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Fallen Formula 1 Giants: Williams and Mclaren

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Ayrton Senna in the McLaren MP4-5 at 1989 British Grand Prix, Silverstone
Ayrton Senna in the McLaren MP4-5 at 1989 British Grand Prix, Silverstone

Many an illustrious driver have driven for both Williams and McLaren’s. F1 greats have given up their racing winning seats to end up in these teams like arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time Ayrton Senna gave up his championship winning seat for William and likewise Fernando Alonso to Mclaren in 2007.

However today, if we were to have a poll on the top 6 drivers or maybe even others on whether they would want to drive a Williams and Mclaren, the answer would be most likely none. Their stocks have taken a beating and fallen so low that the drivers aspiring for these seats are almost entirely rookies.

The teams themselves have also not covered themselves in glory. Williams gave up a chance to gain fans, and maybe to an extent the marketing frenzy, on their back by choosing Sirotkin who has a financial backing to Kubica. This is not to belittle Sirotkin but when your lead driver was consistently outpaced and outperformed by a driver who has retired at the end of last year, you do know that the driver lineup is not the best pair in the field.

The Williams team was looking up in 2014 when they were the third best team. But to take advantage of their quick cars they did have experienced Massa and a talented rookie in Bottas.

How things have changed since then, from financial difficulties to losing their top sponsor at the end of 2018. The Engineering team with recently hired Paddy Lowe do not where they are faltering aerodynamically and if the team does not know what to fix then it will be a miracle what they will end up changing will indeed improve the car.

However the same argument about drivers cannot be levelled on Mclaren. The driver line up boasts of one of the fastest drivers in Alonso, even at the age of 37, and highly recommended Stoffel Vandoorne. However the blame here would lie with the Engineering team and more specifically the Aerodynamics team. Refusing to even take the slightest blame, the entire team assigned the blame on their works engine partner Honda. While no one would deny the reliability problems that Honda brought about, the team should have worked together to make the package as a whole competitive.

The management will have to answer tough question on how with an inferior Honda engine were they able to qualify 12th in 2017 but could manage only 14th in 2018 with an upgraded Renault engine that already won twice in 2018. The Mclarens were able to stay ahead of only both the Williams whereas rest of the teams had at least one car faster than Mclaren. It will be only so long that you can attract a top driver with an excellent financial package and no improvement in performance on the track.

Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna in Williams F1 car

It’s a pivotal year for these fallen giants and the one from which they have to wake up. We have frequently observed the giants of the sport taking a long time to recover and claim the top spot. We can mention the time taken by Ferrari before the Schumacher era or more so from a Football analogy, the time still taken by Liverpool to try reaching the top spot again.These are struggling times for both teams where they would have to balance and justify the cost in continuing to remain as a spent force in F1 to its shareholders.


Mclaren is currently the last among the Renault powered teams and likewise the Williams in Mercedes powered teams. They can no longer distribute the blame among others because there is at least one team with the same setup as them who are doing a much better job. First and foremost the Engineering teams from both Mclaren and Williams need to step up and be counted among the great machines that they have created in the past. Next they will have to invest in young talented drivers who will be able to take the team forward. Alas if both of these cannot be resolved, we may end up seeing a long drought before which these teams would be able to rise again.

Red Bull & Mclaren are powered by Renault
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