Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Williams are slower than last year again in China

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

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Williams have turned up with a slower car than they had last year for the second race weekend in a row in China.

Having been 1.3 seconds off their 2017 pace in Bahrain, Williams are more than half a second slower in Shanghai than they were 12 months ago.

Sergey Sirotkin set the team’s quickest time in qualifying but was over half a second slower than Felipe Massa managed in the car last year.

Sirotkin said the track felt “a little bit more like Australia or Barcelona” in terms of “the warm-up, the tyre behaviour, the long run, the warm-ups, overheating and so on.”

However with little time between this race and the last one Williams had little opportunity to get to the bottom of their problems with the FW41. “Of course we are improving we are working but after one week, OK it’s a different track and conditions but the fundamentals are still there.”

Lance Stroll qualified 18th but did do a quicker time than he managed at the track last year.

“12 months ago I was in Q3 and I beat my lap time now by three-tenths,” he said. “And I know I’m a much better driver today than I was 12 months ago.

“I know I can do it when everything’s in place, I proved that in Baku when I was on the podium, here in my second race I was in Q3. Now we’re just going through a hard time and we need to get back to where we want to be.”

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Williams isn’t the only team which hasn’t lapped any quicker in Shanghai than it managed last year. The other is Toro Rosso, who as in Melbourne were a few hundredths slower than they managed in 2017:

The year-on-year lap time gain in China was a little over half a second, even less than it was in Bahrain:

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Williams are slower than last year again in China”

  1. The worst start by a team I can remember for a while, shambolic.

  2. Actually… Stroll was slower than last year, when his Q1 time was 1:33.9… But who cares? Strolling around at the back of the field. F1 is his favourite pastime. Like a hobby.

  3. Sirotkin leading the quali battle 2-1 so far.

  4. I don’t understand why you would pay tens of millions to watch your son trundle around at the back of the grid.

    1. Maybe he’s trying to drive down the value of the team so he can buy it for less…

  5. Even though the focus is, rightly, on Williams, I have to say, Sauber being only almost half a second up, with a two years newer engine, is also not super. But, I guess it’s also the track and circumstances.

    So, with Mercedes, and even Ferrari not being amongst the biggest improvers (Mercedes hardly improved here!? the green track or what?), the field did, mostly condense, with Stroll’s Williams being the straggler.

  6. What is worrying, is that both drivers seemed to be satisfied with their qualy performance… Williams has returned to their 2011 & 2013 levels, but at least back then they had much better drivers !
    Sirotkin has shown some good signs but still not something ”eye catching”, but Stroll is seriously struggling.

    1. Sirotkin is showing good signs in that he is looking already quicker than Stroll, but that is not hard. Massa was flogging Stroll, and Massa hasn’t been considered a second rate driver ever since his accident.

  7. I don’t see Sirotkin, a first season F1 driver, as being responsible for Williams’ poor performance, but Stroll, as the senior full time driver at Williams, has to accept some responsibility for it. I can only assume Stroll is happy being beaten by Sirotkin, but reality is Stroll has been upstaged by his junior team mate and should be ashamed of it.
    I don’t quite understand why Williams keep referring to Felipe Massa’s results because they didn’t want to employ him this season, so presumably he wasn’t “good enough” to drive at Williams. Yet by constantly referencing their current slower drivers to his faster times in an older car with a weaker engine one gets the impression they want him to return. As a thought, maybe … no, what’s the point of Massa returning? Stroll is the senior driver, so even if Massa returned all that would happen is Sirotken, who got the faster Q1 time at this GP, would be relegated to Reserve driver.
    I’m afraid I can’t see a solution to William’s problems unless they prioritise competitive lap times as being part of their selection process.

    1. What I don’t like about Stroll isn’t the fact that he’s rubbish, but it’s that he lives in a little bubble where he believes he performed well above expectations last year. He also believes that his money hasn’t been put to good use by Williams and the fact that they are worse this year has nothing to do with him. It’s not like he has to take the entire onus of William’s downfall on himself, but he should still have the motivation, maturity and character to do better and achieve something in this sport. When he talks, he sounds more like a disgruntled customer who bought a car than a driver who wants to achieve something in Formula 1.
      F1 is a just a billionaire son’s hobby for him. He’s not a serious racing driver. I think the quicker Williams can dump him, the quicker they’ll return to respectable form.

      1. before complaining about the car and team, he has to beat his teammate.. and so far Sirotkin has come in and is already outqualifying him.

      2. @todfot well said. He doesn’t manifest himself as one of the team members at all – and is indeed pointing the finger at everyone else at Williams, with the attitude of a disgruntled customer.

        It seems that his own performance isn’t even a KPI at Williams – and instead father Stroll pays variable amounts – depending on junior’s deficit-to-teammate at the end of the season.

        This situation must be very damaging to the Williams brand. Stroll money may be nice short term, but who wants to be associated to an underperforming, disingenuous ‘race’ team? And as an engineer, do you really want to work for Lance it’s-the-cars-fault Stroll?

        Could the Stroll takeover have been the last straw for Williams, before bankrupcy? Seeing how relieved Claire was after the reveal of Liberty’s plans for 2021: she even mentioned that Williams couldn’t exist for much longer under the current reward scheme.

        Here’s hoping that Sirotkin can pull it together this year. He, at least, is improving with every race.

    2. @drycrust, it is interesting that there seems to be a willingness to throw most of the blame at the drivers, allowing them to partially absolve the team for any responsibility in the poor performance of the car.

      I mean, I can recall that Webber was complaining about the team have an archaic structure when he was driving for them back in 2005, as well as falling behind in terms of their facilities – I believe that Nico Rosberg also made a few comments about the team when he was involved with them in the past that hinted that the team was lagging behind in that area as well.

      There have also been times when they are known to have botched the design of their cars – in fact, it happened fairly frequently in the past. Their 2011 car reportedly suffered from quite a few problems with a lack of torsional rigidity, particularly with their gearbox – and, since the rear suspension pick up joints were mounted to the gearbox casing, it really screwed with the handling of that car.

      Their 2014 to 2016 cars, meanwhile, have had persistent aero balance problems, which they admitted they tried to mask by bolting more downforce onto the car because they couldn’t really work out what was causing those balance problems. There were also times last season when the team introduced updates that didn’t quite work as they thought they would and they sometimes struggled to get to work properly.

      For all the criticism of the drivers, Williams’s development record for the past decade has been fairly poor – I can’t think of anything they’ve introduced for years now that has been a pioneering development, nor can I think of any real star designers that they’ve nurtured in recent years. Can anybody here name a design feature that Williams have pioneered in recent years that everybody else has then sought to replicate?

      Strip out the results from 2014 and 2015, and you are left with a team that has been little more than an average team at best, and usually a somewhat mediocre team – why should I believe that those same figures who have producing flawed cars for years should now have suddenly produced a great car? Perhaps, if Kubica were to step into the car and if he fails to produce great times, people might finally begin to accept the possibility that the FW41 probably isn’t a great car – until then, it feels like it’s easier to say the car is OK given that it allows people to indulge in their favourite past time, which is to just keep complaining about the fact that the drivers have the misfortune of not being Kubica.

      1. In the normal relationship of a racing team one of the highest paid people is the driver, and this is because they have one of the greatest responsibilities within the team: getting good results from a car that has a mind of its own. The fact that Laurence Stroll pays Williams (who presumably pay Lance) doesn’t reduce Lance Stroll’s level of responsibility to get good results. Whether Williams design great cars, average cars, or mediocre cars is up to the accountants, engineers and management, the job of the driver is still the same: to try and get good results from the car they’ve been given.
        Like it or not, Lance Stroll is the senior driver at Williams. That’s not his choice, but that’s what has happened. So more of the drivers’ responsibility in the setting up of the car for the race should fall on his shoulders than on Sergey’s.

  8. Makes me wonder how Kubica would go in their car. Wishful thinking I know

  9. …when compared to Massa’s times. If referencing Stroll’s times from last year, it doesn’t look so bleak.

    What looks bleak is Stroll’s evolution and Massa’s being undersold to justify Sirotkin’s money.

    They may have that money now, but it’s taking them nowhere.

  10. My major conclusion from those charts this season so far:

    Renault engine >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Honda engine

    Good riddance, McLaren!

    1. It is confusing, I think the negative numbers show improvement in performance while the positive numbers show a deterioration in performance.

      1. His conclusion is somewhat valid, although I don’t understand “good riddance McLaren!” Maybe he meant good riddance Honda?

      2. The graph is just labelled wrong. Below the line is better. But the text is wrong… the graph should be upside down.

  11. stroll using Baku as a basis for how much ability is laughable. Stroll in 2018 is Palmer in 2017 (what does palmer even do now??), ie will only get a result when others in front falter.

  12. “12 months ago I was in Q3 and I beat my lap time now by three-tenths,” he said. “And I know I’m a much better driver today than I was 12 months ago.

    Only because of new tires he should gain more than 0.3

  13. “Lance Stroll qualified 18th but did do a quicker time than he managed at the track last year.”

    Pretty much confirms what we already knew. The Williams isn’t a good car but the majority of the time lost is the difference between Massa and Sirotkin.

    1. Like I said in the first race, it’s hard to believe that the car is slower. The difference is all driver performance. Massa was arguably one of the best drivers of the midfield.

  14. to show how bad stroll is in an f1 car at “Driving control”,
    he couldn’t even do flick spins here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=93&v=dj76IDiDKR4

  15. Guys and gals, chant along with me: PADDY LOWE´S GOTTA GO!

    1. On the contrary, I believe that Paddy Lowe must stay. He is a light at a team that has seen zero development since the introduction of the new engine formula. Their reliance on Mercedes power was evident, and they made no effort to try and change that. Disruption is painful, but necessary, and Paddy Lowe must stay to see the fruits of his labour in the next 2-3 years.

  16. A team needs a technically-minded driver with experience of F1 cars to help develop its car. Williams appears to be totally lacking in that regard. They must be missing Massa – hardly a genius in that regard, but much better than what they have.

  17. You can’t run a F1 team nowadays with a family-run business mindset.

    It is that simple.

  18. How are you showing McLaren with a 1.8 sec. improvement? In 2017, Alonso did a 1:34.372, in 2018 he does a 1:33.232. That’s only 1.140 sec.

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