As appetising as the incentive must have been in return for Mercedes taking Valtteri Bottas off its books at the eleventh hour, Williams finds itself in a precarious situation, with its roster boasting a fleetingly retired driver and a teen whose presence is bankrolled at the hand of his father’s considerable wealth.
And the Grove outfit continues in its customer power unit capacity – while supplied by the aforementioned German marque, this status can only take the former heavyweights so far.
Which begs the question, exactly what can be expected from the operation commemorating its fortieth anniversary on the grid in 2017?
Notwithstanding the notion perpetuated in the Coen brothers’ film ‘Burn After Reading’, that “appearances can be deceptive”, the FW40 – skipping a prefix in a nod to the occasion, which surfaced via computer generated rendering last week, lends itself to a conservative approach in line with the new aerodynamic regulations.
The imminent arrival of Paddy Lowe from his short though ultra-successful tenure at Brackley is an undeniable coup, though his effect won’t be realised until he’s gauged the situation in coming months.
His intellectual property, fresh from the Silver Arrows without having served a lengthy spell on ‘gardening leave’, is negated by the clean slate which is faced by all outfits, not least those with finite resources at its disposal – any non-manufacturer concern.
Felipe Massa extricated the team from a bind upon the Finn’s abrupt departure, yet the Brazilian’s short-lived retirement owed as much to his intimate knowledge of the outfit’s inner workings and representing a capable set of hands, as appeasing sponsors and the individual lining up alongside him this season.
Irrespective of whether the 35-year old was content to hang up his helmet, there are no guarantees that the eleven-time victor will be attuned to the task at hand.
An ostensible placeholder until an uncontracted talent enters the market at the conclusion of the season, coupled with sating Martini’s desire for a mature driver, Massa’s stay of execution, an elongated farewell tour, offers credence to the philosophy that Williams is treating 2017 as a transitional campaign.
Lance Stroll’s elevation, in tandem with an unknown formula, leaves the Canadian susceptible to a steep learning curve.
Even so, it might prove beneficial to the 18-year old that expectations aren’t high as he learns the ropes.
Despite the sentiment that his father’s fortune earned him a berth, he has displayed the pedigree – notably claiming last season’s European Formula 3 title, which suggests that he’s a long-term proposition and both parties must be prepared to endure a patient interim to reap the rewards.
A primary undertaking for the outfit off-track – especially once Lowe has integrated himself, is securing works supply status, even if they must remain under the customer umbrella in the foreseeable future.
Its previous foray, in collaboration with BMW in the 2000s, possessed much scope, though the latter’s desire to earn recognition through its own effort set the Grove outfit on a trajectory from which they haven’t reached similar heights.
While it would be presumptuous to write off Williams’ prospects for the upcoming season, it would be unreasonable to expect too much, too soon.
Despite the campaign’s significance, designs on recreating the halcyon days of the 1990’s remain a pipe dream.
They might experience an indifferent, frustrating, anonymous year ahead, yet there’s no reason why a brighter future cannot appear on the horizon if the right cards are played.