Williams' decision to increase its Mercedes ties and start using their gearbox from 2022 presents a dramatic shift in policy.

It's been said many times over the years that Williams is every Formula 1 fan's second favourite team.

For however much the Grove-based outfit has battled through its troubles in recent campaigns, it has always remained popular with those that follow the sport.

Sure, the lack of a victory since Pastor Maldonado's famous triumph at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix may mean that grandstands are no longer as full of Williams supporters as they were during the glory years of those titles in the 90's. But you can be pretty sure that everyone watching F1 these days still has a soft spot for the squad.

Part of that bond comes from the image of the team as the plucky independent: with team chiefs Frank and Claire Williams having always been firm about the squad being master of its own destiny.

They were always clear that Williams was not one for sacrificing its independence by chasing the first big money manufacturer offer to buy it out. Instead, it always would do things its own way. It also fought hard against what it felt was the wrong tide of F1's push towards customer squads and team alliances.

Their mantra was very much that it was better to stand proud and know that its form on track was down to its own skills and ambitions, rather than buying its way to lap time by purchasing parts from other teams.

However, the decision to do its own thing went against a growing trend of technical co-operation between teams, with more and more outfits realising that the gains from tying up with a big outfit far outweighed any downside.

Haas entered F1 with a clear business model where it would buy as much as it could from Ferrari. Racing Point delivered its best season in F1 last year off the back of a decision to do similar with Mercedes; and even going as far as copying the W10 car design.

While Williams remained proud in doing its own thing, there was a growing reality that F1 was moving on - and that there was little hope of the championship's minnows being able to achieve much if they spent valuable resources on parts of the car that were not performance differentiators.

A few times Williams considered making the step for some form of alliance, be it purchasing gearboxes or suspension from another team, but on each occasion the idea was batted away.

The last time, at the end of 2018, Claire Williams said: "That is not to say that we have closed the door on it completely. I would much rather the regulations changed to close the door on the whole thing completely.

"If it transpires that next year we may have to do something, then we may have to do something and it wouldn't be the end of the world. It wouldn't be ideal, but you have to adapt to the changing times, otherwise you become dinosaurs."

Fast forward to the new Williams era under Dorilton Capital, and mindsets have certainly changed - with the team having just announced it has concluded a technical partnership with Mercedes for the supply of parts.

The new deal means Williams will use Mercedes gearboxes and related-hydraulic components, two parts it has always built in-house. The change has not come about simply as an exercise in doing things differently under new owners. It is one based on performance and pragmatism.

For however much Williams felt it could compete doing its own gearboxes, the fact it remained the only outfit not running a carbon casing meant that there was lap time left on the table: for very little benefit. And in a championship that is all about marginal gains, and as we enter a cost cap era where every penny spent counts, pride has to take second billing to performance.

Simon Roberts and Jack Aitken on the grid

Simon Roberts and Jack Aitken on the grid

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

That focus on not being stuck in the past is something that team principal Simon Roberts says new owners Dorilton have been mindful of.

"We're very open minded, and Dorilton are very open minded," he said at the end of last year.

But moves to do things differently, and have departures from the past like accepting technical collaborations, are not a sign of Williams' new owners wanting to have a clean break from the past.

Indeed the team very much wants to maintain a lot of the positives that existed when it was a family run team.

"It's 100% focused on adding performance," he said of the mindset. "That does include making sure it's a great place to work. So given that we [and] Dorilton don't want to shift that lovely feel that exists within Williams - that kind of family spirit and friendliness - we are investing.

"We'll be investing in some of the facilities in the factory. Just simple stuff, but stuff that makes it better for people to work there. We're fixing a lot of things - quite literally from leaks in the roof to doing maintenance on the windtunnel, that we haven't been able to do for a while and stuff like that. So it's quite an extensive programme that's in place now with people back at the factory - both in facilities in the factory and in the IT department - all working really super hard."

Williams appears to be finding itself in a position where it is in the best of both worlds. Benefiting from the strength of its heritage, yet making progress with some fresh thinking to move things forward amid a new era.

And Roberts is clear that finding the balance between the two eras is not an easy path to plot right now: but he thinks it can end up in a good place.

"It's hard, we miss them," he said about the Williams family. "But we also accept that things have to move on. There will always be a place here for Claire to pop back and see us. And hopefully when we're back in Europe sometime next year, she'll be able to do that.

"But, we're Williams - still. And that's really important to us. A lot [of that is] just trying to be open, trying to be as diverse as we can, employing people with all different backgrounds and nationalities, ethnic backgrounds. That's really super important to us.

"And when we talk about it still, in the various committees that we have on that kind of stuff, we still reference back to what it means because of Frank and because of Claire. So yeah, they're always in our hearts."

George Russell, Williams FW43

George Russell, Williams FW43

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images