Canada marked a small turning point in the Williams-Martini Racing garage given the historical team had their worst starting positions of the season in Monaco. 12th and 16th was the starting point in Monte Carlo for the team and despite their efforts there was no heroic climbing up the ladder.
The two drivers, Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas, finished 14th and 15th. In Montreal, it didn’t look very good for the team as Felipe Massa never made it out of the first qualifying session. While his Bottas started fourth, Massa was starting the race in the17th position. Not an acceptable starting position for the Brazilian.
The Canadian Grand Prix did not simply express the potential of Williams. They showed skill, determination and commitment. Felipe Massa climbed 11 positions and Valterri Bottas finished third on the podium. With that kind of improvement what could William’s achieve this weekend in Austria?
The Austrian Grand Prix returned to the same circuit that hosted the Grand Prix from 1970 to 1987. Only last season, the track hosted the modern day Grand Prix at the newly named “Red Bull Ring”. In 2014, all eyes were on Infiniti Red Bull racing to pull off a majestic move to restore their season that was on a downhill slide. Expectations shattered when Sebastian Vettel retired. Daniel Ricciardo on the other hand finished 7th, at least Red Bull was in the points.
The track seems bizarre. Having the least amount of turns of any Grand Prix circuit on the calendar. With only eight corners tantamount to driving around a high speed parking lot. Power will boost the advantage in a fundamental way.
Case in point: Look at the Mercedes powered cars last season. Only one Mercedes powered car finished outside the points in Austria. The smart money says Williams will have a strong showing in Austria. Their car is not only one of the fastest in qualifying, it will also return to Austria with a new performance package. The package in question is an upgrade of boost. This should help them take the fight to Mercedes and the new aggressor of Ferrari.
Williams Head of Vehicle Performance, Rob Smedley, said before the Canadian Grand Prix a large increase in power was on the way. “We’ve got quite a big package coming for Austria, and without going into details that’s going to be a really healthy step.” Not only does Smedley have confidence, but Bottas has mentioned the track will suit their car as well. The two Williams drivers are not out of the mix in the driver standings. If Bottas can out race Raikkonen this weekend he could put himself in a scrap for the rest of the year. It could be the best fight this season has seen in terms of points.
But that doesn’t put Mercedes in a position to worry, they’re too far ahead in the constructors standings to bother mentioning. What if Williams miraculously out qualifies Mercedes? Or at least one of the drivers? Lewis could have a battle with Valterri Bottas, putting him out of the fight with Rosberg. It’s worth consideration as Rosberg out qualified and out raced Hamilton last year.
Whatever happens with Mercedes won’t be the deciding point of the Williams-Martini Racing team. This team seems to be capable of making something happen out of nothing. They have shown what they can do in qualifying, putting themselves on the board. Their only problem is getting their race strategy straight and with Ferrari in their way of getting to Mercedes, it could be a make or break race.
My bet is that Bottas will podium.