Tag Archives: Williams F1

Formula One: Preparing for the budget cap

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The Liberty Media vision for the future of Formula One Teams is clear. The owners expect 12 commercially viable, profitable, franchises all capable of challenging for race victories. In his role as Managing Director of Motorsports, Ross Brawn, has been mandated with the task of delivering a strategy to ensure this vision is achieved.

12 commercially viable & profitable teams, on paper, sounds fantastic. With the variable of available finances removed, the resourceful nature of F1 teams will truly be put to the test. Outwardly it seems as though there is widespread support from the teams for such a move. Afterall, what business wants to spend more money? With representatives from leading teams including Red Bull Racing emploring Liberty Media to ‘ Save F1 Teams from themselves’ the route to implementing a budget cap should, in theory, be straightforward.

However, As with any commercial decision in Formula One nothing is straightforward. The first major hurdle to overcome is the existing structure around payments and the legacy of disparity. In 2017 Joe Saward explained the complexities around the current structure in this article. The existing structure rewards success and longevity, a something which is not overly inviting to a new team, nor geared towards a midfield team ever being in a position to surprise. In an estimated payment fund of $900M per season, the top 3 teams receive approximately 60% of the revenue, leaving the remaining, currently 7, teams to compete for 40% ($360M) between them. It is estimated that the smallest operational budget in F1 today is in the region of $100M, with only $50M coming from the championship, teams have a significant shortfall to cover.

A more appropriate payment structure would be equal distribution amongst all teams, with a proportional bonus for constructors championship position, similar to that seen in the Premier league as detailed here.  Unfortunately, in order to reach this point, the largest teams, with operational budgets believed to be in excess of $400M per season must agree to a cut in support from the system under which their team structure has been developed. What business would agree to lose as much as 50% of its funding without a clear view of how it will cut costs or increase revenue through other ventures.

Convincing; Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Ferrari, and Mercedes Grand Prix to agree to this change will be one of the key tasks ahead of Ross Brawn through 2018 and 2019 if a new system is to be introduced under the new commercial vision for the sport in 2020.

The task is far from simple, the infrastructure of the top teams has been built around a mindset of a limitless budget. If a budget cap of $150m per season were to be introduced in 2020 with no consultation from the teams, it would be almost impossible for the top teams to comply. From a personnel headcount perspective alone a team such a Mercedes Grand Prix, with in excess of 1400 employees, if an average salary of $50,000 is applied, the team commit 46% of its budget to salaries before considering building a car. Without modifying the current team structure, introducing a budget cap within the next 3 seasons, unless Liberty Media expect teams to make more than 50% of their workforce redundant, is not feasible.

On a more positive note, there are indications that the top teams in question are preparing for the change. A budget cap in Formula One will not mean that the likes of operating entity such as Mercedes Grand Prix or Red Bull Racing will be limited to an expenditure of $150M per season, rather their allocation of resources to F1 will see this limit applied.

As a result, it is highly likely that diversification will be a key element to the future of F1 Teams. Over the past decade, McLaren and Williams have established an industry-leading position in the application of engineering solutions developed to improve performance in motorsport being incorporated into manufacturing processes and commercial entities.  For these teams, this third-party business will likely continue to grow. it is, however,  unlikely Ferrari or Red Bull Racing will view this as an appropriate use of resources or brand credibility.

Instead, expect the very top teams to move towards expanding their foothold in other forms of motorsport.

  • Mercedes Grand Prix has already made steps in this direction with the announcement of a commitment to Formula E team from season 6 of the championship. This alongside the development of the Mercedes Project One, which to many is a clear indication of Mercedes ambitions to return to Endurance Racing. A return which with LMP1 regulations under review and the prospect of the reinvigoration of the FIA Global Engine strategy, Mercedes are well positioned to find success.

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Credit to Sean Bull Design for the concept Mercedes Formula E livery 

  • Similarly, Red Bull Racing through their partnership with Aston Martin has acknowledged an interest in taking the Valkyrie racing, and under guidance from Ross Brawn will no doubt be seeking to bring the Toro Rosso team entirely in-house.

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  • McLaren has taken the decision to take control of their GT programme, and have already explored further engagements in championships including Indycar following the positive coverage generated through the one-off partnership with Andretti Autosport at the Indy 500 in 2017.

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  • Ferrari continually talks of a return to Endurance Racing, and could, similar to Red Bull Racing consider a strategy of an in-house B-team with which budget cap compliance could be achieved.

In conclusion, political posturing between the top teams in Formula One, Ross Brawn, and Liberty Media throughout the 2018-19 seasons will likely overshadow on-track performances. Fans of the sport should take any empty threats from top teams to walk away from the sport as just that. Empty threats. The financial implications of such a move make the option unviable. Instead, teams will double down on motorsport, getting involved with more championships, with the eventual winner being the fans.

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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.

 

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: 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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via GIPHY

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: 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

Formula One: Williams break the 2 second pit stop barrier

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Williams Martini Racing set a new record for the fastest recorded pit stop at the Grand Prix of Europe. The team finally broke the magical 2 second barrier with Felipe Massa’s stop. Williams are the first team to officially complete a pitstop in which all 4 tyres are changed in under 2 seconds in Formula One.

After a series of calamitous pitstop performances throughout the teams 2015 campaign, for 2016 the team employed a process manager to analyse possible areas of improvement and implement change. One change has been to introduce a 21st person to the process. The person is responsible for monitoring the pitlane throughout the stop and signal (through a hand-held remote) when it is safe to release the car. This additional person reduces the number of tasks to be completed by the front jack man, and as a consequence has allowed for increased focus and improved efficiency. By allocating only single tasks to individuals in a pitstop process focus can be absolute. No doubt rival teams will be looking to emulate the Williams pit stop process in races to come.

For the 2016 Season DHL are awarding a Fastest Pitstop award after each Grand Prix. Williams have won this accolade at every race this season.

Formula One: Claire Williams Awarded an OBE

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Williams have announced that its Deputy Team Principal and Commercial Director, Claire Williams, has been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours List announced today. Claire has been awarded the honour in recognition of her services to Formula One.

In her role as Deputy Team Principal, Claire has been instrumental in the successful restructuring of the Williams Group over the past three years. The team has returned towards the front of the grid in Formula One, moving from ninth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2013 to third place in 2014 and 2015, and has successfully diversified through the continued growth of Williams Advanced Engineering. Since stepping into her Deputy Team Principal role, Claire has used her position as a female in a traditionally male dominated industry to encourage more women to consider careers in engineering and technology. In addition to this, she has recently been appointed Vice President of the Spinal Injuries Association, a charity extremely close to her heart.

Speaking about the honour, Claire said; “Today is a very proud day for me, but this is also a bit of a surprise. To be recognised in this way is a tremendous honour but one everyone at Williams can take credit for. I’m extremely lucky that I get to do a job that I love. To be able to play a role in a family legacy is an enormous privilege and one I don’t take for granted. Formula One, and Williams, are great success stories for the UK and I will continue to use my role to help showcase what a great sport Formula One is, what a brilliant platform for this country’s expertise in high class engineering it is, as well as a place that welcomes women across all of its disciplines.”

Formula One: Wille branding for Williams in Canada

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Williams Martini Racing will carry Wille Machinery branding for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. Willie Branding can be seen on the front wing endplates in place of Wihuri as part of a wider agreement announced back in April (click here for more)

Wille Machinery are manufacturers of multi-function machines such as now ploughs and city sweepers. Williams Advanced Engineering are supporting the group on the development of efficiency new generation machinery.

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