HAVE WIL­LIAMS GOT IT WRONG?

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

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

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