Formula 1 mid-season review: Williams
7 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. In the latest instalment, we cover a Williams revival aided by the flourishing partnership between drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
Williams endured a horrible 2013, with the Grove-based team accruing just five points all season. 2014, consequently, could not have been a greater contrast. One crucial decision made pre-season was the choice to abandon Renault in favour of Mercedes, and allied to a strong chassis – particularly the front end – it has propelled Williams up the grid. Pre-season promise was initially not lived up to due to strategic errors and high rear tyre wear (hampered by the strong front end), exacerbated by wet conditions in a couple of qualifying sessions. Conservatism – it's important to remember Williams has not been a consistent front-runner in a decade – meant that stronger results slipped through their fingers as rivals adopted more aggressive race strategies. Nonetheless, the acquisition of Pat Symonds mid-2013 was inspired and his work, both in terms of the car and Williams' off-track structure, is clear, while Rob Smedley has brought years of experience. After an underwhelming start, matters improved, with the team locking out the front row in Austria before three straight podium finishes for Valtteri Bottas. The renaissance of Williams has been one of the feel good stories of the season and its current foundation is such that it shouldn't be a one-off. What it now needs to do is avoid more strong results slipping through its fingers as third place should be achievable – perhaps even second. If it can beat Ferrari, in a season where the emphasis is on chassis-power unit correlation – something Ferrari can build in-house – then it would be mightily impressive.
Valtteri Bottas: 9/10
Bottas joined the sport in 2013 on the back of high acclaim but his debut season was marred by an uncompetitive car, in which he was able to achieve just one top 10 finish. Nonetheless, he went about his business in an assured fashion and soaked up information. Now, with a competitive car, Bottas is thriving and proving that Williams' faith in his ability is justified. The season started somewhat slowly, with his starring drive in Australia (albeit after an error which led to a puncture) followed by several races in which Bottas was solid but unspectacular – a nonetheless positive trait for a driver at a midfield team as he consistently collected the points. A minor error prevented him from claiming pole position in Austria but he was the only driver to seriously challenge Mercedes in the race and he collected his maiden podium. Stunning runs to second in Britain and Germany highlighted his rapid upwards trajectory and marked him out as a star of the future generation. With Williams conventionally strong on the straights in 2014, he could be a contender for victory at Spa and Monza.
Felipe Massa: 8/10
Massa hasn't had a poor season, it's just not been particularly strong, especially compared with the thriving Bottas. Massa is the only driver to have broken Mercedes' string of poles in 2014 but so far his races have been inconsistent and several marred by large accidents – even if some were not his fault. But clashes in Canada and Germany can partly be attributed to him: at Montreal it was his indecisiveness in passing rivals which potentially cost him victory, while at Hockenheim he and Williams had the pace for a podium – his shifting of blame to others is also not an endearing trait. Conversely, Massa has been beset by some terrible luck this year. He was struck by a brake-less Kamui Kobayashi in Australia, lost a minute at a botched pit-stop in China and his three-stop strategy in Spain was scuppered by traffic. Marcus Ericsson's laughable attempt at making Mirabeau in Q1 pinned Massa to the wall and wrecked his Monaco weekend, while Williams' inability to read the weather at Silverstone left him at the back, from where a power unit problem dropped him way behind the field. He then encountered Kimi Räikkönen's wrecked Ferrari dancing across the circuit. Massa ultimately requires a clean weekend in which to collect a strong result – if he can get on the podium it'd be a popular result. If he can win another race – eminently possible considering Williams' package – then the tears might never stop flowing. But he's got to beat Bottas first…
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