SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — As Williams prepares to celebrate its 600th grand prix in Germany next weekend, the landmark feat exposes just how far this once-dominant team has fallen.
The team has won only once since 2004 and this year's lineup of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas shows no sign of returning the team to its glory days. Neither driver has scored a point this season, although Bottas gave the team a glimmer of hope when he started third in Canada.
But the team's struggles returned in qualifying for the British Grand Prix on Saturday, with Maldonado 15th fastest and Bottas 16th. They moved up a spot after Force India's Paul di Resta was sent to the back of the grid because his car was found to be underweight.
"We were expecting to be a bit closer to the top 10 today, but we were struggling to put everything together in the car for one lap," Maldonado said. "Hopefully tomorrow we can work on our race pace and fight with the teams around us to move up a few positions. We need to keep improving as a team because we're not where we want to be still, but race by race we are aiming to close the gap."
The team's technical director Mike Coughlan said he was disappointed. "It was a difficult session for us, after a promising FP3 (third practice) we were expecting more from qualifying," he said. "In the high-speed corners here, we feel we are competitive but we still have work to do in the low-speed sections. There is always a great crowd here at Silverstone and we are looking forward to the race tomorrow. We will be aiming to put on a good show for all our fans here supporting us at our home event."
Started by Frank Williams and Patrick Head in 1977, the team has 297 podiums, 114 victories and 16 world championships. Nine of those titles have been won in the constructors' championship, with the remaining seven being drivers' championships won with Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.
Silverstone was integral to that success with its first and 100th victories coming here in 1979 and 1997 respectively. Knowing the home fans would be turning out, the team chose Silverstone to celebrate its 600th race even though it was still a week away.
"For an independent team like Williams to reach 600 races at the pinnacle of motorsport is a remarkable achievement," said the now Sir Frank Williams, team founder and principal. "Seventy-eight teams have come and gone or changed ownership since our foundation and our longevity is a testament to the thousands of people who have sacrificed so much to keep us here. It seems only right to mark this milestone at the home of British motorsport alongside our loyal British fans."
The 600th race comes at a time when Frank Williams is handing more authority over to his daughter Claire. She was recently promoted to deputy team principal and commercial director, making her one of the few woman executives in F1.
"Williams has never been an organisation to dwell on what has gone before, but this weekend we will be rightly celebrating our heritage and reflecting on some of our defining moments over the past 36 years," Claire Williams said. "This is also an opportunity for us to take stock and look ahead to the future, making sure that we have the necessary pieces in place to make our next 600 races just as memorable."