Category Archives: Williams

Formula One: Stroll responds to F1 pressure

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Williams F1 Driver Lance Stroll’s debut weekend in Formula One hasn’t been the smoothest. With lights out less than 30 minutes away, Lance, Felipe and Claire Williams explain how team and driver cope with and respond to pressure.

In this first film of the season for Sure, we hear about Lance Stroll’s journey to Formula One and his dominance in European F3 in 2016, and what gave Williams the confidence to put Lance behind the wheel of the FW40.

 

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Formula One: Williams haven’t won a championship since Lance Stroll was born!

Speaking to Mobil One’s The Grid, Williams Martini Racing’s new signing Lance Stroll explores the history of the team he will be taking to the grid with for the first time in Melbourne in March this season.

Fellow Canadian Jacques Villeneuve was the last driver to claim the F1 driver championship with Williams in 1997, a year before Lance Stroll was born.  Whilst Lance is realistic about his chances of emulating Villeneuve  in his first season of F1, this is the ultimate goal.

Putting into words how it feels to be on the cusp of his first season in Formula One is no simple task, Mobil One’s The Grid will be catching up with Stroll later in the season to see how he is getting on.

With Williams releasing images of the FW40 this morning on social media, the reality and enormity of the season ahead will be starting to set in!

 

Formula One: Bem-vindo a casa Felipe!

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In what may be one of the shortest retirements in recent Formula One history, Williams Martini Racing have confirmed the Felipe Massa will return to the Grove based team for the 2017 season.

Following earlier confirmation that Pascal Wehrlien will join the Sauber F1 Team for 2017, Valterri Bottas’ path to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes AMG Petronas is now clear freeing up the seat alongside Lance Stroll at Williams for Felipe Massa in 2017.

Speaking about the announcement Felipe Massa said; “Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams. I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve. Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.

“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal, said; “I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign. With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity.

“Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.

“Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.”

With the 2017 F1 regulations changes set to be the most significant in decades, Williams have been keen to ensure an experienced driver lines up alongside F1 Rookie Lance Stroll.

It is understood Felipe walked away from opportunities within Formula E in order to return to Formula One. Felipe has returned to the team with a single season agreement.

Formula One: The Final Seats

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As the  F1 world rapidly heads towards the winter break. The sport finds its self in a highly unusual position of having for seats still to be confirmed on the 2017 grid.

Whilst it is not out of the ordinary for seats at the lower end of the field to still be open at this point on in the year, for a seat to be open with the championship winning team is almost unimaginable. Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from the sport has effectively stalled the driver market with no driver or team wanting to make a commitment before Mercedes conclude a deal with whoever their new driver will be.

At the time of writing favourites for the drive alongside Lewis Hamilton with the Silver Arrows in 2017 are; Valtteri Bottas, Pascal Wehrlein, and my own favourite Sergio Perez. Which ever driver is awarded the drive will have a knock on effect for the teams they are currently or likely to be driving for.

Should Mercedes manage to agree terms with Williams and they release Bottas, the team will be left with serious lack of experience in their driver line up as they head towards one of the most technically challenging regulation changes in two decades., As such working with Pascal Wehrlein who has only taken part in 21 races in unlikely to be their first choice.  More likely would be development driver Paul Di Resta taking the role or recently retired Felipe Massa or Jenson Button making an unexpected return.

In the scenario in which Mercedes take the brave move of putting Pascal Wehrlein in the second seat of the W08, Manor Racing will be left with two seats to fill. The team are likely to be secure drivers with funding, which could lead to a return of a funded Rio Haryanto to the grid. Anther option could be Felipe Nasr should, a driver Bernie Ecclestone has commented he is keen to keep on the grid to assure Brazilian interest in the Championship. Manor Racing development driver Jordan King is likely to find a role within the team. Dependant on the budget he brings this could be in the role of reserve or second driver.

Moving to Sauber, with Marcus Ericsson confirmed the rejuvenated Swiss team have one seat still to fill. 2017 will be a season of rebuilding for the team, as such their focus will be on ensuring consistency and strong feedback. In an ideal world I can imagine the team would like to work with a driver already familiar with the world of F1. Critics may dismiss this option but I would not rule out Pastor Maldonado finding a new home in Hinwil. Should the team head down the rookie route GP2 vice champion Antonio Giovinazzi would be a bold move and one demonstrating the team’s commitment to the future.

Sergio Perez moving to Mercedes would cause Sahara Force India a great deal of pain. Of course Mercedes would compensate the team, but over the past 3 seasons Force India have focused the majority of their business development efforts around building a profile in Mexico. To loose Perez would be a major blow. As such I can see them looking to replace one Mexican for another and signing Esteban Gutiérrez to the team.

One thing is for sure, the F1 silly season is far from over and it still has a few surprises in store!

Formula One: No Tim Holmes but still very special

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Ahead of Felipe Massa’s final home Grand Prix this weekend, Williams Racing title sponsor Martini has dedicated it’s iconic logo to the driver replacing the MARTINI with MASSA.

Whilst the livery is not the bold helmet inspired design imagined by motorsport designed Tim Holmes, the gesture demonstrates the close relationship Massa, Williams and Martini have developed since the Brazilian joined the team in 2014

 

The surprise livery change, the first of its kind for a Formula One partner, was revealed to the Brazilian-born driver today at the Autódrome José Carlos Pace track in Sao Paulo. In addition to the famous MARTINI ball and bar logo being replaced with MASSA, the rear wing has also been adorned with the phrase ‘Obrigado’ – which means ‘thank you’ in Portuguese.

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“I’ve always said that I drive the best looking car on the grid, but this takes it to a whole other level,” joked Felipe Massa.  He continued, “I’ve never known a sponsor to do this for a driver before. It’s an honour and I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit emotional about it.  But it goes to show that because of MARTINI’s heritage in racing, they are more than just a sponsor. They are a true partner and fan of this beautiful sport. I’ve been lucky to have them as part of my team the last three years.”

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Shane Hoyne, CMO, Bacardi Europe said, “Felipe isn’t just a driver, he’s a friend.  And not just to MARTINI but to his teammates and other drivers out there on the grid.  We thought it only right that we mark the occasion and give his name pride of place on the car. Obrigado on the rear wing is not just our way of saying thank you to him, but for Felipe to say thank you to all his fans in Sao Paulo.”

Felipe has spoken openly of a dream to thank his home fans with one final podium this weekend. With mixed conditions forecast and tensions simmering amongst the top teams all eyes will be on the Brazilian to realise his dream.

Click here to check out more helmet inspired F1 livery designs from Tim Holmes

Formula One: Getting to know Lance Stroll

Earlier this month Williams Martini Racing confirmed Lance Stroll will line up alongside Valtteri Bottas for the 2017 season. Since confirming Lance’s position, the team has come under fire suggesting the move was motivated more by the wealth of the Stroll family than Lance’s prowess behind the wheel.

This film from Mobil One’s the grid should go some way to counter this suggestion, as they catch up with Lance as he seals an historic triple victory at the season closing 2016 European F3 championship in Hockenheim.

 

Formula One: Deconstructing Stroll

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Following the announcement of Felipe Massa’s intention to retire from Formula One at the end of this season, the consensus of opinion is that Lance Stroll will be his most likely successor. Lance Stroll left the Ferrari Driver Academy and joined Williams at the end of 2015 in a development driver capacity. He is currently leading the European F3 Championship with Prema Powerteam.

Lance will turn 18 at the end of October and through his 2016 F3 campaign has achieved sufficient success to qualify for an FIA Super License and allowing him to participate in Formula One activities on track. Lance is the son of multi billionaire Lawrence Stroll. Lawrence, a keen motorsport enthusiast himself, has supported Lance through his career in junior categories. This support should not in anyway suggest Lance should be labelled as a ‘pay driver’ his domination in the European F3 championship clearly demonstrates he is a talented driver.

Williams have a reputation for signing up and coming drivers, signing Lance Stroll would be in keeping with this reputation. At this point all signs point to his announcement as a driver in 2017 seem entirely reasonable. In fact, both Lance and team representatives have suggested the levelling effect of regulation changes in 2017 would make it a logical time to make the change.

There is however another rumour about Lance Stroll which doesn’t make quite so much sense. In recent months highly reputable journalists in the Formula One paddock have suggested that Lance Stroll and the Williams team are completing extensive familiarisation tests for the Canadian using 2014 machinery at multiple circuits on the F1 calendar. These journalists suggest the programme is being bankrolled by Lawrence Stroll to the tune of up to $20M. At this time neither team or driver have officially commented on the rumours.

Rather than make a claim one way or the other, it seems of merit to delve into the challenges of  how such a test programme could be achieved within current FIA regulations and Williams partnerships:

  • Power Units. Whilst it is within regulations for a team to complete tests with power units from seasons two years prior to the current season which would allow Williams to complete tests using current hybrid power unit technology, Williams do not own any Power Units. The partnership agreement with Mercedes is a supply agreement only which means Mercedes deliver Power Units to the team on a race weekend. The team do not retain anything. In order for tests to be taking place an additional agreement would be required with Mercedes. Mercedes would then have to agree to supply or manufacturer 2014 specification Power Units. This is not impossible but does add a level of complexity.
  • Tyres. FIA approved tests with 2014 machinery require tyre supply from Pirelli. Pirelli are only permitted to supply demonstration tyres for such tests. These tyres do not perform in the same way as a race tyre. This would devalue the purpose of familiarisation tests. Of course it is possible the team have found a dispensation within these rules, but again, Pirelli would be required to dedicate resource to this programme at the same time as developing 2017 tyres. It should be noted Williams declined to participate in the 2017 tyre development programme. Again this does not make the Lance Stroll test programme infeasible rather illustrates a supply challenge.
  • Circuits. Contrary to the belief of some in the F1 paddock, Racing circuits do not lie dormant for the 362 days a year that F1 is not using a venue. Booking circuit time is not a simple task. Shutting a circuit down for private testing would not go unnoticed.
  • Existing Commitments. Lance Stroll is currently leading the European F3 championship. The championship requires more commitment than an arrive and drive mentality. He will be fully focused on the task in hand.
  • Existing Infrastructure. Williams, as with many leading teams on the F1 grid, have invested heavily into race simulators, completing tests way from the simulator in old machinery may suggest a lack of confidence in their own technology.
  • Regulations. 2017 will see a radical overhaul in Formula One technical regulations. Ambitious projections suggest a lap time improvement of up to 5 seconds per lap. If this is accurate, the value of testing machinery by that time 3 years old and possibly up to 7 seconds per lap slower becomes highly questionable.

Without official confirmation from driver or team it is not possible draw a conclusion over these rumoured tests, but given the challenges surrounding their feasibility on the face of it they appear unlikely. A far more logical and cost effective approach would be to wait until Lance turns 18 and place him in Felipe Massa’s car in the Free Practice One sessions in the remaining races of the 2016 calendar.

Another challenge the Williams F1 team may face in signing Lance Stroll for 2017 could be with their principle partner Bacardi (with the Martini brand) Williams drivers pay a key role in the activation of the Martini Sponsorship, a driver not of legal in the US could prove to be a challenge for the business and this approach.

Formula One: Felipe Massa: a true fan favourite

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Felipe Massa has been a major force in Formula One ever since breaking onto the scene at Sauber in 2002. The Brazilian has enjoyed plenty of success over the years, finishing second to Lewis Hamilton in dramatic style on the final day of the 2008 season as well as helping Ferrari to win back-to-back Constructors’ World Championship awards in 07 and 08.
On September 1st, Massa announced that he would be retiring from Formula One at the end of the current campaign – a decision that was met with shock and despair across all four corners of the globe. In 2010, a FOTA-conducted survey found that Massa was voted by the fans as their fourth favourite driver in Formula One; and that helped Ferrari to emerge as the most popular team in the sport with supporters.

Williams haven’t been anywhere near as competitive this season but Massa has continued to defy the odds and is currently on track to secure yet another top 10 finish in the World Championship race. Prior to the 2016 campaign, the Brazilian had finished in the top 10 in nine of the last ten years – an impressive achievement to say the least.
As of September 2nd, Massa is valued at 4500/1 to win the Drivers title in the Championship betting odds but the Brazilian is in need of a minor miracle for this to happen. Instead, he will be fully focused on climbing up the leader board to cement his place in the top 10 – and he may help Williams climb up a few places in the Constructors’ standings too. After all, those extra few spots will help the team earn more prize money; and Massa will be desperate for an additional bonus before stepping away from the wheel.

Incredibly, the final race of the season will see Massa record his 250th appearance in a Grand Prix event; a phenomenal record. The 35-year-old will climb above the heroic David Coulthard in the all-time rankings for the total number of entries in Formula One. And while Massa has never won the title, he will go down in history with the likes of Rubens Barrichello as one of the best drivers to miss out on the coveted championship.
The Brazilian has failed to win a race since leaving Ferrari in 2013 but he has certainly been enjoying his driving under a fairly solid setup at Williams. His legacy at Williams will stay but it will be his 11 victories for the Italian team that will live long in the memory. After all, Massa will be remembered mostly for his time at Ferrari; whether that is alongside Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen or Fernando Alonso.
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Massa will be remembered as one of Formula One’s nice guys – and rightly so. The 35-year-old has been a pivotal figure in motorsport in recent times and he has earned the right to sign out when the time is right for him. F1 fans will be sad to see Massa go but we will never forget his finest moments.

Formula One: Silly Season revisited

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The 2016 silly season on the face of it has turned out to be some what of a damp squib. With Mercedes, Ferrari, & Red Bull locking down their drivers early on change at the front of the field has been ruled out

Back in May this year I made a few predictions around changes. As the F1 circus returns from a well deserved summer break, outstanding driver agreements will feature highly on many teams ‘to do’ lists. Based on the current driver market I’ve revisited my silly season predictions. It’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below or through twitter (@jonnywilde)

Mercedes AMG Petronas:

As predicted Nico Rosberg’s contract with the team has been renewed. This comes despite a number of incidents between Nico & Lewis on track. Rosberg now has a contract with Mercedes until 2018. This sees his agreement fall in line with Hamilton’s contract. If nothing else, salary demands of Lewis and Nico by 2018 are likely to necessitate a change in line up. With this in mind Mercedes are priming Wehrlein and Ocon as future works drivers.

 Scuderia Ferrari:

Many expected the Scuderia to replace Kimi Räikkönen in 2017, I suggested Sergio Perez would be the ideal candidate to take on the role, but with a strong first half of the year Ferrari have elected to maintain the Vettel, Räikkönen line up for a 3rd season. Kimi’s life away from the track appears to be having a positive effect on his performance as a driver and as a Ferrari brand ambassador. With changes in the Ferrari management team, driver stability for 2017 and perhaps beyond could be a good thing.

Red Bull Racing

At the time of writing my original silly season article, I commented Verstappen was a shoe in for the second seat with Red Bull Racing alongside Daniel Ricciardo. I also suggested it could happen before the end of the year. I did not expect it happen so quickly. Nor did I expect Max to win a race in 2016! (did anyone?) Both Daniel and Max are now locked down at Red Bull Racing until at least 2018. Putting the Red Bull Racing Junior Driver Development programme on hold.

Williams Martini Racing

2016 has been tough for Williams. The team have fallen behind in the development race, possibly / hopefully due to an early switch in focus to 2017. With engine performance convergence emerging, budget shortfalls in comparison to the top 3 have been felt more than in recent seasons. It seems to be widely expected that 2016 will be Felipe Massa’s last year in F1, with this in mind Botta’s performances haven’t been strong enough. I suggested in the previous article that Kyvat and Bottas’ would be a formidable line up for the team. I now see this as less likely. I struggle to buy into the Button return narrative, but can imagine sponsors would be more than happy to see him re-join the team. That being said if Williams adopt a bold strategy they could look towards development driver Alex Lynn, and replace Bottas with Jenson. If they require funding alongside a driver, Perez could be attractive, although this would be nothing more than a lateral move for the Mexican.

Mclaren Honda

Jenson Button is out of contact at the end of this season. Fernando Alonso is contracted until the end of 2017. The team have Stoffel Vandoorne waiting in the wings. I expected Jenson to leave the team at the end of the season, If the 2017 Mclaren Honda is not in a championship contending position I also see Alonso finally calling time on his F1 career. Stoffel will step up into a race seat with the team for 2017, but who will he race along side? Whilst the original Mclaren Perez relationship did not end well in 2013. Sergio brings substantial backing and has consistently over delivered for Force India. Could he be an outside bet for a seat with Mclaren? The team has the manufacturer backing Perez’s sees as a must to contend for future championships.  With the top team drives locked down, Honda or Renault are his next best bet.

Sarhara Force India

Vijay Mallya has gone on record to state both drivers will be retained for 2017. I do not see this happening. As mentioned above I believe Sergio will move on to pastures new. To me the same logic applies to Hülkenberg. Neither driver is going to contend for championships with Force India. Neither driver is getting any younger. I believe Hülkenberg will move away from F1 towards WEC in 2017. This leaves Force India will a huge budget and talent shortfall. The team may look towards Mercedes and taking on a development driver in the form of Pascal Wehrlein for 2017, who on circuits with which he has prior knowledge has looked very impressive at Manor this season. The team could overcome the budget shortfall and maintain the Mexican links with the team through promoting Alfonso Celis or picking up Esteban Gutiérrez after his tough return to the sport with Haas. Equally, the team have Russian driver Nikita Mazepin on their books, he brings backing in the form of Uralchem and whilst a little hot tempered has performed strongly in junior series.

Renault

2016 was always a holding / building year for the team. They inherited a driver partnership with Jolyon Palmer and to be honest, he has looked a little out of his depth at times this season. I don’t expect the team to retain him. Renault are keen to re-establish the French connection with the team. Assuming Ocon performs well at Manor in the second half of this season I expect him to move over the Renault for 2017. Renault will be keen for the French man to sever his links to Mercedes moving forward and will likely be prepared to pay for the privilege. The other seat at Renault, to me, is between Kevin Magnesun and Sergio Perez. The team know KMag, and know what he can do with the car, but in Perez they have a driver capable of over achieving and a driver with significant backing and a huge fan base. Perez and Ocon would be a strong line up for a team rebuilding and looking to challenge for future championships.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

I expect the driver line up of Sainz and Kyvat to go unchanged into 2017. Sainz was confirmed earlier in the season, his role is secure. With Kyvat the story is a little different, he has struggled since returning to the team from Red Bull Racing. His ultimate pace and skill are not in question. The team must work with him to rebuild his self confidence. STR has historically been the home of junior Red Bull drivers. Pierre Gasly would be the logical driver to make the step up to the team in 2017, but I personally see Red Bull placing him else where, possibly with Manor. STR in order to grow should no longer be seen as a proving ground for future Red Bull Racing drivers and with the current line up at RBR locked down until 2018, STR have an opportunity to operate as their own entity.

The Haas F1 Team

After an incredible start in F1, Haas have settled in a midfield team. I expect 2017 will be a huge challenge for the team. With major regulations changes and the team no longer having such unregulated support from Ferrari I expect them to be battling at the very rear of the field. Grosjean appears to have very few options away from the team, that being said a return to Renault should not be ruled out. For Haas to bring F1 to America they would do very well to sign Indy 500 winner Alex Rossi for 2017 alongside Grojean. I expect Esteban Gutiérrez to move on.

The Sauber F1 Team

With the future of the team secure through Longbow Finances. The Swiss based team can look towards rebuilding themselves. Security in reality has come a little too late to kick start a 2017 challenge into anything more than a return to consistent points finishes, but this is a great place to start. Stories continue to swirl around Marcus Ericsson’s backers being behind the Longbow Finance investment into the team. My personal take is that even if this is true I do not believe the backing is linked to Ericsson maintaining a drive with the team. Investments are made with an expectation of return not simply to pay for a drive. That being said I hope the team will maintain their current line up into 2017. Stability during a period of rebuilding is key, and it should not be forgotten both Nasr and Ericsson are more than capable of turning in strong performances.

Manor Racing

The Manor Racing team have a history of announcing driver partnerships very late on into the year. Rio Haryanto’s mid season demotion to reserve driver demonstrate the continued reliance on drivers with backing. I expect the team will be keen to maintain a development driver relationship to a larger team, be that with Pascal Wehrlein and Mercedes or Gasly and Red Bull Racing (despite the Mercedes power unit agreement) The second seat at Manor, I believe will be taken by Jordan King. He has performed admirably in GP2 this season with Racing Engineering and brings a healthy budget to his seat. It should not be forgotten his father supported the team in their re-emergence from bankruptcy.

Spa, Monza and Singapore have a history of being a circuit in which driver announcements are made, expect significant news in the coming weeks.

 

Formula One: Thales join Williams

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Williams have announced is a new technical partnership with Thales, a leader in critical information systems, cyber security and data protection.

As part of the agreement Thales will deliver state-of-the-art cyber security solutions for real-time global telemetry transmission to both WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING and Williams Advanced Engineering, the engineering services and technology division of Williams.

Thales designs, develops and operates resilient and high-performance critical information systems supported by its 2,000 cyber security experts and world class data protection and digital trust management solutions, protecting mission critical data anywhere data resides. Cyber security, especially data protection, is of the utmost importance in the competitive world of Formula One.

Speaking about the new partnership Marc Darmon, Executive Vice-President, Secure Communication and Information Systems for Thales said; “Thales is a world class cyber security expert and a globally recognised systems integrator, delivering safety and security critical systems in challenging environments such as Aerospace, Space, Defence, Finance, IT and Technology and Ground Transportation. This agreement builds on the already strong existing relationship between our two companies and our combined skills and expertise. It clearly illustrates Thales’s commitment to accompany its clients in their digital transformation where cyber security is a vital requirement.”

Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal and Commercial Director of Williams, added; “Williams has undergone a significant digital transformation over the past two years. We are revolutionising our IT infrastructure to make sure that we are well placed to continue innovating. With the help of Thales, we will be introducing cyber security systems that keep our data secure from wherever we are in the world.”

As a technical partnership Thales branding will not feature in the team environment or on the car livery.

For more information on Thales click here or follow Thales on Twitter here