After 2013 it would’ve been easy to give up on Williams. The year was pretty poor even by their standards finishing 9th with points in the single digits. Without doubt the team’s worst ever year.
From such a low base the prospects for 2014 didn’t look too rosy either. To make matters worse the team were undergoing wholesale changes with divers and their sponsors on the way out, a new technical director just starting and a change of engine supplier as well. With such upheaval it was difficult to see how the team were going to be in a much better position.
But from this unpromising base a few green shoots began to emerge that the die-hard Williams fan could grasp onto. Notable amongst these were the attraction of the hugely experienced Fellpe Massa from Ferrari, changing engines from Renault to Mercedes, Rob Smedley also coming from Ferrari and last but not least, the announcement of a brand new sponsor in the form of Martini.
Then in early season testing there was a glimmer of hope – certainly it was looking as if the move away from Renault engines had been an inspired one. This, however, was one aspect of the season that annoyed me a little bit. As the season progressed and Williams went from strength to strength many attributed the success to the change in engine but seemed to conveniently forget that others with the same engine and most notably McLaren, weren’t doing nearly as well. Of course having the Mercedes engine was important but there has been a great improvement in the aerodynamics and the overall packaging too that has lead to such a significant upturn.
Pat Symonds has clearly brought some order to the team but I have been most impressed by Rob Smedley who has brought humility along with his vast experience and his temperament fits in well with the feel of the team itself.
2014 will also be remembered for the emergence of Claire Williams as a worthy successor to her father and team founder, Sir Frank who attended fewer races this year and was content to allow Claire to act as spokesperson, something she did with aplomb. It is clear that the family business is in good hands, which is excellent news as it is that which makes the Williams team so special, the family feel.
Given the lacklustre performance in 2013 it is difficult to be disappointed with this season but you are left wondering how Red Bull managed three wins in a worse car than our own.
So what to expect from 2015? There are four scenarios as I see it:
1. Williams take a step forward and are regularly challenging for wins
2. the situation is pretty much the same as this year
3. there is no step forward but the Renault teams do make a step-up so it is more competitive in the mid-field and top 10
4. Williams do a Lotus and have a massive performance slump.
I personally cannot see the fourth option occurring and think that a much more likely scenario is the top ten becoming more competitive, although there are major changes at many of the other teams notably McLaren starting a new partnership with Honda, Red Bull losing the Midas touch of Adrian Newey and Ferrari going through another round of management changes, so maybe they won’t be as focused.
Whatever the outcome I cannot wait for the new season to start again and continuing the revival of Williams Grand Prix Engineering!