HAVE WILLIAMS GOT IT WRONG?
It was a quiet winter in Formula 1, with Williams’ driver choice the only major story. Since the team came out of hibernation, Claire Williams has been busy defending the choice of Sergey Sirotkin over Robert Kubica, saying they believe the Russian will surprise [see Sirotkin feature, page 76]. But privately the team know that having two ‘pay drivers’ does not look good.
Much was made of the fact that Sirotkin was chosen after impressing in the post-season test in Abu Dhabi. At Yas Marina, Kubica’s struggles in getting the tyres to work for one qualifying-style lap gave Williams cold feet over their original plan to sign him for a fairytale return from the rally accident that curtailed his career in 2011.
Abu Dhabi is a notoriously difficult track for tyres. Its lack of abrasiveness makes it hard to generate the core temperature needed to make them work at their best. This is what Kubica struggled with.
He assured the team he would get on top of it by the start of the season, but the engineers felt they could not afford to take the risk. So a penny for private thoughts at Williams when on day two of testing Kubica was 0.3secs quicker.
Was it impossible to make a comparison because they were on different programmes? Or was Kubica just that much quicker?
Barcelona has long corners which work the tyres hard – even allowing for the new surface that is smoother and has reduced degradation and the cold temperatures at that test. Generating core temperature is not usually an issue at this circuit. So was this actually the true comparative pace of the drivers, not disguised by the vagaries of one unusual track?
It’s way too early to say that. Insiders say Kubica did well in his brief outing at Barcelona, but not noticeably better than Sirotkin or Stroll. However, it raises another question: what happens if it emerges over the course of Kubica’s testing this year – some pre-season, some in-season, and three Friday practice sessions – that he actually is faster than both the race drivers?
Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe was asked exactly that question not long after Kubica set that time on the second day of pre-season testing.
Lowe paused. For 13 seconds. Before saying: “There is no answer to that question.”
“INSIDERS SAY KUBICA DID WELL IN HIS BRIEF OUTING AT BARCELONA, BUT NOT NOTICEABLY BETTER THAN SIROTKIN OR STROLL
The relative pace of Sirotkin and Kubica during Barcelona testing threw up fresh doubts over Williams’ choice