A team that for the past two years were fighting with Force India for fourth position in the constructors trophy, Williams Racing has dropped back considerably this season. They took the risk of going ahead with two young drivers, both with little experience to show for relegating a much experienced driver like Robert Kubica to the position of a reserved driver.
2018 was Paddy Lowe’s first full year at Williams. The team took some radical steps in order to make the car better, reviving the chasis altogether. But it seems nothing has worked out for them so far.
In the season opener in Australia, Sergey Sirotkin had brake problems and did not finish the race while Lance Stroll finished second to last, a good 75s adrift of the winner, Sebastian Vettel. It was a similar tale in Bahrain with Williams playing in a field of their own dead last. The duo would have finished as the last two if not for the penalties applied to a couple of drivers ahead of them.
Coming to the third race of the season in China, the situation is no different. While last year both the Williams made it to Q3, they will be struggling to make it Q2 this year. In the Friday practice sessions both cars were considerably slower with Stroll finishing 20th and Sirotkin 16th.
“There are a lot of things to sort out – our straight-line speed, our handling. Everything needs work,” Stroll told Sky F1.
“In Bahrain, it was shocking how big of a step backwards we had made. I was four tenths slower than I was last year.
“We were losing time on the straights. We haven’t improved. We improved a little bit in the corners, but not even close to the extent we were hoping for.
“But then in Australia, we improved the lap time a little bit compared to last year when Felipe [Massa] was in Q3.
“It’s a bit up and down, but it’s very early days. There are still 19 races to go, and there’s a lot more to understand and to look at before we come to a conclusion.”
Stroll was adamant on how Williams had neither fixed last year’s problems nor capitalized or inherited the strength of last year’s car.
“All in all, we haven’t improved our package.
“We are giving up in areas that we were strong in last year and we haven’t improved to the extent we wanted to in the areas we were aiming to improve in.
“Overall, it’s not where we want to be. But we have identified a lot of problems and hopefully we have a good idea of how to improve the car and how to make big steps in the right direction.”