Williams stopped car development ‘a long time ago’

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If I were a team boss and I had secured the constructor’s championship position that I felt was unassailable yet impossible to gain more, I might stop spending money on my car and focus on 2016 too. That’s apparently what Williams did in 2015 and given the team’s performance in the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, it was painfully clear that this was the case.

It’s understandable and given the amount of money teams spend on development, you could afford some leeway on the decision as they felt they could achieve no more than 3rd in the championship but they had sufficiently locked their place in without threat of losing it. Team performance chief, Rob Smedley, said:

“The last few events we haven’t gone as well as we would have liked,” said Smedley.

“We stopped development on this car quite a long time ago having projected we would have a comfortable third position in the championship and second wasn’t going to be possible.

“So naturally what we’re seeing is due to the fact we haven’t developed the car in such a long time.

“The end of the season has been slightly lacklustre compared to last year. But last year, we developed the car right up until the last moment.

“This year, having consolidated third, our focus switched to 2016 and 2017.”

Fair enough but as a fan, I must say that I feel like we were shortchanged on watching Williams push until the end to try and make gains. Was it possible to do so? Perhaps not so my criticism carries little water given the circumstances. It’s a sign of the times in F1 when Mercedes are so comprehensively dominant that Williams has no hope of gaining ground on them. That’s nothing new in F1 but given their massive points haul in the Italian Grand Prix and the sharp fall off from then on, it’s a bit of a bummer.

It’s not realistic to expect the top four or five teams to all be battling for wins but to be honest, I think that’s exactly what fans want to see. Now, teams may not like hearing that and the reality of it happening is slim but perhaps the sport needs to consider that fans want something different from F1 and if it would like to hold appeal, perhaps they should consider it.

When prize money became to majority or sole source of income for teams, all things changed and teams who could demand a bigger portion of that money hobbled teams who couldn’t. This left smaller teams, who pride themselves on being in the sport as true racers, hanging in the wind and without means to develop their cars to have any real chance of winning races. Even with the best engine on the grid, Williams were unable to battle for race wins on any sort of consistent basis.

Williams F1 Massa test barca

Being the case, Williams F1 decided to throw in the towel when they felt their place in the championship was secured and started focusing their limited resources on next year’s car—I can’t say I blame them. Mercedes had already secured the title and Ferrari were in no real danger of passing Mercedes so the fan at home can’t help but feel the last seven or so races were simply going through the motions. Again, that’s nothing new in F1 but should the sport consider what it’s producing and design an all-new rule book and format to appeal to younger fans?

That’s a tall order for any regulatory and commercial rights body to undertake and when the series is now being ran by engine manufacturers, it makes things even more difficult. If the series was replete with different engine suppliers, tire suppliers and perhaps some standard equipment that limited gross development-spend, it could help. I say help as I doubt it would solve all the issues the sport faces.

I’ve said it before, the two things that I feel are impacting the sport in a negative way is the new frozen hybrid engine—even though it is a technological marvel—and the constructs such as HD tires and DRS. Surely a sport with the intelligence that is involved can craft sporting and technical regulations that would produce a series with high-tech cars that are more competitive?

It would require selflessness from all the players in F1 and unfortunately the money involved is too big to promote that “we have to do what’s best for the sport” type of attitude. At this point I feel that only the fans can effect change of that sweeping magnitude and it’s only going to happen when their backs are turned as survey after survey does little to convince the series to change.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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Patrick Chapman

@NC You may think that your criticism of Williams team carries little water given the circumstances but I think that you make a very valid point. I personally am not leveling criticism at Williams as I think that they have come on in leaps and bounds in the last 2 seasons and it has made a part of the season very interesting to watch, rather my criticism is directly aimed at Rob Smedley. We have all noted and commented on “Ron speak” but now I think that we are being treated to Rob speak and he is taking it to… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Woah there Todd, in the Abu Dhabi review you praising Force India and Sauber for their strategy of starting the season with the previous years car. Isn’t it a smart strategy for Williams use their limited resources to hit the start of the season with the best car they can, and hopefully create a bit of excitement by taking advantage of any slips by Mercedes and Ferrari?
Fair enough Williams didn’t set the back end of the season on fire, but that opened things up for lotus and force india feature more strongly.

Negative Camber

As I said, I would do the same thing if I were Williams. Why throw money out the window? However, I am saying that the system could be examined to see if there is a way to keep all teams engaged and send a better message to would-be fans.

jakobusvdl

You mean like ‘double dhabi’, so the wcc and wdc aren’t decided until the last race?

It all goes back to the question of ‘what is the objective of F1’? I don’t think that there is a consistent view of that, even in Bernie’s head, but I’m pretty sure that delivering close racing on track to the end of the season has never been a key objective of the organisers or teams.

runnah

I asked my grandfather to regale me with tales of days gone by when Williams developed their car and sodas only cost a nickel.

MichaelB

I don’t know why you’re acting like this is unusual or surprising – it happens every year with just about every team. There’s typically a headline somewhere around Monza/SIngapore/Japan declaring that some team boss has announced that they’ve shifted their focus to the next year. More unusual was Force India’s call to not run their new car until so late in the year. That decision threw what’s been the normal F1 development maths right out the window. Every year I’ve watched Formula 1, from about Monza on I’ve seen interviews with team bosses who are asked if they’ve shifted their… Read more »

Negative Camber

I’m not acting like this is unusual, in fact, I think I say that several times in the piece. I even say I would do the same thing if I were Williams because it makes sense from a business standpoint. What I am suggesting is that perhaps F1 could look at its current format and find ways in which teams could battle all year long. I think this narrative sends the wrong message to would-be fans. “You mean teams stop trying mid-year? What am I watching then?” that kind of thing. I think F1 could look at ways to keep… Read more »

MichaelB

I think you’re grasping at an off season straw here. You’re looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. Of all the things can be driving fans away – I don’t think this is truly one of them. This is no different than a struggling sportsball team declaring a rebuilding year. Fans don’t abandon a team unless every year is branded rebuilding. But to play your “what if”. The fix is to change how rule making works and development cycles. Stop creating a situation where teams retire cars at the end of the season. Allow full year development and let major… Read more »

Tim C

I cannot blame Williams for stopping work on the current year’s car when there’s nothing else to really be gained. If your position in the standings is not threatened, why devote the time, money, and resources when there’s no monitory gain. Sounds like a good business decision to me for a team without the resources of a Merc, Ferrari, or Red Bull. It kinda stinks for the drivers, and us as fans, but that’s just how it goes.

Bacon Wrapped Sushi

Why can’t the driver’s title yield some sort of payout for the top 10 spots?

Paul KieferJr

I think that this is a microcosm of a question I have of the whole human race: Why do I see a waning of the proper attitude that I personally refer to as “fight or die”? That particular attitude is what created our Greatest Generation during World War 2. Every adult who ever lived during that time understood what was at stake and were willing to fight or at least contribute, however small it was, for every second of their life, and all those efforts made it possible to win. They understood the ultimate value of what they did and… Read more »

The Captain

“Even with the best engine on the grid” Allegedly. I’m pretty sure however that the Williams engine is not quite up to same level as the factory Merc team. But it’s better than anything they’ve had in years so they ain’t complaining the way Red Bull would.