Williams fall into F1’s vicious cycle

2011 F1 season review

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.

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50 comments on Williams fall into F1’s vicious cycle

  1. cbriddon (@cbriddon) said on 9th December 2011, 12:40

    I hate that Williams have slid to the back of the pack. The first GP I attended was the 1992 Potruguese GP where Williams dominated.

    Here’s hoping they can pull it back and start winning some races again.

    After my love of all things Mclaren, Williams is where my loyalty lies.

    • wallys suk! said on 9th December 2011, 13:58

      ha! Bernie Shekelstone and Max were bailing these “monkeys at the back” as Lewis likes to call them, since the early 2000s…..at least from 02 to 09!!! Max even bent the interpretation of the rules about the double diffuser to suit some teams and not others, and Wallys was 1 of the favoured teams, but they still couldnt do anything with such an advantage in 09!! They been going downhill since 94!!….i mean seriously, how do you recover from that?!

      • Calum (@calum) said on 9th December 2011, 14:10

        Ferrari went 17 years between the early 80s and late 90s without a constructors title – then won 5 in a row – Williams have another few years before they unleash the dominance! :P

        It’s sort of like RedBull have replaced Williams.
        We have a fast Mclaren and Ferrari – RBR are just filling the role of the fast blue car.

      • TheBrav3 said on 9th December 2011, 14:31

        Yeah they were terrible after 94 i mean they only won 2 constructors and drivers championships 29 races and 74 podium places just terrible.

      • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 9th December 2011, 14:46

        Yeah, Brav is right.

        The downfall started with Newey’s departure in 1997. BMW brought them back for a while until 2003-05. Since then, it’s just miserable.

        I feel really sorry for them, and I hope them can catch a ride again to the front.

        • TheBrav3 said on 9th December 2011, 15:33

          I was being a smidge sarcastic. They obviously have had a down turn but i would say that was 2003 onwards. Before that they were doing just as well as mclaren this year and you wouldn’t say they are failures.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 9th December 2011, 15:19

      I don’t like Williams, but it’s sad to see a team with such history fall behind. I hope they reach the front of the grid as soon as possible.

  2. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 9th December 2011, 12:48

    I can’t see how the season could have been any worse for Williams. Without the new teams, they would’ve been last in the championship. Who could’ve predicted that in the 90s or even mid-2000s?

    Sadly, Williams is starting to remind me of the once so great teams, like Brabham, Tyrrell and Lotus, who all declined slowly but surely.

    • The Last Pope (@the-last-pope) said on 9th December 2011, 13:16

      Although Williams do still have all the latest technology and infrastructure needed to compete at the top. They have said they know why the 2011 car didn’t work and wasn’t fast and they know how to rectify this for the new 2012 car.

      They are one step ahead of the grid in gearbox design now, if they can design a car that gives good downforce and get over the gearbox teething problems, they could easily pick up plenty of points, especialy if other teams copy the williams gearbox and have the same hurdles to overcome.

      • plutoniumhunter (@plutoniumhunter) said on 9th December 2011, 14:02

        I think they were one of the only teams who’s 2011 car was SLOWER than their 2010 car…

        • TheBrav3 said on 9th December 2011, 14:36

          Williams are a team who even with their season this year, it’s entirely possible they could win races next year. So long as maldonado doesn’t take his team m8 out. They have everything they need to make a winning car.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th December 2011, 21:11

        I help you hoping (or praying – with that name @the-last-pope!) you are right there.

        But Ferrari told us during the last winter they knew where it went wrong as well, but instead their car was further off the pace than it had been last year, the same goes for Mercedes. And its not as if Williams itself didn’t say the same in the past.

        Remaining hopefull, bud sceptical and sad for it, I’m afraid.

    • Sadly I agree with the Tyrell/T.Lotus comparisons, and theres no getting away from it either.

      If anything, Williams problems are even harder to get out of then the above mentioned teams as the game has moved on since they folded, and more money is needed then ever before.

      These are worrying days for Williams and I fear that the worse has not yet come. As a longtime fan, I worry for them.

  3. Mahir C said on 9th December 2011, 13:23

    I think this year was a one-off extremely bad year. I dont think they can return to the top, but 4th, 5th or 6th could be their usual finishing place as it had been for the past a few years.

  4. Makes you wonder about the abilities of companies to keep up with the times. Not just in motorsports but business as well.
    What is the mistake, not keeping pace with the latest great idea? Hiring, or retaining the talent? etc.?
    But once that edge is lost seems like it is almost impossiible to regain it.

  5. Mike (@mike) said on 9th December 2011, 14:30

    Wow. It’s so sad.

    Just think, 15 years ago today. Williams had just won yet another championship with Damon Hill. They had won 4 of the last 5 constructors championships and their Williams-Renault combination looked set to dominate further into the future as well.

    How things have changed.

  6. d3v0 (@d3v0) said on 9th December 2011, 14:39

    I want Williams to put a donation button on their website. Much more lucrative than floating shares :)

  7. Mark (@marlarkey) said on 9th December 2011, 14:39

    Tyrrell

  8. Cacarella (@cacarella) said on 9th December 2011, 14:48

    The FW33 was a disaster, I can’t see it getting any worse for them unless they close shop completely. It must be frustrating for Frank to think of ALL the money he wasted on that car. He could have just bought a few concrete blocks, strapped them to the sidepods of the FW32 and got the same results this year.

  9. adzz36 (@adzz36) said on 9th December 2011, 15:03

    Williams need to get Sutil. He is the only driver that brings sponsorship and the ability to lead a team. If he doesn’t bring enough money then Petrov or Senna are options too.

  10. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 9th December 2011, 15:55

    If Williams get fans to pay for their photo to be displayed on the car that would definitely generate some money (Like Red Bull did for British GP 2007).

  11. sam11333 (@sam11333) said on 9th December 2011, 16:06

    Team Lotus all over again

  12. sid_prasher (@) said on 9th December 2011, 19:15

    Really a sad decline and I don’t see them recovering with the personnel they have chosen…apart from the engine deal they have nothing to look forward to.

  13. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 9th December 2011, 19:54

    I’m predicting a Sutil to Williams announcement tomorrow morning or the day after. Just thought I’d throw that out there, it seems more talk has arisen today, whether it’s credible or not I’m not sure.

    http://en.espnf1.com/forceindia/motorsport/story/66247.html

  14. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 9th December 2011, 20:18

    Williams are a former great but beyond romanticism and concern for the jobs of everyone in the team, I wouldn’t be sad to see them go. Others have gone before them: Tyrrell, Brabham, the original Team Lotus, going further back you have teams like BRM who bit the dust. There’s a saying that time waits for no man, well F1 waits for no team. Renault briefly took Williams’ place at in the big 3 with McLaren and Ferrari, now Red Bull are there. One day it may be Mercedes again, or someone entirely new.

    Sad for the fans but if there’s one thing worse than a historic name dropping out, it’s watching them struggle. This year Williams looked like a team that needed to be put out of their misery. I just hope that if the fall comes, they get bought out and someone can carry it on under a different name, like the loss of Jordan.

  15. F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 9th December 2011, 21:32

    any real fan is also a williams fan. nothing would be better than seeing them regain their winning touch.

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