Williams performance chief Rob Smedley describes fighting for the 2016 F1 title as “a very tall order”, but labels Grove’s latest challenger as “one of the biggest evolutions I’ve seen”.
The British outfit has only won one race over the last decade – the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix with Pastor Maldonado – but is coming off a pair of solid campaigns with 13 podiums and two consecutive third-place finishes in the Constructors’ championship.
Echoing Claire Williams’ recent comments about Williams entering the “hardest” part of its return to form, Smedley feels it might still be a bit early to talk them up as title contenders.
“That's a very tall order in 2016, I think,” he replied when asked at the Autosport show if Williams could challenge for the biggest prize this year. “Our ambition as it's been since the restructure at the end of 2013 start of 2014 is to keep improving.
“I think we had a good year in 2014, we had a good year last year, and that's kind of consolidated where we are, that we're running towards the front end, and I think we just have to keep improving from there on.
“It's incredibly tough, it's not an easy task to even win races in F1 these days, with the level of competition we've got. But we still keep pushing forward.”
Smedley is confident the new FW38 will help address the issues that have prevented Williams from taking the next step, such as poor wet-weather performance and heavy understeer on low-speed circuits like Monaco.
“The car is an evolution [of last year’s FW37], but definitely in my years in F1 with such stable regulations it's one of the biggest evolutions I've seen.
“You're going to see some quite interesting developments around the front wing area and underneath the chassis. There are some really interesting developments around the back end of the car that you're going to see as well.
“The guys in the wind tunnel in particular have done an absolutely stellar job, and we're really pleased. We're finding new methodologies, new ways to develop the car, and they're all bearing fruit at the minute.”