Pre-season tests can often lead to fear of a crisis. When a car does not work or proves unreliable, questions begin to be asked. And quickly.
This is partly due to the fact that so many things are hidden and kept secret, teams trying not to show their hands. With a lack of knowledge of the situation as a whole, a situation may seem worse than it really is. Or it may seem better …
In recent seasons, McLaren had to cope with a difficult situation in Barcelona, not only with Honda but also with Renault's installation problems a year ago.
This time, Williams is in the limelight and was already before the car was seen.
At the launch of the team livery in 2019 a little over a week ago, there was no mention of the date on which the car itself would be unveiled. Then came the confirmation that the FW42 would not work on a day of shooting scheduled for Saturday, before the much more disturbing announcement on the eve of the first test session of that day featured Williams.
It was bad enough, but even the understatement and over-delivery approach failed because Monday's run was quickly postponed to include Tuesday and most of Wednesday.
This sounds like a situation that is not well managed, given the constant delay of delays, bad news after bad news. Either there was a real lack of knowledge about when the car would be ready, or someone did not tell the whole story internally. Whatever the case may be, these are disturbing messages.
As a result, the knives were sharpened within the team and Paddy Lowe's name continued to resemble.
Williams knew a delay was likely several weeks ago, but the warnings did not turn into corrective action. Whether it's really the case or not, Lowe's record is not good.
Since arriving at Mercedes, Lowe has had no real impact on the 2017 car that finished fifth in the constructors' championship, but last year was certainly marked by his contributions. It would be silly to suggest to Lowe to put everything he wanted after less than 12 months, but the FW41 was a step backwards.
In an interview that I had with him in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year, Lowe acknowledged his weaknesses by thinking that he could have a more immediate impact at Grove, S & # 39; waiting for that there are quick fixes that he could implement after his stint with the dominant team of the turbo V6 era.
With these lessons learned, the FW42 was supposed to be the car on which Lowe really marked his authority. But so far, all that has happened is that the car has missed more than 25% of the tests and that it has fallen far behind. He is the technical manager after all.
Williams was clearly relieved to see the car roll on the track on Wednesday afternoon and, despite the team's heavy workload to make up for lost time, the concentration on the track is probably a welcome distraction for Lowe as well, after a few minutes. some of the rhetoric that came from the team's assistant director, Claire Williams, when only one installation tour had been performed.
"We are not just disappointed; It's embarrassing not to bring a race car on a track when everyone has managed to do it, especially a team like ours who has had a race car tested in the last 40 years. " said Williams.
Inevitably, she was pushed on Lowe and the troubles coming from the team. Significantly, when asked if the Technical Manager position was involved, Williams did not defend much of his defense.
"I read a lot of speculation about his position. For now, everything I focus on and the team must also focus on making sure the car is in the right place. "
Hardly something that will help Lowe sleep at night.
It must be said that Lowe still has no right to reply, but a press session initially scheduled for the CTO had been delayed by a week, the car not working properly. Clearly, there were a lot of questions to answer, so if it was a change to Lowe's request, he was letting the opportunity to provide the defense that his boss had not chosen.
Although the delay of the car is one thing, the fears that it turns out to be slow too have also been expressed. Given McLaren's history of Lowe, then Mercedes, it would be a little surprising that he had made so much trouble twice at Williams, and at the very least, a more stable, more driving car would be an improvement over compared to last year. A stable base to develop is the minimum required.
The problem is that, even though many questions remain unanswered, Williams clearly has no stable base on which to work.
If the car turns out to be late, the current competitiveness of the network – where the other nine teams probably all have the ambition of being in the third quarter in Melbourne – means that any Williams default will become more and more targeted. This is not a time when there is a Caterham, a Marussia or a Hispania – with the utmost respect for these teams – to mitigate the shock and keep the most established teams on the last row.
Ensuring that the car is competitive is already a major headache – and no team wants to be dealt with in February – but address the reasons for a situation that threatens to further damage the reputation of the company. The team is an even bigger problem.