Difficult time for the ROKiT Williams Team

By Andrew Hooper
April 19 2019

For the ROKiT Williams racing Team the start of the 2019 Formula One season from pre-season testing through to the last race in China has been a difficult period with the team having contend with major issues with the FW42 and the announcement that their is a flaw in the cars design. On top of this has been the differences in the chassis of team drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica. The situation has lead to much speculation and commenst regarding the team ranging from the culture, the management structure. Add to that the ridiculous speculation as to future ownership. Which ever way you look at it it is going to be an difficult time for the Williams team.

 Difficult time for the ROKiT Williams Team
Russell & Kubica

For the ROKiT Williams Racing Team so much of the 2019 Formula One season from pre-season testing through to the opening races has focused on the issues with the FW42. Coming off a disappointing 2018 season where the team struggled with the FW41 the hope was that the FW42 would resolve the issues with the 2018 model and deliver a far more competitive car. But this has not been the case.

Both team drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica have struggled to get any pace from the car and it was revealed back in Australia that the FW42 has a substantial flaw which is seeing both drivers over a second off the pace that was achieved in the 2018 car. Essentially the 2019 design has taken the team backwards in their competitiveness.

Both drivers have given descriptions of their frustrations with the 2019 FW42. The issues have seen the Williams team been forced into using the opening races as basically test sessions as they try to understand the details of the issues and what needs to be done to address them. Both Williams' drivers have finished last in the opening races of the season. Such was their lack of pace that they were at least a lap behind and for Robert it has been two laps.

When questioned as to the exact nature of where the car is proving to be a struggle George Russell, at the recent Chinese Grand Prix, spoke of how the main issue with the FW42 is at corner entry.

George commented: "Right now, Robert and I are having big problems with how the car behaves at the corner entry and in the middle of the curve compared to the exit."

"It's very different in every area, which makes driving so difficult.

George added that the problem is “mostly aero, but also a bit mechanical”, adding the ratio is about “75 to 25” percent.

As for what the team is working on to help move towards a solution George added: “There will be upgrades, just like any team. It’s not like we have something special.”

As for his own performances in these races he added: “I am satisfied in some aspects, but there is definitely room for improvement on my part. I definitely have not managed to improve qualifying in the last two races, and I think I still need to understand and respect the limitations of the car. Sometimes you could be faster if you only drive at 98 instead of 100 percent. It’s a learning process to understand the car.

“Unfortunately, we cannot just go out and get the most out [of the car] because we don’t know 100% how the car will go from one corner to the other.”

However George hopes the team will be able to show some improvement at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“There will be some small changes, and if they work as hoped, they might be positive, but we are not 100 percent sure.”

But on top of the basic flaw of the FW42 design there has also been the issues of a noticeable difference between the performances of Robert's chassis and Georges. Data coming from both cars show that despite having the same setup they are producing very different results in areas such as downforce.

On the other side of the garage Robert's lack of pace has been a major disappointment for him. It has reached the point where Robert is making comments like that he has "no race pace" and cannot that he explain his lack of pace compared to his team-mate. In China Robert would finish over sixteen seconds behind George, much to his frustration. Robert spoke of how he is at a loss as to why he is unable to match his team-mate in the race.

Robert said: "I think that for whatever reason since I drove the new generation cars I had to work on my single-lap pace, but on the long runs I was always very good.

"And here since I drove this car - my first long run was in Australia - but the pace is nowhere and the feeling is much worse than I ever had on long runs.

"I have no grip. I think I managed to do something in qualifying because the grip delivered by the tyres is much higher, but I cannot do the things that the guys in front are doing, or even George, so it's very strange.

"I really tried everything but when you have no grip, there's no magic in this sport."

For example in China Robert qualified just 0.031s behind George but in the race Robert's average ten fastest laps in the race were a full second slower.

As to what is happening Robert tried to explain the situation by saying: "It looks like whenever the grip is lower, or even with the colder tyre temps when you struggle with the grip, I just cannot drive the car."

"And it was definitely not the case last year.

"As I said, probably last year I ended up the season saying I definitely had to improve something on single-lap new tyre [pace], but one thing I was not worried at all was the race pace.

"Actually, it was one of my strongest points, but I have no race pace."

"I have no race pace against my team-mate," he said. "And when you see exiting corners you are wheel-spinning and losing the car and he's pulling away.

"I'm not saying it's the car, but there's something we have to understand. I have very poor traction and actually after the debrief George said the traction was not so bad.

"As I said, it's not only the car. There are different factors, but that's how it is."

As for whether the team has made any steps forward Robert would comment on how the changes been made would not see a consistent improvement on how the FW42 would handle every time he is on track.

"I think the car is maybe getting slightly better sometimes and slightly worse other times.

"It's track-dependent, conditions-dependent and I think we had a better pace compared to others on Friday but you don't know what they are doing.

"Ten years ago in this kind of situation, I would try to push more. Probably I would do three or four laps quicker, but then probably I would be on the gravel with worn tyres and my pace would be slower.

"I really felt like I cannot do anything. I tried many things."

So with two drivers struggling for pace where does the Williams team go from here. From comments from both the team and the drivers the solutions are available but are not something that will see the FW42 be changed overnight. At the moment the team is reluctant to commit to any major upgrades without know the exact nature of the issues that still hinder the FW42. This process may take some time to achieve.

The team has brought test items to the first three races and will continue to do so to try to understand the issues with the car. This process is not likely to see any substantial improvements with the FW42 as it is aimed at allowing the team to gather data and as a result their understanding of the car. Until the team has a very good understanding of the issues there is no real point in bringing any major upgrades as the Williams team has to ensure that any resources are focused on the right things.

As a result it is going to a be a difficult time for the Williams team with no exact time frame in which they can say to their fans that they will be able to have turned the situation around. It will all come down to steps forward in their understanding followed by updates followed by improvements out on the track. No doubt in this time they will have to continue to fend off the inevitable comments in regard to management changes, staff at the team, favouring one driver over another. Add to that the ridiculous speculation as to future ownership. Which ever way you look at it it is going to be an difficult time for the Williams team.


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