As Williams head into the 2016 season, you’d expect the team to have a lot of optimism about their chances although they were bested to second place by Ferrari in 2015 and both were beaten by Mercedes.
The chance to take the fight to not only Ferrari but Mercedes as well seems like a daunting task yet the team feel positive about their chances as Felipe Massa said:
“I think so, that is what we are working for,” he told Sky Sports when asked if he could win in 2016.
“We are really near, we were on the podium a few times last year and maybe more times the year before in 2014 and we really hope we can get back to the victories, get back to a car that is really competitive to fight for the victory. I really hope it can be possible.”
Team technical director Pat Symonds feels equally optimistic and suggests that there are some achilles heel areas for Mercedes:
“I’m not an optimistic person but I know the improvements we’ve made to the car are greater than we made last year,” he said.
“I have to say I am quite pleased with the improvements on paper that we’ve made with the car.”
There is, however, a different view of Williams F1’s prospect on finding any chink in the Mercedes armor or a way around them to to the top step of podium as former Williams man and world champion Damon Hill suggested:
“I sort of suggested to Claire [Williams] last year that the problem is they have the same engine as the Mercedes team and that is always going to be a barrier between them winning a championship and Mercedes themselves winning a championship,” Hill said.
“I think as a team wanting to win the outright championship strategically they would be better off with another engine and I think the only other engine you can think of is a Honda.
“I would have liked to have seen Williams opt to go with the Honda engine, I think Honda are going to fight back.
“They had an absolutely catastrophic year last year, but they learnt a lot, I could be wrong, but if they make the sort of impression they should do, then for Williams to get ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes they are going to have to have a different engine to the Mercedes team.”
The point here is a good one if you look at the reality that a Mercedes, or Ferrari for that matter, customer is never going to have the exact software, engine mapping and latest iteration of their manufacturer engine.
it is what McLaren CEO Ron Dennis alluded to when he suggested that you have to have a manufacturer behind you to win the title and he chose Honda. While many have berated the team for their miserable season, at least Ron is doing it right and recreating his successful manufacturer partnership that delivered Mercedes-fueled titles in the late 90’s. With Honda, good or bad, he has a chance to overhaul Mercedes and Ferrari…Williams do not.
For Williams F1, though, it hasn’t always seemed like the team are intent on simply winning a title but making a complete racing business that sustains its employees and creates spin-off technology opportunities and businesses. Would they like to win the title? Sure but they are probably also happy with finishing 3rd in the championship.
Surely they would have liked to finish second in 2015 but third is handy when you’re in F1 and to Damon’s point, I’m not sure overhauling Mercedes will ever occur but then again, Mercedes were not willing to chance it in the hands of Adrian Newey and Red Bull so perhaps they feel the right chassis could beat them and we all know Pat Symonds knows his way around a good chassis design.