When the 2019 Formula 1 season got underway nine teams
enjoyed a relatively smooth start to their campaign. But after sliding to last
in 2018 Williams’ garage remained desperately empty. Its mechanics, engineers,
and drivers hung around waiting for the FW42 to arrive. It was an embarrassing setback
for the team and set the tone for a year in which it failed to escape Q2 and
scored just one fortuitous point. Its FW42 eventually turned a wheel halfway
through the third day of action.
When the 2020 Formula 1 season got underway on Wednesday
morning the first car to venture out onto a chilly Barcelona circuit was Williams.
It was a message, of sorts, though given that its FW43 already ran during a
filming day on Monday it was not exactly a shock to see the car make its way
out on track.
“What we saw this morning looks like a massive success
versus last year and it is,” said an enthusiastic George Russell. “But the fact
that we have a car at winter testing is not something to exactly celebrate, it
should be normal, we’re here, going through our programme, but we had no
issues, did every lap we were meant to do, and that’s positive.”
Russell finished his four-hour session in the car having
racked up 73 laps, with a best time of 1:18.168. It is already nine-tenths
faster than the best lap Russell set during qualifying at the same venue last
May, and nearly three seconds faster than what the FW42 clocked at the first
test 12 months ago. The British youngster was also buoyant over the initial
feel, given the issues that plagued the FW42 early doors in 2019.
“It’s definitely an improvement versus last year,” he said
of the FW43. “It gives me more confidence. Last year it was scaring the shit
out of me a little bit while I was driving, whereas this year it feels a bit
more like a Formula 1 car. it’s still not perfect, it needs improvements, but
as a base set-up it was decent.”
Williams’ FW43 is fundamentally an evolution of the
recalcitrant FW42 but it is the acid test of the changes enacted by the squad
“It’s definitely a big step up from Abu Dhabi as well,” said
Russell. “The car we had in Abu Dhabi was very similar to the car we had in Germany.
A lot of last year’s work was based on the FW43 as we knew last year was almost
a bit of a write-off from the beginning, so even though we didn’t give up we
knew there was a focus to shift to next year’s car.
“At the end of last year we tested a huge amount to help
this year’s car, generally it has a very similar philosophy but obviously improving
the areas we were struggling with.”
Nonetheless, the proof of the pudding will be in the final
“The car gave me confidence, but it’s not about giving me
confidence, it’s about lap times,” he asserted.
“So if the car’s great to drive but slow it’s not good but
if the car is terrible to drive and fast I’d prefer that.”