A historic team like Williams should always have a manufacturer status and in 2017 they missed a big chance with Honda.
The Grove outfit had a mixed season with Felipe Massa returning from the shortest retirement in history and the new boy Lance Stroll making his debut in F1. The FW40 proved to be a difficult car to master, especially in some tracks. The lack of succesfull upgrades continued in 2017 and Williams had to fight hard for the 5th place in the constructors championship.
As far as being realistic now, Williams has always been a very optimistic team and being a privateer customer team has not always been the case. It is true that after the BMW split, the results haven’t been the same since and with only one win –Maldonado in Spain 2012- since Juan Pablo Montoya back in Brazil 2004, the problem is obvious. Williams is in Top 3 of the most successful teams in the sport and what the team needs is a work status. And Honda was the perfect match and the chance now has disappeared.
First of all, what Williams needs is money, and Honda would have invested a big amount. Perhaps not as much as they had with McLaren, but the facilities and the work force in Grove is as big as the Woking outfit or even Renault. A money deal and a technical partnership with Honda would have helped the team, not in 2018 but beyond that. They would not have to worry about the prize money, because a transitional year is always tough for anyone.
Furthermore, now with Paddy Lowe in charge, the concept of the FW41 will be significant different from the FW40. And with Stroll in year number 2 in the sport and one other driver (Kubica, Sirotkin or whomever), you expect a lot of things from the team. You expect them to beat Force India and with Mercedes power to challenge McLaren or Renault. But you’ll never expect Williams to win and we all have to ask ourselves if this historic team deserves to fight for the top spots or the midfield.
With Honda, the 2018 season would not be as good as with a Merc engine. But inside your head you expect Honda to find their way and be competitive in the future. A teams such as Williams and a manufacturer such as Honda would be a great collaboration yet again after so many years.
But it won’t happen and I would really like to know why Williams did not approach Honda after the McLaren divorce to be a works team yet again. The chances of winning are much higher and a long term commitment from Honda would also be good for the sport.
Just imagine if Red Bull goes with Honda in 2019 because at the moment it’s their only option for PU supplier and be as competitive as their rivals. That would be a huge blow for Williams, simple because a works status is better than a customer one.