We’re going to continue looking at our team reviews for the 2021 season. Going in reverse Constructor’s Championship order, we’re now onto Williams Mercedes F1.
Previous teams can be viewed here:
Williams Mercedes – Pre-Season
The 2021 season was to be the first full season where Williams F1 was owned by Dorilton Capital, after they purchased the team in August 2020.
Williams were coming off the back of an atrocious season where they were comfortably the slowest team on the grid.
So for the season, their aim was simply to take a step forward in terms or closing the gap to the leaders. Hopefully Williams would also be more in the fight with the midfield teams. The team generally were more focussed on 2022 and the regulation changes. Hoping they would move them further up the grid, a view taken by a lot of the midfield teams you’ll begin to notice.
Clearly it was not going to be a high achieving year. The car had been as poor as the previous year and the regulations had not changed significantly.
Williams had decided to focus their permitted development on one of the two weakest elements of their 2020 car. The rear end. In the correct conditions, the car could now potentially generate significant levels of downforce and be relatively quick.
However, at the opposite end of the car, they were weak. The nose impacts the airflow over the car and to the rear end. This disrupted airflow meant the car still struggled to generate downforce levels of other cars. Clearly, the nose was not good enough.
Williams’ reasoning was that developing the nose would improve the car over most tracks, but not make any big gains. Doing the rear could provide significant gains, but only in the right circumstances. In those circumstances, they might have a shot at some points. For a team struggling to fight for points, any chance has to be taken.
The season began as they had predicted, with the car being the second slowest on the grid. There was definitely a gap back to Haas but also a slight gap forward to Alfa Romero.
From testing, it would be difficult to know if the development to the rear had worked. Bahrain testing didn’t have the conditions they generally needed to see the best of it.
In the slightly damp conditions at Imola, the second race of the season, it seemed like some of the work had paid off. Russell was fighting for the last points place on track with the Mercedes of Bottas. Going much better than the year before where he crashed out embarrassingly under the safety car.
Quite ironic to see the potential Mercedes replacement taking on the current driver. It didn’t end well!
Down the main straight, Bottas defended, forcing Russell to put a tyre on the damp grass. This caused Russell to spin, taking out both drivers in a very high speed crash.
Afterwards there was a few words from Russell blaming Bottas and from Toto Wolff putting more blame onto Russell. In the end it wasn’t anything major, but added a little bit of sub-text to who will drive there next year.
A few more races happened with Williams towards the rear. However, Russell was gaining a reputation as ‘Mr Saturday’. Russell had been qualifying much higher than the cars expected pace. Apparently, in qualifying, the car was less affected by the weaknesses than in the race.
A good race in Austria had Russell losing out on points very close to the end.
In the mid-season at Silverstone there was a breakthrough. The track conditions were spot on in qualifying and Russell got the car into Q3, putting it 8th on the grid. In the race, he couldn’t convert for points, but it showed the developments had worked.
The craziness of Hungary opened the door for other drivers to perform. Ocon won the race but both of the Williams drivers finally scored good points.
There were other good points in the no-race of Spa, but over the rest of the season, it was generally business as usual, with Williams towards the rear.
Around the Italian Grand Prix it was confirmed that Russell would be moving to Mercedes to replace Bottas. Williams probably wished they could keep their star driver, but they were never likely to be able to with one of the greatest teams of all time sniffing around!
However, they did sign former Red Bull driver Alex Albon which was a little left field, but he’s quick and could do well next year.
The team are eyeing up the regulation changes to take a step forward, like every other team, but they have the investment now to take the team forward and this season show they can make improvements.
Where Williams will be fairly confident is that they can fix issues that they find, many other teams seem to struggle to improve some characteristics. Williams identified their 2 weaknesses and have been able to fix 1 so they will be hopeful they can use that knowledge to implement the regulation changes next year.
We shall see how the drivers get on, with Latifi effectively becoming the established team leader but it’s expected that once up to speed, Albon will generally be the quicker driver.
Their aim is very much long term. Next year, Williams will be looking to be fighting back in the midfield. They are looking to develop into a regular points scoring team and not a back of the grid team.
This season was not as difficult as 2020 but a lot of the high points were as a result of other situations happening.
Though it’s quite clear what the highest point of the season was. The team finally breaking its duck and scoring double points at Hungary.
With some of the lead drivers out of the race there was the opportunity for Williams. Alfa messing up themselves helped Williams in earning double points, they didn’t mess up like their rivals and reaped the rewards. Good driving and the correct strategy gave them 8th and 9th in the race.
Other high points were generally more focussed around Russell, while Latifi and Russell both scored other points, it was Russell’s qualifying that were the high points.
Silverstone was down to pure pace in a fantastic lap, the correct tyres at a wet Spa put Russell on the front row next to Verstappen!
The race never really happened in Spa, so the half points for second position is what basically secured 8th for Williams in the championship, above the generally faster Alfa Romero.
More qualifying success was at the damp Sochi race, Russell qualifying in 3rd place in that session.
There wasn’t that many, as the team knew they would be towards the back, but the crash in Imola does stand out as points were possible for Russell and no one wants to see that kind of crash happening.
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