Williams rates Ticktum as 'one of the best'

Williams F1 deputy team principal Claire Williams says that the squad’s new development driver Dan Ticktum is one of the best drivers that they have seen in the simulator.

Ticktum was formerly a part of the Red Bull junior driver programme and was runner-up to Mick Schumacher in the 2018 FIA Euro F3 Series.

He had been touted as Helmut Marko’s preferred candidate to step into F1 with Toro Rosso, but lacked the superlicence points to do so and the spot went to Alexander Albon instead.

The 20-year-old Londoner was subsequently dropped by Red Bull after a disappointing start to his 2019 Super Formula campaign, just three races into the season.

Williams has now picked up Ticktum as part of its revamped test and development programme after being particularly impressed by his work in the simulator.

“When we put him in our simulator, the guys said he was one of the best drivers they’ve ever seen,” Williams told MotorsportWeek.com this week.

“He’s got great talent. I think it needs harnessing, but we have experience doing that,” she added. “It’s going to be really interesting with Dan and we’re looking forward to working with him.”

Ticktum’s split from Red Bull came amid rumours that Marko wasn’t happy with his professionalism. Previously, he had been handed a lengthy ban from motorsport in 2016 for deliberately crashing into a rival behind the safety car during a MSA Formula race.

But Williams wasn’t concerned about how he would fit in at Grove, and said there was no question of any prima donna behaviour.

“He knows what’s expected of him and how he needs to behave,” she insisted. “Everyone has to roll their sleeves up and do the job in the way that is expected of them.

“He’s one person in a team of 750,” she continued. “We’ve always had the attitude at Williams that no one is more important than anyone else.

“Dan knows and understands that,” Williams added. “With the experiences that he’s had now, I think he’s matured a lot and is willing to get his head down and just do the job that we’re asking him to do.”

As well as joining the Williams’ Formula 1 Driver Academy, Ticktum will also take part in the 2020 Formula 2 championship where he will be driving for reigning team champions DAMS.

It’s a second chance for Ticktum, who looked at the verge of being permanently left out in the cold after his split with Red Bull.

“[Dan is] a great British talent that shouldn’t be lost in our sport, for whatever reason,” Williams insisted.

“The way testing is now in Formula 1, it’s so difficult for these guys to get any kind of air-time to showcase their talent, or the develop their talent.

“Programmes like the academy are so important, so that we can take that talent that can potentially be lost and give them the opportunities,” she continued.

“The FP1 sessions – or the test days, whatever – in order to see what they can do, so we don’t potentially lose talent that otherwise may be lost.”

However Ticktum won’t be the team’s official reserve driver, a position that has instead gone to Israeli driver Roy Nissany who took part in post-season testing with the team at Abu Dhabi last month. Like Ticktum, Nissany will also be racing in F2, for Trident.

And the Williams simulator duties will be shared with W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, who confirmed earlier this month that she had been retained in her development role at Williams for a second season.

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Williams boosted by first-time passes in FIA crash tests

The Williams team has achieved a major milestone in its preparations for the 2020 world championship after its new chassis completed the mandatory programme of FIA crash testing – many of them at its first attempt.

That’s in marked contrast to last year, where the team was beset by troubles with the FW42 and ultimately missed the first few days of pre-season at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya because the car simply wasn’t ready in time.

“One of the first signs of success for us is that we passed all our crash tests,” said the team’s deputy team principal Claire Williams.

“Most of which we did at the first attempt, rather than like last year where we failed many of them – even at the sixth attempt!

“[This year] we’ve built ourselves a huge amount of contingency time to ensure that if something does go wrong, we’re okay and we’ve got some cover.”

Starting last season so far behind their rivals put Williams in an irretrievable bad situation for the rest of the year,” she explained.

“[Failing the crash tests] obviously puts even more pressure into the system, because then you’re having to deal with a crash test rather than worrying about getting the car out. So [passing them so early this time] has been a good milestone for us over the winter.”

She explained that a major behind-the-scenes restructuring of how the team worked had been aimed at ensuring there would be no repeat of last year’s disastrous season.

“We set ourselves some really tough targets over the winter – around aero in particular, about finding performance, and then on some mechanical issues as well,” she told a media event in Tel Aviv on Monday.

“These have been going well,” she continued. “Obviously the key target now is getting the car to that [pre-season] test on time, and at the lights when they go green if not before.

“I have absolute confidence that that will happen,” she added, while also sounding a note of caution about raised expectations. “I’ve always said is it is going to be a journey. We started it last year and we started seeing the grass shoots [at the end of 2019].

“But there’s only so much you can do in the course of a season,” she acknowledged. “We’re going to have to wait and see until we get to February testing [to really know] where we are.

“We’ve got to make progress. I believe that we will, but to what level we can’t define yet,” she said. “We don’t know what our competitors are doing.”

The pressure is clearly on Williams and her management team to deliver, with leading pundits including Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle suggesting it was time for change at the top if things didn’t improve soon.

“I would ask Claire to move upstairs into a more presidential role,” Brundle told Motor Sport Magazine. “Get in somebody like [McLaren boss] Andreas Seidl and give them full autonomy.

“F1 success is all about tomorrow, not yesterday,” he warned.

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Williams: We had to hit rock bottom to move forward

Claire Williams believes that it was necessary for Williams to hit rock bottom in 2019, but says they can’t let it happen again.

The British team endured one of their worst seasons ever, finishing bottom of the standings with just one point courtesy of Robert Kubica and a car way off the rest of the field.

The deputy team principal, however, feels that their monumental struggles may prove to be a blessing in the long run.

“You’ve got to sometimes hit rock bottom to know what your issues are because otherwise you just… sometimes you just go through these situations and you can get to where you need to get to by the skin of your teeth,” Williams said to Autosport.com

“But you actually need to understand what’s going on in your system to make sure that you’re not just getting somewhere by the skin of your teeth and you’ve got to have a plan and a proper process.”

It was clear that the team was going to have a difficult season before it even started as they missed out on a huge portion of the pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Williams took positives from it though, praising the manner in which her staff responded to such a situation.

“I would say that the team responded really well to that because it can be quite difficult for people to be very open and honest in those situations, but we encouraged honesty within it,” she added.

“In any situation like that it can always be difficult for people to put their hands up and be honest and open.

“But our team was incredibly receptive to the process that we asked them to go through, which allowed us to put in place a load of plans in order to address the areas of weakness that were causing the issues in the first place.”

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Williams insists 'two difficult years don’t define a team'

After a dismal couple of seasons, it looks like Williams has an almost insurmountable task ahead of it if it’s to become a major player in Formula 1 again in the future.

Williams recently celebrated 40 years as an independent constructor in the sport. It has been behind seven successful driver championship campaigns, and won nine team titles between 1980 and 1997.

But after finishing fifth in the constructors championship as recently as 2016 and 2017, the last two seasons have seen the team firmly mired at the bottom of the standings and was only to claim a single championship point in 2019.

“We have had two difficult years,” deputy team principal Claire Williams admitted to RACER magazine. “But two difficult years doesn’t define a team.”

She insisted that the team’s fortunes would soon begin to bounce back.

“What I’ve seen in this team this year is an extraordinary level of resilience and tenacity, also a willingness to put in the hard work to turn things around.”

“I’ve always said that work is never going to be the work of a moment,” she continued. “It takes time.

“But we have undergone considerable transformation in the team in the past 14 months, and we are seeing the dividends of that work starting to pay off now.”

One bright spot for the team has been the performance of rookie driver George Russell. Although he wasn’t able to finish in the top ten in his maiden season, Williams still declared that she had “been blown away by George” in 2019.

Russell remains with the team next year, where he will now be partnered by Nicholas Latifi following the departure of Robert Kubica from the driver line-up.

Now it’s up to the team to develop and deliver a car over the off-season that will allow them to show what they can do in race trim when F1 resumes in Melbourne in March.

“We have to make sure we give George and Nicholas a car in which they can display their capabilities,” Williams acknowledged. “That’s what we’re all working towards back at the factory.”

Crucially, the team needs to avoid a repeat of the disastrous situation at the star of this year when the FW42 wasn’t ready to take part in the opening days of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

“We have targets for next year, as does every team up and down the paddock,” Williams said. We are pleased, and comfortable with those targets, and where we are at the moment.

“But it’s always a challenge for any team to meet the targets that it sets,” she admitted. “It’s a challenge to get the cars ready for testing.

“But we have to get it right next year, and I believe that the FW43 — next year’s chassis — will be an improvement upon this year’s.”

Williams can take some comfort from the revival of another famous British marque. McLaren slumped to ninth place – last-but-one – in the 2017 championship during their disastrous engine partnership with Honda.

But the following year they improved to sixth, and in 2019 they clinched ‘best of the rest’ status in fourth place behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

A similar renaissance would be sorely welcome to all at Grove. The team hasn’t been on the podium since Lance Stroll finished in third place in Baku in 2017, and not won since Pastor Maldonado’s unlikely victory in Spain in 2012.

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Claire Williams has been 'blown away' by George Russell

He spent his year racing at the rear, but George Russell’s performances made quite an impression on Claire Williams who admits to having been “blown away” by the rookie.

Russell’s maiden campaign in F1 was undermined at the outset, weighed down by the design flaws and depressed performance of Williams FW42 contender.

In the face of a challenging season, the 21-year-old from King’s Lynn relentlessly put his head down to focus on learning his trade and outperforming his teammate Robert Kubica, his only suitable reference of comparison.

Russell whitewashed the Pole 21-0 in qualifying, but Kubica wasn’t the only one to be blown away by the Mercedes protégé.

“I’ve been blown away by George,” Claire Williams told Motorsport.com.

“Unless you are inside this team you don’t really know how hard it has been.

“George understood what he was coming into and he could see it himself, but we very clearly warned him what it was going to be like.

“And from the get go he has really behaved in a way that you could say is exemplary because it’s been tough for him, not having a car that he would like to have.

“He’ s one of those drivers that when he does have a [competitive] car, he’s going to really light things up.”

Williams revealed that Russell’s performances produced a sense of excitement within her team that reminded her of a man who wrote some of the greatest pages in Williams’ history.

“We see him on a Saturday in qualifying – and people might not focus on what George Russell does because he’s in a Williams at the back – but he gets in that car, and the boys gather around the TV screens and they’re excited about watching him,” she said.

“It’s a bit like Nigel [Mansell], he just extracts everything that he possibly can and yes it might be a second off getting into Q2 but he’s still banging in some pretty impressive laps.

“Everyone knows and loves George because of the personality that he is. I can’t speak highly enough of him and him.

“I am enormously grateful to George because he has very quickly understood the role that he can play in keeping team morale up empty space.

“Yes, he has the occasional moan like we all do, but he has held his head high and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do.

“But he’s also gone above and beyond that and really played a huge part in maintaining morale in this team and leading it in that sense.”

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Williams' new design approach validated by 'fantastic correlation'

Williams has undeniably lifted its performance recently, a progress deputy team principal Claire Williams attributes to the new direction followed by the team’s aero department.

The start to Williams’ 2019 campaign was a story of missed deadlines, limited testing and deficient engineering.

At the outset, rookie George Russell and F1 returnee Robert Kubica made up the rear, racing in isolation among themselves on Sundays, weighed down by their painfully slow and inferior FW42.

Back at Grove, Williams’ engineers hunkered down to follow a slow and fastidious analysis and rehabilitation process of the team’s car, painstakingly addressing both its mechanical and aerodynamic weaknesses.

“There have been a lot of mechanical upgrades or improvements, etc – work that’s been going on that you may not necessarily have seen – that has really helped stabilise the car and give the drivers greater confidence,” Williams explained, speaking to Formula1.com.

“A lot of work has gone into some of those components. But then obviously we needed to focus on aero performance as well because that’s where we were really down after the winter.

“But through putting in this new approach that we did last year, we always knew that was going to take some time to come to fruition.”

Updates introduced at Silverstone, while they didn’t yield an immediate performance boost, delivered a dose of confidence to Williams for the validation they conveyed.

“I think the bargeboard probably showed us that the direction that the aero group are taking is the right one – we’ve been waiting quite a long time to see whether it is,” added Williams.

“We have fantastic correlation between the track and the tunnel.

“The work that the aero group have done on rakes for example, on simulation work – the direction they’ve taken in that work alone – has really helped move the dial forward for us from an aero perspective.”

And that move forward was tangible in Hungary where Russell missed out on Q2 in qualifying by the smallest of margins. Was this moment Williams’ long-awaited turning point?

“I think George has explained it as taking five steps back to move 10 steps forward,” said Williams, referring to the team’s strenuous aero development work.

“It definitely feels like that and it has been a long wait to be able to see it, but we knew we were going to have to wait if we were going to see the benefit.

“You can get a bit lost in a loop sometimes in aero, so it was a case of taking those steps back and now I think we’re definitely seeing that we can move forward, hopefully quickly.

“It certainly feels that we are in a much better position than we’ve been and it’s now just about continuing that development path that we’re on and hoping we can continue to close down the gap to P9.”

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