The freshly-retired Massa made a few comments recently where he suggested that Williams’ decision to go with a couple of pay drivers is a big part of the reason why the team isn’t doing very well this year. Although the team says it’s happy with the job both Stroll and Sirotkin are doing and Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe says the car is not “performing correctly”, not having an established driver as a baseline does make it difficult to judge.
Massa’s comments have unsurprisingly struck a nerve with the drivers. Stroll was especially riled, saying:
“I don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Well first off, Felipe is not here, he’s gone, he’s retired. And, yeah, last time I checked I finished one position behind Felipe. And not really using Felipe as a reference, but using myself as a reference. I look at where I was at stages last year when the car could do it, in China I was in Q3, in other races I was, many races I was scoring points. So it’s not like I know I can’t do it, or that it’s not possible.
“It’s purely at the moment the problem is that with a really competitive and good race, we are P14, P13. And last year we were comfortably in the points many times. So that’s how I look at it.”
Whereas Stroll sounds a bit angry, Sirotkin almost seems saddened and dejected by the current situation. He said:
“I don’t pay much attention to comments, but obviously it’s not very pleasant. Everybody’s asking about a lack of experience, about bad feedback and so on, but during my career I’ve realised that the number of seasons you’ve raced doesn’t directly make your feedback better and make you understand the car better. It doesn’t mean that at all. Because I’ve seen all kinds of examples.
“In terms of the way we are working, in terms of the way I’m providing the team with the feedback, I don’t think there is really more I could do. It doesn’t matter what experience you have, all that matters is how quickly and how concrete you are with the feedback you are giving back to the engineers.”
Well, there you go. As a proper rookie it’s difficult to judge anything by what Sirotkin is doing, but Stroll makes things trickier. It’s true that he was close to Massa in the championship last year and had some very strong performances, but on other occasions he was so far off of Felipe’s pace (especially in qualifying) it was like they were in a different team. Is it the same this year, or has he found a way to perform consistently? We’ll probably never know. Not until Robert Kubica gets a bit of FP1 running, anyway…