The phase ‘could have done better’ springs to mind when thinking of Williams on their 2016 season, a year in which they fell behind Force India.
Slipping so far off the pace meant that they weren’t guaranteed to be in the top ten in qualifying. That said though, there were some glimpses of hope at tracks they have traditionally specialised in over the last three seasons. With a slippery car and the still advantageous Mercedes engine, the power tracks were still a boon for the team, although not big enough to mount a season long challenge alongside Force India.
Little did we know at the start of the year that it was going to be Felipe Massa’s last in the sport. Once again, he faired well against Valtteri Bottas, highlighted in his final race when he outqualified the highly rated Finn.
The news of Sir Frank Williams falling in with Pneumonia during the season diverted the attention away from Clare Williams being absent from the circuit. Although recovered, we didn’t see the enigmatic team owner for the rest of the season, with Clare making the return to the paddock in time for the end of the season.
As is with the ‘family team’ they gave Felipe Massa an extraordinary send off, giving him his own branded car, which he raced at his last Brazilian Grand Prix in November (repaired of course and which he used at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well). The response of his retirement at both his home race, and the final race in Abu Dhabi was a testament to how well the little Brazilian is loved.
Despite the gloom and gloom, there were moments where the team performed. A solitary third place in Canada what a highlight for Valtteri Bottas, while Felipe Massa had a couple of fifth places in Australia and Russia, in what was a relatively competitive start to the season.
Changes are coming, not just the loss of Felipe Massa, but are due to come in the technical department was well. Really Force India shouldn’t have got ahead of them, but it shows what a well organised team can achieve.