For a few years now, the Formula 1 fan community has been slowly cooled to a state of frost bite over the waning fortunes of two of the UK’s most prominent names in F1 history—Williams F1 and McLaren.
When queried, there’s few fans who would suggest they aren’t saddened by the slow, painful decline of both teams in terms of performance and on-track fortunes and most fans I’ve spoken with, regardless of who their favorite team is, are at least emotionally tied to the history of both teams and wish for better results.
Perhaps a driver like David Coulthard is uniquely positioned as a man who understands the pain first hand given that he drove for both teams and was there during the afterglow of their world championship-winning eras.
“Williams I’m a little bit concerned for,” Coulthard said.
“I just don’t see the pain of failure that maybe we saw in the past.
“You can fool people about how you’re feeling, but you can’t fake passion. I’d love to see that passion come back to Williams.
“The paddock has a great deal of affection for Williams and what they’ve achieved, but of course things move on and that will dwindle over time. I hope they can turn it around.”
A recent article I saw suggested that Williams are still confident that Paddy Lowe can deliver a better car in the future but I’m beginning to reach the point that if a team isn’t performing, you can’t fire the whole team, but you have to make changes at the manager level.
I know making changes with Claire Williams isn’t a popular thought but on the balance of it, what achievements has the team made under her leadership and might there be a better solution to team leadership at this point?
To David’s point, there seems to be a lack of urgency born from the pain over the reduction in performance that used to be at the team under Sir Frank’s leadership. It’s as if each season they just make sure they can cover their expenses and it is a job and a way to keep their engineering division moving along at a nice clip. Is there a strong desire to win races and if so, is the fact of being last creating any pain of failure that motivates them to make the changes they need to win?
McLaren also has a series of depressing seasons with the Honda relationship failing and now the Renault relationship not delivering results they wanted.
“It is confusing that they are going through such a difficult time, but it always comes down to people: the people with the power to design and build the car, have either not had the resources at their disposal, or they’ve misused those resources, and therefore they are accountable.
“Ron Dennis [former McLaren boss] used to say to me, ‘I don’t design the car, I don’t build the car and I don’t drive the car, so all of those elements are not my responsibility’, which is a fair comment.
“His responsibility was the vision for the company, getting sponsors on board, giving the engineers the resources they need to come up with a good car.
“I think Zak and Gil, someone with a great racing mind, they will turn it around. But it will take time.”
The challenge here is time. They’ve had time, lots of time over the last 4 years and haven’t made significant ground on track. Contrary to my above assertion, they’ve actually made significant changes in management and even ousting Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh and Eric Boullier have yet to deliver a move in the right direction.
The recent addition of Zak Brown and Gil de Ferran may bear fruit but again, it’s more time and more cash. Is McLaren willing to wait another three years for the new engine regulations in order to see any possible move forward?
Of the two, Williams is a serious concern as they have the best engine on the grid (Mercedes) and have failed to make the best use of it. McLaren had Honda and now Renault and while it is a move in the right direction, their chassis went from the once-touted best chassis on the grid to one that can’t make best use of the Renault power that Honda lacked.
Of the two, McLaren may have deeper pockets so this leaves another challenging situation for Williams. If the goal of Williams is to secure enough money to field a car, pay their vendors and employees and keep their engineering division moving along, then they are going to be at the back of the grid as an also-ran and perhaps they are fine with that as long as the balance sheet is in the black but I have to think David is right in that the pain of failure will eventually mean team personnel will leave and that present a new challenge.
Could Williams find themselves in a place where they are willing to sell? BMW tried, toto Wolff invested and so did Lawrence Stroll but all of them have left Williams for other options. Stroll just secured the Force India team so one would imagine his investments in Williams may begin to unwind just as Toto Wolff’s did.
I have a lot of time for Coulthard and I agree with his sentiments and as a person who likes Williams and McLaren, it pains me to see them so far off the pace. In the case of Williams, per David’s assertions, I wonder if it pains me more than it pains Williams to be honest.
Hat Tip: Autosport