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The Alexander Albon Case: A Wasted Potential

Article dedicated to the reader Lucilene Mota, who asked for an analysis of Alexander Albon. Special thanks to Adriana Perantoni for the sources of Noemí de Miguel and the information about Antonio Pérez.

 

On December 18th, 2020, Red Bull Racing announced Sergio Pérez to race alongside Max Verstappen in 2021. Therefore, the British-Thai driver Alexander Albon got relegated to a reserve driver. Some controversies follow the circumstances of this situation at Red Bull. Some examples are their inability in making a car as good as Verstappenthe exit of Pérez from Racing Point after Sebastian Vettel acquired shares of its future owner, and Albon’s hiring in the middle of the 2019 season to replace Pierre Gasly (what generated a big hope over the new driver);

It notes that Red Bull is impatient to become the new challenger of Mercedes, given the fall in Ferrari’s performance and the rise of Racing Point in 2020. Aware of Verstappen’s ability, who conquered the team’s first wins since 2014, the Austrian team was looking for a teammate who could follow the Dutchman’s speed after the exit of Daniel Ricciardo for Renault with the end of the 2018 season. Albon ended up being a victim of this haste and having a humiliating exit from the constructor’s championship runner-up. This article will explain how it happened and why there was a big injustice with the athlete.

 

1- The 2019 season: the opportunity to shine

 

As explained earlier, Daniel Ricciardo’s departure led Red Bull to look for another talent to race alongside Max Verstappen. The duo had achieved excellent results from 2016 to 2018, which allowed the team to be runner-up and then third place (for two consecutive years) in the constructors’ championship. Replacing a driver who guaranteed victories and podiums for the team would not be easy, but Red Bull had a young name in mind: Pierre Gasly.

 

Pierre Gasly takes fourth place in the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo: Sky Sports) [1]

 

The French driver had excelled in Toro Rosso, having his best result so far, the fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2018. They believed that if Gasly could reach such a high position in a car considered average, he would succeed in getting at least podiums in a top team. However, his performance in the first year with Red Bull was below expectations. While Verstappen was an almost constant presence on the podium, Gasly was behind Ferrari drivers (Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc). Not being able to take advantage of the Italian team’s crisis (whose tension between the drivers was aggravating), the Frenchman got fewer points for Red Bull, which lost the chance to win the runners-up championship.

Unhappy with Gasly and Verstappen’s mismatch, consultant Helmut Marko convinced Red Bull officials to replace the Dutchman’s teammate. From the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix onwards, Alexander Albon would take the seat. It was too late for Red Bull to recover the loss, but they saw the new driver as a long-term investment (if he performed well, he would remain on the team the following year). Albon had commendable performances, as in the Russian Grand Prix (in which he started from the pits and finished in fifth place) and in Brazil (having a chance to get the first podium, but was reached by Lewis Hamilton with a few laps to go). Albon finished the championship in eighth place, with 92 points. Considering that he spent the first half of the season at Toro Rosso and only then went to a top team, the result is impressive. For this reason, he was elected by the Autosports Awards as the “Rookie of the Year” in 2019.

 

Alexander Albon being awarded the “Rookie of the Year” award in 2019. (Photo: FIA) [2]

 

2- 2020: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

This phrase from Uncle Ben, from “Spider-Man,” sums up the pressure that fell on Alexander Albon in his second season with Red Bull. The driver started the year well, having one more chance to get his first podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. An unfortunate coincidence prevented him from winning: again, a collision with Lewis Hamilton. In the following races, Albon reached the scoring zone, but in places much lower than Max Verstappen’s. The situation was soon similar to that of Pierre Gasly in 2019, but Helmut Marko chose not to fire the Thai in a hurry.

Two factors prevented immediate action by Red Bull. First, the second layoff in two consecutive years without the championship ending would put the team’s reputation in check. The switch from Gasly to Albon no longer seemed as justified in 2020 as it was in 2019, and taking out the Thai was in danger of resulting in yet another unsatisfactory replacement. Soon, Marko would be classified as “impetuous.” Second, AlphaTauri did not have the appropriate names to take Albon’s place. Bringing Gasly back would be “humiliating” for Red Bull (who would have to admit he “made a mistake” with the Frenchman), and Daniil Kvyat already had a ticket by the Austrian team, being fired at the beginning of the 2016 season and replaced by Verstappen. The switch from the Russian to the Dutch driver was the most assertive of Red Bull in recent years in the short, medium, and long term, which did not repeat with the following changes (this is because Verstappen is a separate case).

Helmut Marko (left) and Max Verstappen (right). (Photo: XPB) [3]

 

In the first half of 2020, Albon faced difficulties in training on Friday and Saturday, starting from intermediate places on the grid, which is not expected for a top team driver. Only in the Tuscan Grand Prix, a race marked by accidents that led almost half of the grid to abandon, the Thai got his well-deserved first podium after winning a duel with Daniel Ricciardo for third place. He repeated the result only at the Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Sergio Pérez’s car engine ignited the rear of the vehicle and forced the Mexican to abandon. Despite the podiums, Albon was nowhere near what Ricciardo had been for Red Bull, and Gasly’s victory in the Italian Grand Prix only added to the team’s embarrassment.

Pierre Gasly’s win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. (Photo: Matteo Bazzi/AP) [4]

 

The similarity between Albon’s performance in 2020 and Gasly’s in 2019 was just one ingredient in the change of drivers from Red Bull to 2021. Another reason is in the context of another team.

 

3- Changes in Racing Point: Sergio Pérez enters the game

 

In 2020 Racing Point started a landmark chapter in its history. The previous season served as a test for the team’s new plans, bought in the second half of 2018 by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll after the Force India bankruptcy. Deciding to join the group of top teams, the English team had impressive results thanks to the joint work of the engineering department and its team of drivers, formed by Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez.

For 2021, the team sought even more investments to continue its triumphant path. One of the agreements reached was with the French company Aston Martin, which will give its name to the team. Everything seemed to go as it was, but now with improvements approaching, a turnaround happened: Ferrari fired Sebastian Vettel for his disappointing performances, and months later, Racing Point announced him as its driver for 2021. His signing would not have been so controversial if were it not for the confusion of information reported to the press: Racing Point oscillated between denial and interest in Vettel, and the narratives of Pérez and the team leader, Otmar Sznafnauer, about whether the Mexican had previously been warned of the situation conflicted with each other. Journalist Adam Cooper later revealed the truth, reporting that Vettel had bought shares in Aston Martin, thereby securing a seat on the team (to better understand this case, read the article by Ricardo Hernandes Meyer here).

 

Otmar Sznafnauer, Racing Point’s team boss (left), and Sebastian Vettel (right). (Photo: XPB) [5]

 

They note Pérez is one of the most consistent drivers in Formula One. He has podiums under challenging races, as in the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The journalist Noemí de Miguel, who reported first hand that Renault was negotiating the signing Fernando Alonso for 2021 (confirmed months later), stated that Red Bull planned to bring Pérez to be Max Verstappen’s teammate. One of the signs of this negotiation was when Antonio Pérez, the driver’s brother, started to follow Red Bull’s profile on Twitter. However, both “Checo” and the Austrian team preferred to keep the talks a secret (perhaps not to affect Albon’s results) and only announced the decision after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

 

Among the profiles Antonio Pérez, Sergio’s brother, follows on Twitter por Antonio Pérez, is Red Bull’s. (Photo: Twitter) [6]

 

We can see that Racing Point’s and Ferrari’s actions also impacted Red Bull, mainly in Albon’s fate. The expectation was that Vettel would have a gap year to reflect on his mistakes and rethink his career, just as it did with Esteban Ocon. However, the German had a master’s strategy: buying shares in the owner company guarantees a place. Indeed the press will not emphasize this because it prefers to generate controversies over Stroll, which has nothing to do with the story (the reason is implicit). Pérez’s need for a seat and Red Bull’s desire to replace Albon without being like what happened to Pierre Gasly led to the Mexican’s hiring and, consequently, the Thai’s replacement.

 

4- Helmut Marko’s haste: the sacrifice of young Red Bull talents

 

The Red Bull consultant had previously told the press that “none of the young people on the team’s training program come close to Max Verstappen.” Such a statement is harmful to athletes, who feel their work devalued. Sport is indeed an area that demands pressure to result in achievements, but this comparison hinders young drivers’ self-confidence and frustrates the team’s plans. Also, Marko seems to put too much pressure on the athletes and not to do the same with the engineering department, unable to produce a car up to Verstappen’s potential despite allegedly working focused on the driver. Recalling that engineers are fundamental in the performance of a team in Formula One, as noted in Williams’s case.

Verstappen, as previously revealed, is an exceptional talent. As a teenager, he achieved victories, podiums, and records in a team that did not have the best car on the grid. It does not mean, however, that other drivers cannot be talented. Demanding a Verstappen clone from his students is an absurd attitude by Marko, as each person has their work style. Not even Max’s father, Jos Verstappen, had such brilliant career results as his son. If instead of demanding a second version of the Dutchman, Red Bull worked to develop both drivers’ potential, the team would have a better performance in the championships. But it seems that this team favors one athlete and wants the other, as observed in the first decade of 2010 with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

 

 

Marko even accused Albon of not having self-confidence. With a boss like this, it gets tricky. (Photo: GPBlog) [7]

 

Pierre Gasly’s victory in 2020 proved that each rider has his time to adapt and that excessive charges do not shape an athlete based on another just because the team’s board wishes. Unfortunately, while being an enemy of perfection, haste shows up as one of Marko’s values, which sacrifices Red Bull’s opportunities. The example of Racing Point, which preferred to “take it easy” in 2019 to rock out in 2020, demonstrates that caution should be the main ingredient of good planning, not anxiety.

Another essential point to note is the hiring of Yuki Tsunoda to race for AlphaTauri in 2021. As Daniil Kvyat is no longer able to satisfy the group, and Gasly does a great job, it is natural to fire the Russian to give the Japanese a chance. Although this means an impediment for Albon to return to AlphaTauri, Tsunoda should is not responsible for the Thai’s misfortune, as this is a new talent that will have a chance to present his work. As demonstrated earlier, the purchase of Vettel’s seat at Aston Martin influences Albon’s situation much more than the hiring of the Japanese driver.

 

5- Conclusions

 

Alexander Albon’s case only differs from that of Pierre Gasly in one point: the time Red Bull fired each of them. Both were victims of Helmut Marko’s haste and eagerness to have two riders with the performance of Max Verstappen, which places all the responsibility on young athletes. Both Albon and Gasly have proven their talent and deserve seats in Formula One but have suffered from the Austrian team’s conflict of interest, which wishes for triumph by choosing the wrong ways.

If Sebastian Vettel had not bought Aston Martin’s shares in his successful attempt to stay on track despite his impetuosity, perhaps Red Bull would have to keep Albon for longer. That’s because Racing Point would probably keep its drivers, as Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez have excellent dynamics as teammates and guarantee remarkable results in the races. As the Mexican is more experienced and then has a more extensive curriculum, he became the ideal candidate for Red Bull to continue its fight against Mercedes, besides satisfying the desire to fire a driver whose “mistake” was “not being” Verstappen.

 

This is how Red Bull thinks: Verstappen is above any driver. [8]

 

Although he said he never suffered racism in his personal or professional life, some fans and journalists remember a case that is at least suspect. At the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, the stewards decided to punish him for an incident with Carlos Sainz Jr., even though it was the Spaniard who threw the opponent off the track. That was one of the actions that led to suspects of racism on the stewards (the others were the unfair decisions with Stroll and Lewis Hamilton), which hurt the three colored drivers on the grid to benefit white athletes. Albon may not have noticed the “coincidences” in the Italian Grand Prix’s decisions, but these cannot be ignored. Also, when speculation began about his departure from Red Bull, much was said about a possible interest by the company’s owners in keeping him from being Thai. Sponsoring companies are indeed interested in compatriot athletes in their respective sports categories, but Albon should not be remembered just for his ethnic origins. His work and effort justified his presence in Formula One.

Alexander Albon is yet another driver condemned for his team’s irresponsibility even though he is innocent. A similar case was that of Sergey Sirotkin, who left Formula One with the stigma of a “pay driver” although he was not to blame for Williams’s crisis (which was proved in the following years to be by its engineers and managers). Those directly responsible for leaving the Red Bull driver are Vettel (for causing Pérez to quit Racing Point when he bought Aston Martin shares) and Marko (for demanding perfection from his drivers quickly). But what can we consider the “culprit” for Albon’s misfortune is Red Bull’s segregationist policy, which prefers to turn one driver into a prince (even though he doesn’t have the resources to do so) and the other into a beggar when he could turn them both into heroes. If they do not change their strategies, the Austrian team is in danger of going through a crisis similar to that of Ferrari, and other “Albons” will be sacrificed in the process.

 

In short. [9]

6- Read also:

 

 

7- Bibliography

 

 

8- Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article, except the montages, belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Nota de repúdio | Rejection motion

O The Racing Track repudia os recentes ataques da mídia e de torcedores rivais contra Lance Stroll e seu pai, o empresário Lawrence Stroll (relatados pelo próprio piloto), devido à decisão da Racing Point de correr em 2021 com Sebastian Vettel em vez de Sergio Pérez. O papel de um jornalista é noticiar os fatos e suas opiniões devem ser embasadas em informações concretas, não em boatos.

Devido às contradições no anúncio da saída de Pérez do time, Lawrence Stroll foi acusado mais uma vez de beneficiar o filho indevidamente. Fomos informados que alguns veículos de imprensa chegaram até a acusar o empresário de ser um “boa vida”. Tal afirmação está completamente equivocada, pois Stroll trabalhou duro para construir suas empresas e mantê-las em bom funcionamento. Um de seus sócios, Silas Chou, diz que o canadense tem um “toque de ouro” para os negócios. É desonesto afirmar que Stroll não era conhecido antes de seu filho entrar na Fórmula 1, pois esta visão ignora os setores que o empresário é reconhecido, como moda e empreendedorismo. Suas posses, como iates e jatos, são investimentos e frutos de seu trabalho, tornando inválido qualquer descontentamento de terceiros em relação a eles.

Lance Stroll não deve ser lembrado apenas como o filho do dono da Racing Point, pois o mesmo teve boas conquistas em seus poucos anos de carreira: no ano de estreia teve um pódio, uma largada da primeira fila e quebrou dois recordes, ganhando prêmios e reconhecimento da própria Fórmula 1, que chamou sua atuação de “histórica” (cheque aqui). Em 2020, está à frente de Pérez no campeonato. Se Stroll não tivesse talento para o automobilismo, não conseguiria boas pontuações mesmo com a ausência do companheiro devido à Covid-19.

A contratação de Sebastian Vettel pela escuderia foi devido a critérios financeiros. O time tem confiança de que o tetracampeão será um bom investimento (pois o mesmo comprou ações da Aston Martin). Vale lembrar que Sergio Pérez, embora seja um ótimo piloto, já tem 30 anos, uma idade considerada avançada para atletas. Em termos de negócios, é mais atrativo investir em um piloto jovem do que em um de 30 anos. Trata-se dos riscos de investimentos, que estão muito além de relações de amizade ou de parentesco.

Temos ciência de que a imprensa também tem seu papel crítico, e que as ações da Racing Point estavam sujeitas a isto. No entanto, nunca se deve omitir ou deturpar fatos em nome de uma narrativa. Lembramos que atitudes como esta podem refletir más intenções, como o assassinato de reputação e antissemitismo (já que um dos boatos que os judeus enfrentam há séculos é o de que eles controlam as finanças mundiais, e a imprensa não reagiu com a mesma intensidade à decisão da Sauber em 2018 de demitir Pascal Wehrlein em vez de Marcus Ericsson para contratar Charles Leclerc, mesmo Wehrlein tendo melhores resultados que Ericsson).

Nos solidarizamos com a família Stroll e esperamos que episódios lamentáveis como este não voltem a ocorrer.

The Fall of Williams: From Height To Ruins

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic that caused the cancellation and postponement of many races of 2020 season, two announcements alarmed the sports media. One of them was the dismissal of Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari. The other is related to the severe financial crisis that affects Williams. Champion in the past, the British team led by Claire Williams underwent many bad management periods that culminated in a potential bankruptcy. Amid so much speculation, we will unravel the reasons that brought Williams to the current situation.

 

1- Origins: from Lady Virginia’s love to the first crisis

 

Williams’s origins come from two loves: the one of Virginia Berry for Frank Williams and his for cars. Came from a humble family, Frank joined a group of wealthy friends who loved races. To earn some money, he worked buying and selling car parts. With this, he founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966 and entered the automobile market, selling cars to drivers from diverse countries, manly Italians. In the following year, he met Virginia, a wealthy but married woman. Both started a relationship and she got divorced from her husband to be with Frank. After participating in some Formula Three rounds, being known by his dangerous and risky way of drive, Frank turned Frank Williams Racing Cars in a Formula One team, having Piers Courage as the main driver.

 

Piers Courage, Frank Williams’ trusted driver. (Photo: nobresdogrid.com.br) [1]

 

However, in 1970, Courage died in a tragic accident at the Dutch Grand Prix. His death got Frank Williams very sad. In the following years, being renamed as Williams FW by 1973, the team’s performance fell drastically, being criticized by the press. Its cars were made with second-hand materials due to the team’s low budget. Virginia, with whom Frank officially married in 1974, made a lot of sacrifices to keep the team, including selling her apartment. However, as Williams family as the team experienced misery days. With poor structure, the cars did not reach good results, then Formula One paid a low amount of money to the team. Consequently, there were not many resources to invest in cars’ improvement. Deep in debt, Frank had no choices unless to accept the offer of oil magnate Walter Wolf and sell 60% of the team in 1976. At the end of that year, Wolf removed Frank from administration and bought his part, renaming the team as Walter Wolf Racing.

 

Walter Wolf: the first investor to resolve a Williams’ crisis. (Photo: reporter.si) [2]

 

2- Restart: Patrick Head and the new Williams

 

In 1977, Frank Williams signed with Belgian brewery Belle Vue, sponsor of driver Patrick Nève, and founded with Patrick Head the Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited. Engineer, Head was one of the responsible for the technological advance that allowed Williams’ rebirth. The teams’ first year was not very encouraging, ending the season without points. However, better times were coming.

In the following year, Alan Jones got Williams’ first podium, with a third-place at United States Grand Prix. Five round later, at Great Britain, his teammate Clay Regazzoni guaranteed the first victory of the team’s history. Jones was victorious in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and Canada and Regazzoni got podiums in Italy and Canada, ending both races in third place. Scoring 75 points, Williams became runner-up in the constructors’ championship, staying 38 behind first-place Ferrari.

 

Alan Jones: Williams’ first champion. (Photo: Motorsport) [3]

 

The ’80s marked Williams’ domain in Formula One. Having Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann in 1980, the team won for the first time as the drivers’ championship ad the constructors one. Jones was champion and Reutemann was third-place. In the following year, the team was again constructors champion, with its drivers scoring together 95 points (49 from Reutemann, runner-up, and 46 from Jones, third-place). In 1982, Keke Rosberg replaced Jones e became champion with 44 points. Getting six podiums, Rosberg was known as “one-victory champion”, as the only race he won that year was the Swiss Grand Prix, but his constancy in scoring guaranteed the title. Williams was fourth place in constructors’ championship, repeating the placement the following year when Jacques Laffite replaced Reutemann.

Ending sixth in 1984 and third 1985, Williams returned to win constructors championship in 1986, having Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet (two-time champion with Brabham in 1981 and 1983) as its drivers. Mansell ended the season as runner-up and Piquet was third-place. The following year, the Brazilian was champion and British was the runner-up. Williams conquered its fourth constructors’ championship. The team ended the decade with a seventh-place in 1988 and a second-place in 1989.

 

Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet: highlights in Williams’ golden age. (Photo: Esportes em Ação) [4]

 

3- Frank’s accident and the rise of Claire

 

On March 8th, 1986, Frank Williams suffered a severe car accident in France, becoming a quadriplegic. However, he kept active as the team’s director. The team repeated success in the ’90s, winning constructors championship in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997, and drivers championship in 1992 (with Nigel Mansell), 1993 (with Alain Prost), 1996 (with Damon Hill), and 1997 (with Jacques Villeneuve). In 1994, the team suffered a big loss: Ayrton Senna died in an accident at San Marino Grand Prix.

Father of Jonathan, Claire, and Jaime, Frank did not trust his children to rule the team, but his daughter always had an interest in the family business. Joining the communication department in 2002, Claire took the sector’s highest post eight years later. In 2012, Frank abdicated the function of team principal and Claire took office the following year, remaining until nowadays. She is also responsible for departments of marketing, communication, and the commercial business of Williams. Her brother Jonathan also works in the team. Ele played management roles until the rise of Claire.

 

Claire Williams: funders’ daughter and current team’s CEO. (Photo: Pinterest) [5]

 

4- The second crisis: Toto Wolff saves the team

 

At the beginning of the 2000s, Williams kept itself in a good position among the constructors, ending third-place in 2000 and 2001, and second-place in 2002 and 2003. After 2004, the team’s performance was going down, varying between fourth and eight-place until 2009. During this period, at least one driver left Williams by year. Among better-known names of the team in that decade stand out Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, and Nico Rosberg.

It was clear there was something wrong with the team. The agreements with engine suppliers Cosworth (2006) and Toyota (2007-2009) had not to yield good results. Earning less than in glory times, Williams had not enough resources to good upgrades in carr. However, in 2009, entrepreneur Toto Wolff bought some of the team’s shares and started to integrate its board of directors. It was the perfect opportunity to get out of the crisis.

 

Toto Wolff: Williams’ second savior. (Photo: EsporteNET) [6]

 

In 2010, deluded Toyota, Williams returned to use Cosworth engines, signing a long-term agreement. However, without good results, the  partnership ended the following year. In 2012, the team started to use Renault engines, but performance kept well below the expected. In that same year, Pastor Maldonado guaranteed the last Williams’ victory until nowadays, at Spanish Grand Prix. Toto Wolff was named executive director, and his wife Susie was hired as a test driver. Williams had the opportunity of having officially the first woman in Formula One since Desiré Wilson, who drove in 1980. However, internal barriers impeded the realization of this fact, as well as necessary changes in the engineering department. With this, Williams varied between sixth and ninth-place among the constructors between 2010 and 2013.

 

Pastor Maldonado’s win at 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, the last of Williams. (Photo: CarsNB.com) [7]

 

5- Wolff’s exit and third crisis: Lawrence Stroll saves the team

 

In 2013, seeing himself with tied hands, Toto Wolff sold his shares in Williams and joined Mercedes, buying 30% of the team’s shares. Claire Williams took office as team principal and management positions. In the following year began the German team’s domain in Formula One that remains until nowadays. In 2014 and 2015, counting with Mercedes engines, Williams got back to the constructors’ podium, ending third-place. However, the team’s financial administration still had problems. Risking to close after the 2016 season, which ended fifth-place, the team needed more investments. Among its drivers, Felipe Massa announced his retirement at the end of that year, Valtteri Bottas remained in the team.

Still, in 2016, garment entrepreneur Lawrence Stroll, father of that year European Formula Three champion Lance Stroll, announced he would invest in Williams. Lance replaced Massa. However, with Nico Rosberg’s retirement, Wolff called Bottas, his patronized, to replace him at Mercedes. To complete the transference, Frank Williams’ daughter required Paddy Lowe back to the team, and he took the engineering department. According to Massa’s reports, Claire phoned him at Christman to go back to the team to replace the Finnish driver.

 

Lance Stroll and his father Lawrence, Williams’s third savior. (Photo: F1Sport.it) [8]

 

In 2017, Williams had a medium start. Massa got reasonable scores and Stroll faced difficulties, with mechanical failures in the first race and accidents caused respectively by Sergio Pérez and Carlos Sainz Jr in the following ones. The media started to attack the Canadian driver, blaming him for the team’s problems. Even before the season starts, during tests in Barcelona, Claire dared to blame Stroll’s crashes for the cancelation of one of the teams’ tests, which incited furious supporters to attack the young driver at social networks in a coward, unfair way. Lowe always criticized him in the press. At the same time, the same media that was delighted with a woman as a team principal did not have the same reaction with the debut of an Amerindian driver at the category. However, at Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Stroll had the only podium of the team and Williams’ last until nowadays, with a third-place. With this result, the team jumped to the fifth-place of the championship, earning a better bonus than the previous year.

 

Lance Stroll’s podium at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Williams’s last one. (Photo: Formula 1) [9]

 

Unfortunately, Stroll’s contribution to the team was not properly recognized. In 2018, after Massa’s definitive retirement, Williams hired Sergey Sirotkin to replace him. Even with the entry of one more sponsor, Russian bank SMP, the engineering department did not know how to convert the investment in upgrades in the car. Consequently, both drivers had much difficulty in scoring. Exonerating the engineers of any guilt for the bad performance of the cars, media returned to attack Stroll. Some journalists ignored journalistic ethics (taught at college) and dared to use liable-to-prosecute-terms as “questionable talent drivers”, ignoring Stroll’s achievements in the previous year and championships precedent to his debut in Formula One, and disregarding Sirotkin’s lack of experience. Media simply “forgot” that who makes the cars are the engineers, not the drivers, the team’s budget comes from sponsors (so investors are always welcome), and journalists used the argumentum ad hominem fallacy to attack the drivers and acquit Claire Williams and Paddy Lowe (see the source on the article written by Kadu Gouvêa at the bibliography).

 

Paddy Lowe, Williams’ technical director from 2017 to 2019. (Photo: Jornal Cruzeiro do Sul) [10]

 

6- Stroll’s exit and fourth crisis: masks start to fall

 

In mid-2018, Lawrence Stroll set up a consortium of investors and bought Force India team, whose owner Vijay Mallya was wanted by Indian authorities for alleged corruption. Even aware of the difficulties faced by his son with a nothing competitive car and of his crucifixion by media, Lawrence kept Lance in Williams until the end of the year. The Canadian driver moved to the new team, renamed Racing Point, the following year (see Understand the Esteban Ocon case).

With Stroll out of the team, Williams lost its biggest scapegoat. The critics, believing the Canadian entrepreneur and his son were to blame for the team’s crisis, trusted that the new hirings would bring the team back to its golden age. However, with Stroll’s exit, Williams had the worst performance ever. Robert Kubica was the only one to score, making one point at German Grand Prix. George Russell, Toto Wolff’s sponsored, finished season without points. However, no media organ called him “pay driver”, even came from a wealthy family and not having chances to justify investment in his work, generating suspects of racism by media (see The Lance Stroll Case: An Amerindian in Formula One).

 

George Russell: European White, he is not criticized by media even being unable to score. (Photo: AutoSport) [11]

 

Enduring in the last position of the championship with the lower bonus of its history, Williams found itself back in a severe crisis. Shortly at the beginning of 2019, seeing media now could not blame Stroll anymore and that Russell and Kubica could not get out of the last places, Lowe asked to exit from his functions claiming personal reasons. The engineering department kept failing at its job, being the most notable case the delay in months of Kubica’s adapted steering wheel. Finally, the pressure fell into Claire. Kubica was fired at the end of the year and Nicholas Latifi, Canadian driver of Iranian descent, was chosen as his substitute. Latifi had not even debut and some fans accused him of being a pay driver and made xenophobic offenses against Canada. There was even no statement of Williams about this.

 

Nicholas Latifi: had not debuted yet and furious fans already blamed him for Williams’ fourth crisis. (Photo: tomadadetempo.com) [12]

 

In 2020, amid the paralyzation of the teams’ activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Claire admitted that possibility of the total sale of Williams. Toto Wolff acquired 5% of the team’s shares in June.

 

7- After all, who is to blame?

 

Differently of what some journalists tried to instill at fans’ heads, Williams’ crisis’ fault is NOT Lawrence Stroll’s, even less Lance Stroll’s, and nor of any other investor or driver to whom the media dishonestly name as “pay driver”. No one is to blame except Claire Williams herself. For being the daughter of the team’s founder and its gestor, Claire should manage the financial part better to ensure control in her hands. However, excessive spending that was not converted into results on track let the team depend on extern investments. Now, if William’s problem was money, how can it be possible to blame who put money on its cash? Toto Wolff and Lawrence Stroll did nothing but to HELP the British team at the moment it most needed support. Drivers and investors do not make cars, engineers do, and engineering department led by Paddy Lowe had money enough to develop a good project, but failed considerably.

The fact of Lance being the son of Lawrence means absolutely nothing at the subject of Williams’ financial crisis. The Amerindian driver’s participation guaranteed to the team the fifth-place at the constructors’ championship in 2017 due to his third-place at Azerbaijan Grand Prix, justifying his father’s investment on the team. It is obvious that the car’s performance is the engineer’s responsibility and financial control if for the team owners, but many people do not see it and, by ignorance of lack of character, blame Stroll. The media’s insistence in blaming him by all the problems that happen in current Formula One, since internal issues of the teams until the ones of the category as a whole, reflects two phenomena that follow the history of mankind and were responsible for the biggest tragedies.

 

 

This Einstein quote says a lot about the way the media treats Lance Stroll. (Photo: GoodReads) [13]

 

One of them is antisemitism, as powerful groups always tried to blame Jews for the world’s misfortunes and do until now. As current society is more conscious of the problem of discrimination, media just accuses Stroll and omits his ethnic origins (the reason for the persecution) to not taking risk of being retaliated by public opinion. Some fans accept the speech because they go along with these ideas, others are easily fooled, reflecting what was previewed by Harold Lasswell in the 20th century: some people accept passively everything the media says, without questioning anything. In the 21st century, Ben Shapiro proved the existence of this face of media, noting that it ignores the facts and shows the narrative as it wished to fulfill its agenda.

The other phenomenon is structural racism. Even with good financial conditions, Lance Stroll still belongs to minority groups (as he is Jewish and Amerindian), and media will tend to favor historically privileged groups (Europeans and Whites). With this, proving Shapiro’s analysis, it ignores Claire William’s management incompetence to blame Stroll, even without arguments and proofs. Its speech ends prevailing because many fans do not want to think, as it is more comfortable to accept what is said without checking the facts. For some people, it can seem absurd that racial questions are made in Formula One’s context, mainly in the case of a team’s bankruptcy. However, it is humanly impossible to ignore the unhealthy, unfair persecution the media and some fans do with Lance Stroll e the reasons must indeed be unmasked.

 

8- Conclusion

 

Williams’ bad financial management put the team in four crises throughout its history. Even with good investments and sponsorship, the engineering department failed successively to upgrade the car for the drivers could fight for good positions and put the team back to the top of the championship. The media preferred to blame who was helping instead of the responsible ones for the car’s inefficiency. The hostile internal atmosphere keeps the team from potential investors, under the fear of facing barriers on decisions (and if they belong to an ethnic minority, they take the risk of being crucified by the press and fans and blamed by issues out of their responsibility). Then, for Williams, there is just the sale of the team or learn with its pasts and make a radical change in its attitude.

 

Williams’ problem: always bites the hand that feeds it. [14]

 

Update: On March 21th, 2020, it was announced that Williams was sold to the American company Dorilton Capital.

 

9- Bibliography

 

 

10- Photos

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