2011 Season Preview – Williams

Team Name : AT&T Williams

Location : Grove, UK

Team Principal : Frank Williams

Technical Director : Sam Michael

Drivers : Rubens Barrichello, Pastor Maldonado

Chassis : FW33

Engine : Cosworth CA2011

First Season : 1975

Races Entered : 539

Pole Positions : 126

Race wins : 113

Points scored in 2010 : 69

World Championships : 9

It’s hard to believe that Williams has been one of the most successful teams in F1 behind Ferrari and Mclaren. From an utterly dominant streak in the early nineties, to being a front-running team at the beginning of the 21st century, and now fighting to be “Best of the Rest” alongside Renault, it has been a steep decline. Who would’ve thought that the best privateer F1 team of all-time would struggle for decent funds?

Frank Williams and Patrick Head are still running the show, although they have sold a minority stake in the team to Toto Wolff and the company went public last month. Despite recognising the lack of sufficient sponsorship, it is still difficult to pinpoint the reason for the team’s mediocre performance in the past decade.  After all, this is a team that has won 9 Constructors’ Championships, 7 Drivers’ Championships and 113 races in a glittering career spanning more than three decades. So how is it that they are not able to get out of the midfield despite being led by the same people who took them to success in the previous decades?

In the modern era of Formula 1, the partnership with BMW was the most productive for the Williams team. They were regular race winners at the turn of the century, almost beating Ferrari in 2003. Sadly, BMW left the partnership, citing a lack of competence in the Grove-based squad. The Cosworth/Toyota alliance since then hasn’t produced any miracles, but atleast they didn’t go the Honda way – from race winners one year to backmarkers the next. Willams have been stuck in the F1 midfield ever since BMW pulled the plug on them. They have had drivers of high calibre driving for them – Mark Webber, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg, to name a few. Today, it is veteran racer Rubens Barrichello and current GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado driving, and one gets the feeling that the team will have more of the same this year too.

Driver selection has never been a strong point of Williams, as they proved at the end of 1996, giving Damon Hill the boot, and now Nico Hulkenberg’s ouster has been met with widespread criticism. But these are desperate times, and when the team needs money, it usually blinds them to the talent levels of the drivers. Nevertheless, Rubens will be able to lead the team forwards quite a bit, and a great baseline car is what they need to get back to their winning ways. But do they have it in them to win a championship at the moment? Definitely not. For that you need a reliable and quick car, two quick drivers and a good development program. And whatever you may say about Rubens’ experience, he’s still not one among the true ‘greats’ of the game.

In fact the main problem with Williams at the moment is that they usually start the year off with an average car – and then develop it well during the season, ending up in the midfield. What they need in essence is an RB6 at the start of testing. A car that is quick out of the box – like Brawn GP’s ’09 contender. Then they need a top driver like Rosberg or Button to maximise it. But at the moment, it looks like a straight fight between Renault and Williams for the “Best of the Rest” tag, with Force India and Toro Rosso somewhere in the mix. They ought to be a regular fixture in Q3, and points should be achievable at most of the races. Maybe one day they will uncover another Adrian Newey and get back to where they belong – at the front.


2 Responses to “2011 Season Preview – Williams”

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