JANUARY 21, 2016
Williams contemplating Honda switch
Williams' Rob Smedley has played down suggestions the Grove team might be contemplating a shock switch from F1's field-leading Mercedes power.
The speculation first surfaced a few days ago, when Williams' world champion of 1996, Damon Hill, suggested that moving away from Mercedes might be the only way the independent team can recapture its former glory.
"I sort of suggested to Claire (Williams) last year that the problem is they have the same engine as the Mercedes team," he was quoted by Sky.
"I think as a team wanting to win the outright championship, strategically they would be better off with another engine and I think the only other engine you can think of is a Honda," Hill added.
He acknowledged that Honda had a "catastrophic" return to F1 last year in works collaboration with McLaren, but thinks the Japanese carmaker will fight back.
"I could be wrong," Hill continued, "but if they make the sort of impression they should do, then for Williams to get ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes they are going to have to have a different engine".
There may be more to the story than just Hill's opinion.
The German-language source Auto Bild Motorsport claims that Williams is indeed contemplating the switch to Honda power, having finished third with Mercedes for the past two seasons in the new 'power unit' era.
Like McLaren-Honda, a collaboration between Williams and Honda would not be new, after the world championships of 1986 and 1987.
Last year, McLaren supremo Ron Dennis blocked Red Bull's move to Honda power, but Auto Bild claims he is more open to the idea of a deal for Williams.
But Smedley, Williams' lead engineer, played down the rumours.
"First of all we are really, really happy with the level of service and the power unit itself that we get from Mercedes," he said.
Smedley admitted that Williams fell a development step behind the works Mercedes team last year, but indicated that the teams will return to parity for 2016.
"I think ultimately we are really happy," he insisted. "They (Mercedes) are a very professional outfit and they supply an incredible power unit as well."