Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Monaco, 2011

Williams fall into F1’s vicious cycle

2011 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Monaco, 2011
Maldonado impressed in Monaco

Williams have fallen into F1’s vicious cycle – one which has claimed other teams before.

Poor performance leads to falling sponsorship revenues which restricts development leading to worsening performance.

They reached a new low in 2011 as they fell three places in the constructors’ championship, only finishing ahead of the three teams that first appeared last year. Where does this once-great F1 team go from here?

Williams responded quickly to their desperate start to 2011. Technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson were earmarked for replacement in May and have since found places at McLaren and Toro Rosso respectively. In a seismic move, Williams stalwart Patrick Head will also step back from his F1 duties and work elsewhere within the company.

In their places has come the controversial appointment of Mike Coughlan – a central figure in the ‘Spygate’ scandal four years ago. In addition to that, next year Williams will have access to the world championship-winning Renault engine, replacing the Cosworth power it has used for the last two seasons.

Williams team stats 2011

Best race result (number) 9 (2)
Best grid position (number) 7 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 10 (7/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,923 (84.86%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2010) 9th (6th)
Championship points (2010) 5 (69)
Pit stop performance ranking 7th

Williams hopes for 2012 are invested in a car which must be both quicker and more reliable than the FW33. The aggressive rear packaging of the car with its low gearbox and driveshaft proved problematic.

The car had seven race-ending malfunctions during the season – several of which were due to transmission problems – and suffered repeated KERS failures.

When the car did see the end of a race it was rarely quick enough to reach the points. A Williams finished on the lead lap just six times in 38 starts.

Rubens Barrichello gave the team its first points of the year in Monaco, inheriting ninth place after rookie team mate Pastor Maldonado retired following a collision with Lewis Hamilton.

Barrichello finished in the same place in the following race at Montreal, calling on his vast experience in a very wet race. Those were his only two visits to the top ten all season.

Maldonado added his first and only point in F1 so far in the Belgian Grand Prix – a race he was fortunate to start after another run-in with Hamilton. Maldonado, who had lost time being passed by the McLaren at the final corner on his last lap, drove up alongside Hamilton’s car and made contact in a move somewhere between intentional contact and sheer carelessness.

Start, Abu Dhabi, 2011
The team started at the back in Abu Dhabi

He went some way towards redeeming himself on race day, rising from a penalised 21st to finish tenth. And that was Williams’ third and final points-scoring finish of a desperate year.

The season reached its nadir in Abu Dhabi where the team recorded its worst ever starting positions, the pair lining up on the back row after Maldonado was handed a penalty for an engine change and Barrichello’s car broke down in Q1.

The team has already announced it will retain Maldonado to drive the Coughlan-designed, Renault-powered FW34. But whether he has someone sufficiently experienced and capable alongside him, or Williams have to plump for another well-heeled driver, will signal whether they are continuing their alarming tailspin.

2011 F1 season review

Browse all 2011 F1 season review articles