Judging the pace of its regular drivers’ pre-season test against that of its reserve driver would be incorrect and unfair, says Williams Formula 1 deputy team principal Claire Williams.
Kubica was the favourite to win the second racing seat at the British team until Sergey Sirotkin joined the tyre testing campaign. The Russian’s pace and a hefty financial contribution saw him get the last race seat of the season, while the Polish driver had to settle for a reserve and development role.
Kubica and Sirotkin both drove the new FW41 on the second day of the first round of testing and then he split the duties with Lance Stroll on the third day of the second week.
On both occasions, the Polish driver’s pace was better than the regular drivers. Kubica was three-tenths faster than the Russian and six tenth better than Stroll. He also had the best laptime in the FW41, which Sirotkin narrowly overcame on the final testing day.
When asked for comments on the team’s laptime at Barcelona, Williams said: “I think it probably says that it’s been a very challenging test schedule, not least because of the weather. “People may go out and they may do a run on a soft tyre in perfect conditions and then the other drivers may not have that opportunity because the weather might not be so great, or we’ve chosen to go for a different set-up direction that isn’t necessarily the optimum one.
“So I don’t think you can necessarily judge, not to that level of detail.”
At the post-season testing in Abu Dhabi, Williams ran both Kubica and Sirotkin back-to-back in “an extensive evaluation, probably the most exhaustive we’ve ever done, when it comes to considering our driver line-up”.
Explaining their pre-season test results, Williams said: “I think you can look at the timesheet and go ‘wow, Mercedes are at the top’. That’s probably about right.
“But I think when you are looking and trying to compare drivers, within one team during a test session, while you don’t actually know yourself the programme that the engineers are running and if you don’t take into account the weather conditions right there and then when they are doing their [fastest] lap…
“I think it’s very difficult to sit there and to say: ‘Have Williams potentially made the wrong decision because the reserve driver has set the fastest lap?’
“No, I don’t think that that’s right. ”