lured away (how could he refuse such a deal?) by Mercedes.
Paddy Lowe, the chief technical officer, is a very clever engineer but being a clever engineer does not necessarily mean you are a great leader. It is something we have seen over and over in F1 history. Leadership is about more than brain power. In any case he is now on "a leave of absence” from the team “for personal reasons”, which is an explanation which simply draws more attention to the situation because it is so clearly corporate gobbledygook. It has been known for some time that Lowe's complicated deal with the team, including share options and (so they say) massive compensation if he was to depart, was getting in the way. Some say that Williams could not afford to part ways with him, which would explain the leave of absence, which means that he has not actually left the team, but is no longer actually involved, which in turn means that the parties can now negotiate/take legal action, without it impacting on the day-to-day life of the team. In any case, no-one in F1 is expecting Lowe to return from his leave of absence. One can, of course, blame him for failing to produce a good enough car for two consecutive seasons, with different design teams.
The 2019 car, if nothing else, does not seem to have any fundamental flaws, apart from the fact that it was late arriving and so is far behind its rivals in terms of development. There is talk of insufficient money but when you do the numbers, while Williams has lost a lot of revenues of late, because of the poor results, it still seems to have had a bigger budget than direct rival Force India/Racing Point, which has produced much better results, despite going through a period of administration and having facilities that are far less impressive than those at Grove. If money is short at Williams, then there will likely be a big crisis this year. I hope not.
There are some who argue that if a team has two consecutive bad cars, then the management must be questioned because the fault lies in the choice of technical director, as well as with the technical director himself. I would phrase it slightly differently: I would replace the word "management", with the word "leadership". They are not the same thing at all. If one looks at Sauber, one can say that Fred Vasseur did a terrific job to revive the Swiss team. I don't disagree with that in some respects, but I think that the thing that got the team's staff willing to go the extra mile was having Charles Leclerc driving. He was an engine for progress (not the only one, but an important one nonetheless). This year they have a bigger budget and have hired some good people and we will see if the progress is sustained. It will be interesting. Racing teams succeed through good leadership, even if they have small budgets. That is the key. Leadership usually begins with the shareholders but can be provided by the management, the leading engineer or even a driver, but it has to be something that allows people to do their jobs and inspires them at the same time. If the ownership will not let its managers operate then the team will fail. It's to do with respect more than anything. If one sees what Gunther and Otmar do with the teams they manage, you see how it works, on small budgets.
The thing that slightly alarms me is that there will come a point at which Mercedes will need to decide whether to continue with Williams and might conclude that it could be a better idea to go with McLaren... I understand that Williams does not wish to become a satellite team of a big manufacturer, but if you cannot hack it with the big boys, this is the best strategic choice. That might be difficult for Team Willy to accept, given its history, but it might also be the best path to survive. All the customer teams have the dream of one day picking up a manufacturer of their own, but this is hard to do. I believe that if F1 cuts its costs and stays with the same brilliant engines (and does more to promote the astonishing achievements of recent years), the groundwork will be laid for more manufacturers to get involved. As the engines develop, the law of diminishing returns kicks in, which means that newcomers can catch up more easily... Changes to the engine rules simply spreads the field out and pushes up the budgets...
Posted 13 March 2019 - 20:57
Eto i on pominje dokumentarac koji sam pomenuo u Kafani. Stvarno treba pogledati.
Inace, dobro zbori Joe... Mislim da jeste problem u liderstvu, ono sto su imali Frank i Patrick je kombinacija koju je jos u modernijoj eri imao samo Ferrari (Todt i Brawn) i McLaren (Dennis i Newey)... Horner&Newey kombinacija iako je imala dosta uspeha ipak nije na nivou ove tri pomenute. Od kad se Frank prakticno povukao, nema tog nekog lidera (osim mozda Toto Wolf-a u jednom periodu) a nema ni kontinuiteta sa CTO-om. A ko je sve bio CTO nakon Head-a, to je tek posebna prica, nakon Sam Michael-a dovode Coughlan-a koji je bio u prici oko spijunaze Ferrari vs. McLaren, a onda dovode Symonds-a koji takodje ima "prljavu" proslost sa onim namernim udesom Piquet jr.
Od tako lose karme ne mozes tek tako da se ocistis.
A mucena Claire Williams ne moze izgleda to sve da iznese. Verovatno je gledaju drugacije zato sto je zensko i zato sto misle da je tu samo zbog oca.
Posted 16 March 2019 - 22:14
Jos vise zabrinjavaju Kubicine reci - da su i prosle godine znali u cemu je osnovni problem sa proslogodisnjim bolidom a da je tokom godine ostalo manje-vise isto...
Ako ce im trebati 3-4 meseca da nesto rese a da to znaci da su u konkurenciji da se bore sa vozacima koji su tik ispred njih (citaj: nista od bodova) onda bolje i da ne resavaju problem. Nek rade na bolidu za sledecu sezonu.
Posted 16 March 2019 - 23:30
Nek rade na bolidu za sledecu sezonu.
Bojim se da nece biti sledece sezone za njih ako i ove godine budu ubedljivo fenjerasi. Citam da je Mercedes popizdeo na njih i da im trazi veliku lovu za nastavak saradnje oko motora, ili da pristanu da budu full b-tim tojest da Kler (ustvari preko nje Ser Frenk) prepuste upravljanje timom Mercedesu. To je frka jos od prosle sezone, Vilijamsovi naravno odbijaju svaku pomisao da izgube nezavisnost u vodjenju tima, navodno budzet je toliko tanak da su jedva uspeli da sastave dva bolida koliko-toliko u voznom stanju. Zato je i Pedi Lou otisao "na odsustvo" - Vilijamsovi njega vide kao najodgovornijeg za probleme prosle godine i kasnjenje ovogodisnjeg bolida, ali nemaju novaca da mu daju otkaz i isplate sta mu u tom slucaju sleduje.
Ako se ne desi nekakvo cudo ovo ce biti poslednji dani Vilijamsa u F1...
Posted 17 March 2019 - 01:29
Bice sledece sezone, samo je pitanje u kom obliku. Doduse ne znam kada istice ugovor za motore. Ali ako Mercedes nece, tu je Renault ili Honda.
Williams ce pre ugasiti tim nego postati B-tim. Ni Frenk a ni Kler to nece. Jedina razlika, ali bitna, izmedju Force India, Manora, Marusija, Virdzina i sta ti ja znam ko je sve bio i otisao, jeste sto Williams, kao i McLaren (ok ne bas u toj meri), radi nesto sa strane, imaju svoj biznis...
Inace, McLaren Williams Racing zvuci zanimljivo