Formula 1

Massa vs. Bottas will be an intriguing battle in 2016.

Williams set for crucial season as they launch the FW38

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With just a few days to go until the start of pre-season testing, Williams have become the latest team to reveal their 2016 creation, the FW38.

After two years knocking on the door, the Grove-based team is finally hoping it can be a challenger to their engine supplier Mercedes as well as the rapidly improving Ferrari.

They retain the same driver pairing of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas for the third straight season, a partnership that will provide an interesting battle to watch over the season.


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Bottas looking to get back on track

For Bottas, 2015 was a low key year after the impressive displays from 2014. Indeed he spent much of the year trailing a rejuvenated Massa in the championship.

Only a podium in Mexico followed by a fifth place in Sao Paulo eventually saw the Finn finish ahead of the Brazilian in the standings but it was far from the domination most were expecting.

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Indeed much of the year saw him lock horns with fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen in two different ways.

Speculation began linking Bottas with the 2007 champion's seat at Ferrari, rumours the Finn himself admitted were unsettling, but in Sochi and Mexico the two Scandinavians were involved in on-track collisions both of which were arguably Raikkonen's fault.

With the speculation regarding Kimi's future set to continue in 2016, Bottas will have to cope with the media questioning his future at Williams. But he will also have to start putting in the performances most expect from a potential future champion against a man in the twilight of his career.

Massa back on form but under threat

That man being Massa whose long-time colleague Rob Smedley believes is back at his absolute best.

Two retirements and an unfortunate disqualification at his home race in Brazil curtailed what was otherwise a very positive 2015 for the 34-year-old.

For this year the mantra will be 'more of the same' and he may need to continue his strong form as this year promises to be one of the most active in the driver market.

With young blood coming through, the ageing veterans are under pressure to prove their worth to the teams at the front of the grid and that will be the same for Massa in 2016.

Take a look at the new FW38 below.

Can they challenge Ferrari & Mercedes?

As mentioned, the team faces the task of challenging the two teams leading the development of the current engine technology.

That has always put Williams at a slight disadvantage against Mercedes as new upgrades don't arrive at Grove quite as fast as they do at Brackley. As a result, aerodynamic development has been the area where Williams have looked to get ahead.

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2017 changes another obstacle

But this year there is another factor that Williams must account for. From the end of February, the 2017 regulations should be set and the team third in most people's pecking order must try and maintain that place with the fifth lowest budget.

That means Williams will likely have to sacrifice development time on its 2016 car if it wants to maintain its position on the grid next year.

It will be a fine balancing act for the team but with two highly motivated drivers they remain a dark horse for wins this year.

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