With mercedes power, an experienced driver and a seasoned technical officer, williams looks poised for a comeback
Shame on you if all you could think about while watching the Formula 1 season opener in Melbourne was the change in engine note (instead of the technical regulations themselves) and the noses of the new cars.
All right, you have a point with the noses, but F1’s governing body is working on making the cars aesthetically pleasing from next year.
That aside, the sight of drivers being pushed to the limit, genuinely talented young drivers strutting were shining high points of the weekend.
Not to mention the sight of Valtteri Bottas’ Martini liveried Williams-Mercedes charging up the order twice within the 56 laps of the race.
A driving error robbed what seemed like was a sure podium place for the Finn who, along with Felipe Massa, former Renault technical head Pat Symonds and Mercedes power, is poised to bring the former all-conquering team back to the winners circle.
At least the signs and ingredients are all there. Along with the factory Mercedes team, Williams completed the highest number of laps in pre-season testing and Massa was the fastest to lap around the Bahrain International Circuit.
Bottas’ skill behind the wheel was finally given the opportunity to shine although Massa was taken out by Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham at the start.
Seeing the young Finn charge past his older compatriot Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was a wake-up call and a sign that the dark Maldonado days of having a pay driver with limited talent could well be behind the team.
Laying down the structure for the team to grab attention on a Grand Prix weekend has been a hard task to accomplish, however. One that has seen team co-founder Patrick Head step down from a day-to-day racing role and Frank Williams slowly-but-surely handing over control of the running of the team to daughter Claire.
While the technical and administrative structures have been laid in place, the team’s marketing team pulled off something of a coup by securing a sponsorship deal with one of the most iconic consumer brands to have ever been involved in motorsport.
The Martini stripes made the F1 community and fans instantly take notice of the team while Bottas did the rest of the work on the track in his charge up to sixth place on the road from 16th on the grid.
However, some credit for showing a little sponsorship love to the team that has struggled to find a suitable engine partner since the departure of BMW could possibly even go to American Zak Brown, the founder and CEO of Just Marketing, Inc.
The company has been acknowledged as the biggest motorsport sponsorship firm in the world with Brown, a driver who tried and failed to make it to the F1 grid, being labelled by some media reports as the next Bernie Ecclestone (albeit a much fairer one as far as money is concerned). Brown has been charged with helping a lot of teams find sponsors but it hasn’t been easy post the economic crisis and in the face of ballooning budgets.
Williams took the bold step in the early 2000s to shun tobacco advertising and look towards tech firms and the financial sector.
A move that compounded their woes once the financial sector went bust and companies around the world started to tighten their wallets.
The Martini deal is not, by any stretch of the imagination, expected to ensure Williams’ financial future but at least the positive correlation between an iconic sponsor and improved track performances can lead to others taking note.
And both Massa and Bottas have not been insistent that the F1 community and fans not being treated to the best of the former seven times drivers; and nine times constructors’ champions.
A freak win for Maldonado in 2012 aside, the team has won just once since the 2004 season. Time for the former champs to show their stripes? Fingers crossed.