It’s really saddening to know that a once heavyweight name in the paddock, one that dropped World Champions like they were journeymen, is now motivated to sign a rookie because of the hefty amount of money he’s bringing in. Of course, I’m talking about Williams Racing and the whole Sirotkin – Kubica saga.
Some may detest saying that Williams Racing has no other option. Bottas was snapped up by Mercedes and Massa crossed his due date. But I disagree. Taking up Stroll who brought his daddy’s wallet with him only after F3 was a bad move. Given the fact that the new gen cars were going to be monstrous, taking the F3 champion had more to do with money than anything else.
And right now, although the team evaluated the likes of Kubica, Sirotkin and Di Resta, rumors are the Russian is the new favorite. Kubica not getting the seat maybe down to the Pole’s own limitation than anything else. And if that’s the case then choosing Sirotkin becomes a foregone conclusion.
However choosing the Russian over the now-out-of-a-racing-seat Pascal Wehrlein is a little hard to digest. During the whole musical chairs, the Mercedes junior was termed as an outsider with remote chances. Why is that? Let’s compare.
Originally the shootout was between Di Resta and Kubica. Wehrlein was an outsider choice and was never a primary contender to the seat. This was despite the fact that he was currently racing as opposed to the other two. As months progressed, only Kubica remained.
As the season ended and postseason tire testing went underway, suddenly Sirotkin entered the fray. The Russian appears to be faster than Kubica and as such the team has leaned in his favour. The sponsorship money he is allegedly bringing in has steered the team in his favour. But even at this juncture, Wehrlein still has only remote chances. Despite boasting a better Single seater career and scoring points with not one but two backmarker teams, the German is facing the end of the road.
But why was Wehrlein never properly in contention? Because Mercedes decided that it won’t sweeten the deal for Pascal. And once it became clear that the German wasn’t going to bring any financial benefit, directly or indirectly, he was no longer an alternative for Williams Racing.
And it’s sad that money has become such a big issue for the Williams Racing team. They even received a small fortune in lieu of letting Bottas go. And not to mention the money Stroll Sr. is pumping into the team. All of this is a testament to the fact that how pricey F1 has become.
But despite the predicament, Willams Racing have found themselves in, they still harbor dreams of repeating their past glory. Paddy Lowe’s signing was a statement of intent from Williams. However, the team’s plan is long term rather than short term. Under the guidance of Claire Williams, the team is setting up the base to be the front-runner again.
But there are two problems in that regard. The first is that Williams is a customer team. They do not have a works status engine. Despite Ron Dennis’s plan of using the Honda power to propel themselves to the front of the grid may have failed, there was one truth behind this catastrophic move. The truth that a team cannot be fighting for World Championships with a customer engine.
Secondly, Williams Racing does not have the finances in place to go toe to toe with big manufacturers.
So how can Williams harbor ambitions of World championships if they have such basic infrastructure bottlenecks?
The solution is that the team needs to keep a close eye on Honda for a future partnership. At this juncture, people would be quick to quip that the same plan spelled disaster for McLaren.
The problem with the McLaren Honda alliance was that Honda had zero experience with how Formula One works these days. The experience it had in its previous outing was nothing noteworthy to add to the tally too. But now after spending 3 years in the pressure cooker, Honda has a base. Moving away from the high demand environment of McLaren may very well prove to be the silver bullet for Honda. There’s a high chance that in the less demanding Toro Rosso team, they may excel. The least the Toro Rosso spell can do for the Japanese marquee is provide it a breathing space to work unlike in Woking where the sword was constantly dangling on its head.
Unless Red Bull gives up on Renault power and takes up the Honda power in the near future, there are no new prospects on the horizon for Honda.
Taking up Honda power units will solve both the problems for Williams. It’ll guarantee them a works team status and access to $100 million a year that McLaren was reportedly was getting.
It’s a long shot but maybe, just maybe, Honda could emerge the leader in the new engine regulations just as Mercedes did in 2014. As things stand now, Red Bull is closer to forming an alliance with Honda. But this shouldn’t deter Williams, rather they need to keep a, even more, closer eye on progress made by Honda. Any laxity on the part of Red Bull to take up Honda needs to be exploited by Williams if the Japanese engine does shows to be of merit.
The McLaren-Honda success of the past may not have been repeated, but this does not mean the Williams-Honda success cannot be.