By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
After two seasons with regular podiums, Williams Martini Racing slipped behind Force India last year for a disappointing fifth in the Constructor’s standings. A turbulent off season saw them lose Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes after Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement. This caused an awkward exchange when the team immediately called veteran Felipe Massa out of retirement. The affable Brazilian agreed and he leads Williams for at least one more season. He is joined by Canadian rookie Lance Stroll, who won blitzed last year’s European F3 Championship and brings an estimated $80 million with him courtesy of his billionaire father, Lawrence.
|No. 19||Felipe Massa||(Brazil)|
|No. 18||Lance Stroll||(Canada)|
|Founder / Team Principal||Sir Frank Williams|
|Deputy Team Principal||Claire Williams|
|Technical Director||Paddy Lowe|
|Head of Engineering||Rob Smedley|
|Head of Aerodynamics||Dirk De Beer|
Back to the front?
2016 was a cruel year for Williams. They fell behind Force India, failed to reach the podium, and then lost Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes.
On the plus side, the team picked up the best technical director in the sport as they stole Paddy Lowe away from Mercedes. They talked Felipe Massa into returning to the team, brought in red hot rookie Lance Stroll and all the cash that comes with him. Massa will be driving a car more like the F2008 Ferrari he nealy won a title with than any in recent history. Rob Smedley says his man is back to his best form and ready for one more go at it. Their chemistry and experience will only help Stroll get up to speed, and provide a great foundation for Lowe to help move the entire outfit forward.
Many expected Williams to fall further behind the front runners, but the Grove-based squad has seemingly turned things around. They had the third fastest lap of preseason testing, a lightning quick 1:19.420 from Massa, and they completed the third highest total of laps. Stroll had a couple of high profile crashes in Barcelona, but as a rookie he will be expected to struggle early. The FW40, which commemorates 40 years in the sport for the team, looks to be balanced and fast. It continues the low drag theme of its predecessors, which should put the team in the hunt for potential podiums at high speed tracks like Baku, Monza, and Mexico City. With so many unknowns heading into the season, they may even bag a win before the year is out.