2008: Williams

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, Barcelona, 2008 pre-season

There’s a buzz around Williams as the new season approaches but team boss Frank Williams isn’t getting carried away:

I don’t subscribe to what the press has said. Our competitors around us, of which there are many, are just as competitive.

Is he being cautious or pessimistic?

It’s easy to get carried away with testing and teams are cautious not to promise too much in the winter break only to under-deliver once the season gets under going.

Williams’ weapon is the FW30, which the team promised would be substantially different to its predecessor. Last year Sam Michel described it as:

Not an evolution of the FW29; it’s a new car. A car that’s a revolution, is fast, and wins races. It’s not the same car as this year’s. We’ve started from scratch. It’s not the direct successor.

That sounds ominously similar to what they said two years ago.

Williams ended 2007 fourth, promoted one place by the exclusion of McLaren. A repeat of fourth place would most likely mean beating either BMW or Renault over the course of the year. Williams may be able to start the year ahead of either or both those teams, but can they match the development rate of the manufacturer outfits over a whole year? They couldn’t in 2006.

How good is Nico Rosberg?

Rosberg had an excellent 2007, particularly his string of points finishes in the second half of the season. He’s also one of those drivers like Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli who seems to thrive on the pressure of modern-style qualified and can be relied upon to get the car into the top ten.

The only question mark over Rosberg for me is are his wet-weather driving skills – he didn’t score in any of the wet rounds last year.

Is Kazuki Nakajima ready for F1?

Kazuki Nakajima, on the other hand, is all question marks. He’s been fast-but-wild in the lower ranks and didn’t win a round in GP2 last year – the championship Rosberg won three years ago.

He’s looked rapid in testing though – more than quick enough to dispel suggestions that he’s only in the team because of his connections with Toyota.

But as last year’s pairing of Rosberg and Alexander Wurz showed a few tenths of a second in qualifying can be the difference between points or no points on race day, in an era when reliability is a given and overtaking is virtually impossible. Nakajima could be Rosberg’s next scalp waiting to happen.

What about the long-term?

The car might look quick but there’s no escaping the fact that this is an independent team with a customer engine deal. The quickest way for Toyota to solve the problem of being beaten by a team that use the same engines as them would be to stop giving them engines, so Williams are inherently vulnerable.

The presence of three sponsors on the car linked to the Baugur Group may point the way forward for them. There may be a lot of good will directed at Williams at the moment, but that alone cannot guarantee their long-term future.

But in the meantime, expect them to embarrass some of F1’s more profligate outfits in 2008.

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5 comments on 2008: Williams

  1. Rohan said on 5th March 2008, 8:49

    We did manage to keep up with development pace in 2007, though. In fact we closed the gap to BMW over the season :)

  2. Oh yes, at last we will have revenge! It’s about time Team Willy gets back to business.

  3. Uppili said on 5th March 2008, 16:43

    "Nakajima could be Rosberg’s next scalp waiting to happen"

    Contrary to your opinion Keith, Nakajima could destroy the reputation Rosberg has built last year, if he is fast in the single lap that matters; qualifying. I have nothing against Rosberg. While i agree that he is a good driver, I am yet to see evidence that he is WDC material and Williams and Rod Nelson have been drumming.

  4. Toncho said on 6th March 2008, 10:00

    I would like to see Rosberg on the podium this year and Williams aproaching to the leading pack but I got the feeling that BMW is hiding something a with Alonso in Renault and very competitive Toro Rosso and Red Bull cars  is not an easy challenge.

  5. oliver said on 6th March 2008, 11:24

    Rosberg was much too aggressive in his first year, and tended to over do it. Ever since though, he has amazed me with his consistency. Although it is a bit difficult saying exactly how good his performance really was, considering he was paired up with Wurz.

    Nakajima on the other hand has amazed me with his testing pace. Yes he ran over some of his pit crew in Brazil, but lets face it, it was his first race from out of the blue, and i doubt he had even practiced pitstops before then, and more experienced drivers have done the same or worse. He may turn out to be the best Japan has to offer.

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