Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa Right Driver Combination for Williams in 2015

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2014

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 19:  Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams speaks with Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams after they claimed third and second place on the grid respectively during qualifying ahead of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 19, 2014 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Williams are enjoying their most successful Formula One season for a decade.

The team sit third in the constructors' championship with 187 points32 more than they scored in the four preceding seasons put together.

This marked upswing in form was no accident.

Aware that Mercedes were set to have the best engine for the start of the V6 hybrid era, Williams made the decision to switch to the German manufacturer before the midway point of last season.

They also took a bit of a risk and invested in ensuring the new power unit had a good chassis to sit in.

Their 2014 driver lineup was also a step forward. Impressive youngster Valtteri Bottas was joined by hugely experienced Felipe Massa, with Pastor Maldonado departing.

The pairing will be retained for 2015but given their improvement in form and attractiveness to potential replacements, could Williams have done better?

We are pleased to announce that @MassaFelipe19 @ValtteriBottas will be continuing as our Race Drivers for 2015! pic.twitter.com/1ZhM1enY36

— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) September 7, 2014

Much of the success Williams have had this year has been down to the work of Bottas.

In only his second year of F1, Bottas has scored points in 12 of the 14 races and sits sixth in the drivers' championship. His 122 points account for 65 percent of the team's total, and he has scored four of Williams' five podiums.

The Finn is rightly regarded as one of F1's stars of the future and, had there been a number of vacancies at top teams heading into 2015, he would probably have filled one of them.

As it happens, there was only one realistic vacancy, and that was at a "top team" not currently at the top.

The Guardian reported during the summer break that McLaren were interested in his services; assuming the rumour was true, Bottas made the probably wise move to remain where he is for the time being.

The only downside to Bottas is that he doesn't bring in much in the way of sponsorshipbut his performances could easily be worth one or two constructors' championship spots, so that can be forgiven.

Bottas celebrates his second place at Silverstone.
Bottas celebrates his second place at Silverstone.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

When it was revealed that Massa would be losing his drive at Ferrari to Kimi Raikkonen, it looked like Massa may have been destined for the F1 scrapheap. A title contender in 2008, Massa had spent four seasons very much in Fernando Alonso's shadow.

So when he was announced as a Williams driver for 2014, it came as something of a surprise. He'd be an improvement on Maldonado and his wealth of experience would be helpful on the development side, but did he still have his old racer's edge?

Turns out he did. While the Brazilian doesn't quite have the raw speed of Bottas, he has by no means been embarrassed.

A pole in Austria and a well-earned podium at the Italian Grand Prix have been the highlights of his year, and a superb drive to fifth in Singapore suggests Massa may be set for a typically strong finish to the season.

But for whatever reason, and whether it's his own fault or not, Massa seems to attract trouble.

He was taken out by Kamui Kobayashi at Turn 1 in Australia and deserved at least a bit of blame for the final-lap collision with mostly-at-fault Sergio Perez, which took him out of the Canadian Grand Prix.

A smash with Raikkonen ended his race at Silverstone, then he took himself out of the German Grand Prix at the first corner when he turned in on Kevin Magnussen.

Without all those needless DNFs, he wouldn't be 57 points behind his team-mate.

And while not a pay-driver, Massa does open doors to lucrative sponsorship opportunities in his native Braziland that's very useful to a team like Williams.

Massa celebrates a podium of his own, in Italy.
Massa celebrates a podium of his own, in Italy.Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Without a £30 million driver budget, Williams couldn't have improved on Bottas.

On the other side of the garage, they could have found a replacement for Massa, who would have improved the teamrealistically, one of two men.

Nico Hulkenberg was one. His performance level would almost certainly have been higher, but Williams would have needed to buy him out of his Force India contract.

Also in the negative column is his now-famous lack of financial backinghe wouldn't open the sponsorship doors Massa does.

Romain Grosjean would have been worth a look too, and he would have been available. He also brings fundingbut it comes primarily from French oil company Total.

Williams already have a deal with Petrobras (also an oil company) to supply their fuel from 2015, so that wouldn't have worked out.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 06:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Felipe Massa of Brazil pose with the Williams Martini Racing formula one car on March 6, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

For a supposedly midfield team, Bottas and Massa represent an excellent lineup. Between them they bring talent, experience, reliability, speed and a few extra pennies.

Williams had a few options available, but none would have improved on the overall package they have.

If the Mercedes is again the best engine in 2015, expect both drivers to once more be challenging for podiums.

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