The Formula 1 season has officially kicked off with both Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 commencing with immense fan fare. However, Williams Racing must have been hoping to have had a little more time to get their cars up to par. Journalists and race fans got their first look at Williams’ two new drivers, but the performances in the practice sessions leave much to be desired. For all intents and purposes, it appears that Williams need to do more work over the coming months in Oxfordshire to at least get their cars to a competitive level.
Williams Racing will be showcasing two exciting drivers in their cars this season. George Russell, who was the FIA Formula 2 Champion last season, is accompanied by comeback hero, Robert Kubica, who has battled back after suffering a horrific injury almost nine years ago. Both Russell and Kubica easily deserve a place on the F1 grid this season, but will most likely find themselves toiling as backmarkers at least through the first few races.
In the first practice session, Kubica timed the best lap for Williams with a 1:27.914 during twenty five laps on track. Unfortunately, this time was not only 4.315 seconds off of Hamilton’s best lap, it was also around two seconds slower than Lando Norris in the McLaren, who was placed in 18th. It was certainly expected that Williams would struggle for pace this season, but seeing such a wide gap separating them from the midfield pack is quite alarming.
The second practice session was not much better for Williams as George Russell was the quickest driver with a fastest lap of 1:26.453, which was again close to four seconds off of Hamilton’s best time. The gap to Norris was around 1.7 seconds slower.
There are a few variables that need to be accounted for and may ultimately paint a slightly better picture come qualifying. The first of which is to consider how much fuel both cars were running. If they were attempting to run laps to learn how the car drives in race conditions, then their time may be a bit quicker come in qualifying and even FP3.
The other variable for consideration is that, when taking into account the teams’ torrid winter testing, Williams may have only set out to focus on the reliability of the car. They could have merely been trying to ascertain whether or not the drivers were comfortable with how their respective car was feeling.
Regardless of the direction that deputy team principal, Claire Williams, was trying to go in the first couple practice sessions, she will be wholly dispirited with how the last month has gone. There may yet be an improvement in FP3, however, a significant increase in pace would be unlikely.
One dim bright spot for both drivers is that the lack of expectations should allow them to focus on getting accustomed to their own rides. George Russell has the opportunity to prove that he can make a struggling car better than under normal circumstances. Robert Kubica will be looking to demonstrate that he still has what it takes to compete at the top level once again.
*Phot Credit Unsplash: Kevin Langlais
*Official time data taken from F1.com