Can 2019 be Williams' breakthrough year?
An all-new line-up, different sponsors, more potential and a higher growth rate. Can 2019 mark Williams' resurrection in Formula 1?
Williams has suffered a turbulent term over the past few years, lacking funds and development. As it progressively lost Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, two of its most substantial sources of sponsorship income, the team welcomed on board Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin. Despite stressing that both drivers were not coming solely for money, the 2018 line-up triggered a fair amount of disbelief among the F1 community and the car’s poor results did not mellowed out the mood towards the Grove-based outfit.
The tipping point was reached when SMP, Sirotkin’s main financial supporter, decided to cut ties with Williams, as the Russian bank company declared to be ‘extremely disappointed’ by the car performance. They also lifted the weight off Sirotkin’s shoulders by defending his efforts to extract the maximum out of the car. Hence, the Russian’s stint at Williams drew to a close after an extremely tough season.
Plus, Martini had announced at winter testing that it would end its deal with Williams at the end of the year, leaving the British outfit without a main sponsor. And here comes Robert Kubica, a pivotal figure within Williams for the past 12 months. The Pole scratched and clawed its way back to the Pinnacle of motorsport, overcoming a nearly career-ending injury and gaining opportunities to train at the wheel of a new-gen F1 car. The path was steep, as Renault quickly gave up on him and then Nico Rosberg took over under clamorous managerial role to help him earn a seat. However, it seems that Kubica found his way with Williams on his own, given that Rosberg’s offer appeared to be pure imagery. After a year spent on the brink as reserve driver, Robert was able to adjust his sponsorship deals from his home country. And having successfully completed the three testing outings he was handed in 2018, everything fell into place with Williams.
The team is now in for a fresh start, having hired rookie George Russell and F1 sensation Robert Kubica, who can certainly bring his talent and experience to the table. Furthermore, a comeback generates more impact than a debut and having them combined together in a line-up appears alluring for potential partners. It could all happen and evolve quickly throughout the 2019 season, which is going to feature a number of interesting dynamics, from Leclerc’s quest to beat Vettel to Ricciardo at Renault. If the upcoming season lives up to the high expectations it has created, the mediatic attention will peak and consequently more sponsors will be on the way.
It is no lie that aside from the emotional factor, Kubica’s Williams campaign is strategic from multiple standpoints, and let us not forget that he was signed only when he encountered the right monetary supporters. Therefore, other than bringing his expertise and doing well, the Pole is tasked with enticing more companies into the F1 business to benefit the sport and his own team above all. Williams is on the lookout for new partners and has the duty to grab the moment and seize every opportunity through Kubica, who could prompt an image makeover for the team, which now appears as a blank canvas.
As we have learnt from McLaren, a revamping and restructuring process requires time. Performance and improvements will not come overnight, but in terms of securing financial support and rebuilding a fresh identity, 2019 can be Williams’ year, as the correct environment to exploit its commercial potential has been created.