April 12, 2018 / 7:09 PM / 3 months ago

Williams drivers looking for positives in China

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Williams drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin head into Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix looking for positives after the former champions made their worst start to a Formula One season in years.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia - March 23, 2018 Williams' Lance Stroll during practice REUTERS/Brandon Malone

The team are bottom of the overall standings after two of the 21 races and the only ones yet to score.

The last time Williams, who finished fifth overall last year, went home empty-handed from the opening two races of the year was in 2013.

Bahrain was particularly sobering last Sunday, with Canadian Stroll and Russian rookie Sirotkin finishing as the last of the classified finishers.

They moved up to 14th and 15th after post-race penalties were applied to Force India’s Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley.

The Williams pair had qualified in 18th and dead last, with Sirotkin the higher of the two.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix - Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia - March 23, 2018 Williams' Sergey Sirotkin during practice REUTERS/Brandon Malone

“In Bahrain it was shocking how much of a step backwards (it was),” 19-year-old Stroll, in only his second season of Formula One, told reporters on an overcast day at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“There are a lot of things to sort out — our straight-line speed, our handling; everything needs work,” added Stroll, whose time in qualifying was slower than the best he set on Saturday last year.

Sirotkin hailed the Bahrain weekend as a positive one for Williams, however, with the team gathering plenty of data even if the results were poor.

“It looks bad on results but I’ve been quite well in touch with the guys over the last few days,” said the rookie. “I just hope for another weekend like this, hopefully more about the working rather than results.”

Williams’ 2018 car, the first designed under the guidance of former Mercedes technical head Paddy Lowe, is a significant departure from those the team have fielded over the last few years.

They had hoped the FW41 would put them back among the front-runners but neither Stroll nor 22-year-old Sirotkin would be drawn on the specifics of what was hampering their car’s potential.

“Both of us were in Q3 (the final phase of qualifying) here last year, so I’d like to think that’s positive coming into this year,” said Stroll referring to himself and now retired team-mate Felipe Massa.

“At the same time, I’m not stupid,” added Stroll. “But it’s a new circuit, different conditions — in Bahrain everything’s a little bit different, so we’ll see.”

Editing by Alan Baldwin

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