The Inside Line #128: Defining progress

TILI Logo PrintSo what are we to make of Williams’ 2015 season? In the standings, it seems like a solid enough campaign, a repeat of the third place that received so much positive press this time last year after the team’s first double podium for nine years in Abu Dhabi. But dig a little deeper, and it becomes harder to gauge.

After a season that featured 320 points and nine podiums a year ago, Williams has 253 points and just four top-three finishes between Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa this year. Part of that is because there are few podiums available for anyone not driving a Mercedes this year; another 1-2 finish in Abu Dhabi will set a record for world championship points for a Silver Arrows team that just seems to get better and better. And what makes it even harder to assess is that Ferrari has left Williams behind this year, while Red Bull has, remarkably, become an afterthought. It feels like a team finishing third in the constructors’ race should be challenging for occasional wins and fighting harder with the team in front of it, but how often has Sebastian Vettel had many problems with a Williams this year? The Ferrari driven by Kimi Raikkonen is, of course (and again), another matter.

Speaking of Kimi, his drive to fourth in the most recent race at Interlagos – where he finished 33 seconds behind Vettel in the same car – wasn’t all that exciting, according to the man himself. “Boring”, he called it. He was right on that front – the Brazilian GP will go down as one of the most dire spectacles of the season, made even more tedious by the 3am start time for much of Australia – but perhaps Kimi could have raised his heart rate a touch by, you know, driving a tad faster? With one race to go, he’s scored more than half – but only just – of Vettel’s points tally this year. A season after scoring barely one-third of the points of then-teammate Fernando Alonso. That’s progress for you. And he gets to stay on next year. Good, good times.

The processional race at Interlagos doesn’t bode well for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at a circuit aptly described by Mark Webber as akin to a Tesco’s car park, and where memorable races are, well, hard to remember. Sure, 2010 was tense before it started with four drivers still in the title fight (and will be forever remembered by this writer as a turning point in his career), and last year had the all-Mercedes battle to settle as double points hung uncomfortably overhead, threatening to ruin everything. The question will be whether Mercedes can score the 43 points they need to set a new teams’ title benchmark. To answer one question with another, who or what stops them?

A preview of the final race of the year features on Episode 128 of ‘The Inside Line’ – check it out. And for a serious read on a light-hearted moment that highlighted the good and bad of F1 in equal measure, check out this analysis by Jonny Noble, one of the best in the business.

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