To all intents and purposes, Williams have been the surprise package of 2014. The team’s ability to continue developing the FW36 beyond the start of the season has took many onlookers aback, and leaves the British team 4th in the constructors during the current summer break.
Beyond a strong car comes a strong driver line-up of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, but it’s the latter who has impressed the most with three podiums, five top five finishes, and not a single race completed finishing out of the top ten, with retirement in Monaco the only real blot in his copybook. Nevertheless, like vultures, are any of the big four, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull about to swoop?
Certainly, the latest rumours have linked the Finn with McLaren and Mercedes most strongly, with the former doing little to hide the fact that it desires a superstar name in its car, something that Bottas is well on his way to establishing himself as in 2014. Massa, meanwhile, while once being such a big name circa-2008, looks settled and comfortable in his new surroundings after a torturous last few seasons with Ferrari. Perhaps it’s the Martinis?.
So IF Bottas was to move, who’s there to fill his boots?
God forbid it be Felipe Nasr, Williams Test Driver and current GP2 frontrunner. Just imagine that; Felipe & Felipe, Nasr & Massa- a Martin Brundle nightmare. Nonetheless, Nasr is well placed to make the step up to F1 in 2015, but whether a natural step into a race seat for Sir Frank is on the cards depends on whether Bottas can be lured away from a lengthy contract and, as it stands, a competitive car. After all, McLaren aren’t setting the world alight currently, and Mercedes look unlikely to rid themselves of Lewis Hamilton any time soon.
The other name connected with Williams has been Jenson Button, perhaps with a view to Bottas going the other way for 2016. However, with Honda rejoining McLaren as engine supplier for 2015, and having worked with Button as recently as 2008, the Japanese marque may well favour a contract renewal for a seasoned veteran rather than take a chance on a promising young talent.
Any return to Williams would be fitting for JB, with the 2009 World Champion ‘coming home’ to the team that gave him his break in Formula One a whole 14 years ago. Doesn’t time fly?