Williams hoping the only way is up in 2012

2012 F1 season preview

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012

Pastor Maldonado tests the Williams FW34

It’s almost become a cliche to call Williams the new Tyrrell.

But as the team fall further towards the back of the field, and wheel out another dark blue car with worrying expanses of blank space, it’s hard to avoid such comparisons.

Even the blunt face of the stepped nose on the FW34 brings to mind the bluff front of the Tyrrell 012.

Are Williams inevitably heading towards the same fate as Tyrrell – or will this be the year they hit back?

Car 18: Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012

Maldonado is entering his second year with the team

Williams’ driver line-up might be considered the battle of the pay-drivers by some, but this view sells both drivers short.

Yes, they both bring sponsorship, but both also have junior category CVs which endorse their ability to compete at this level: Pastor Maldonado won the GP2 championship in 2010.

In his first season of F1 last year he often qualified well but had a tendency towards getting caught up in incidents. He ran especially strongly in Monaco – always a good circuit for him – before clashing with Lewis Hamilton.

But there won’t be any room for such lapses if the FW34 proves capable of consistently challenging for points.

Car 19: Bruno Senna

Bruno Senna, Williams, Jerez, 2012

Bruno Senna has joined Williams from Renault

Bruno Senna has taken over from the highly experienced Rubens Barrichello and, like Maldonado before him, he has been charged by some with paying his way instead of earning the seat on merit.

But Senna, too, has proven he’s worthy of racing in the top flight.

He finished runner-up to the highly-experienced Giorgio Pantano in GP2 in 2008 – an achievement which should be viewed in the context of having spent almost a decade out of competition following the death of his uncle Ayrton in 1994. While his racing peers were karting and moving up into single-seaters, Senna was out of action until 2003.

His F1 career so far has consisted of a near-full season in the hopeless HRT, followed by a mixed bag of appearances for Renault last year.

At his best, Senna was quick in qualifying and raced well, and showed he has potential if he can cut out the mistakes.

Williams FW34

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012

Williams have switched to Renault power for 2012

Last year was an unmitigated disaster for Williams: three top-ten finishes was all the team had to show for their efforts in 2011.

They responded with root-and-branch change for this season: former technical director Sam Michael has left along with aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson.

Mike Coughlan took over in charge of the FW34 along with fellow new hires Mark Gillan and Jamson Somerville.

Patrick Head has ended his day-to-day duties at the team. Frank Williams has stepped down from the board of his own team – a move that is emblematic of the extent of the changes sweeping one of F1’s most successful constructors.

They’ve also switched engine suppliers, dropping Cosworth power for Renault – the company they enjoyed such success with in the nineties. Although the previous engine was believed to be giving little away in terms of power, the Renault is expected to offer other advantages.

In particular, its compact dimensions have allowed the designers to tighten up the rear of the car. That, along with the latest version of the low, small gearbox the team developed last year, will aid airflow to the lower part of the rear wing.

But it wasn’t just performance the team lacked in 2011. Reliability was lacking too – another area they will have to improve on to compete with the likes of Toro Rosso and Sauber.

And as they struggle to keep the midfield in view they may have to keep one eye on their mirrors to spot the ever-improving Caterham moving up quickly behind them.

Williams’s championship form

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Championship position 9 2 1 1 4 4 6 3 1 1 7 2 4 2 1 1 1 2 1 1 3 5 3 3 2 2 4 5 8 4 8 7 6 9
Wins 0 0 5 6 4 1 1 1 4 9 9 0 2 2 7 10 10 7 5 12 8 0 0 0 4 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Your view: Williams in 2012

Can Williams improve on their ninth place in last year’s championship? Is the time about to stage a recovery – or slip further back?

have your say in the comments.

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24 comments on Williams hoping the only way is up in 2012

  1. MahavirShah (@mahavirshah) said on 9th March 2012, 16:45

    With the midfield being so tight and the Williams having to adapt to not only the new rules but also a new engine, breaking top 14 let alone top 10 seems like a bridge too far to cross. Then again they might surprise. Like the other mid-field teams they might miss an experienced hand to guide in-season development.

  2. JamieFranklinF1 (@jamiefranklinf1) said on 9th March 2012, 17:00

    I don’t think that Williams will be able to do a lot better than they did last year. The teams around them have some good people, and more money, and in my opinion, even Caterham might be able to get the jump on them this year.

    I feel really sorry for Bruno. Missing out on nearly a decade of experience in racing must be really tough, and it makes me wonder just how good he would have been had he been allowed to continue through that period. It’s quite obvious why he didn’t of course, but there’s still something telling me that we missed out on some special talent there. Hopefully he can still provide us with some of it though and excel this year (although it will be hard).

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th March 2012, 20:12

      Yeah, on one hand Williams can hardly fall much further down in the championship. Then again, Caterham is looking to push the midfield and the teams ahead don’t seem to have slipped back much either.

    • Eleanore (@leucocrystal) said on 9th March 2012, 21:06

      I feel the same way, re: Bruno, and I really hope the car will give him even half a decent opportunity to grow this season. Honestly, despite his being forced out of those key development years, and equipment and/or poor team management getting in his way left and right, he’s shown a lot of promise. I remember several instances of his fighting up really well from the back, then either being screwed over by mechanical failures or, possibly worse, Lotus Renault having some of the worst strategy I’ve seen in a long time (e.g. pitting Senna on the second to last lap in India, *** was that about?).

      I’m not going to get too optimistic about Williams this year, because they’ve got such an uphill battle ahead of them, but I do have some tentative hope, particularly for Bruno’s sake.

  3. Andy Redden (@andyredden-on-f1) said on 9th March 2012, 17:02

    Their reliability seems to have been sorted after they did the most amount of mileage. Speed seems a concern though along with development with two rookie-ish drivers

  4. Alehud42 (@alehud42) said on 9th March 2012, 19:08

    That picture of Bruno was the first time I’ve seen him look like his uncle.

  5. Lauri (@f1lauri) said on 9th March 2012, 19:32

    I would love to read about the mid-field teams more in depth. I think people have no idea how the teams compare to each other. Lets say Force India vs Williams. Which has bigger budget? What are the factors that are helping Force India and slowing down Williams? Looking back it might be able to see some key differences – new people, people leaving, engine change etc.

    I still think of Williams as a top-team but this chart makes me see the reality. It really was a way back when Montoya-Ralf were fighting for wins with Williams and no success afterwards…

    • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 9th March 2012, 21:38

      Their rise with BMW and later the rise of Sauber when they were bought by BMW shows how important car manufactors with their knowledge and money are.
      Therefor, I hope Renault Will make the difference for them.

      • Lauri (@f1lauri) said on 10th March 2012, 10:30

        Yes, good point. I think BMW wanted to buy out Williams and make it their team but Frank didn’t like that idea. It was going on for couple of years until BMW went to Sauber and took them over.

        Renault’s factory team is RedBull. Williams gives them cash and receives engines, that’s about it.

        My point is that there are still private teams and most of them are more succesfull than Williams.

  6. montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 9th March 2012, 21:00

    I don’t think the comparison with Tyrell is valid at all for these reasons:

    1) Williams is a much more successful team than Tyrell whose only 3 championships came in a short period between 1969-73. From then on came 25(!!!) years of steady decline of the team which was never considered one of F1’s all-time top 3, as Williams (rightly) has.

    2) Before its demise Tyrell endured 15 years without a GP victory to its name. Williams have gone 7 years without a victory so far so not half as bad.

    3) Tyrell were never a works team at any time in their history. Williams were a works team of Honda, Renault and BMW.

    4) Financially-wise, Tyrell were a very poor team for over 20 years before their end. This cannot compare with Williams situation at any level. Here’s a quote from Eddie Jordan speaking about july 1989(it’s from a book “Jean Alesi-Beating the Odds” by C. Hilton that I own): “At this stage Ken had no money, maybe 8 engines in his whole repertoire, no spare car, nothing”. It’s actually a miracle that Tyrell survived so long on so little. Which leads to the last and most important for all:

    5) Technically wise the Williams are a powerhouse, selling diverse components to various teams, from gearboxes to HRT F1 to Hybrid power systems to no less than the Audi Le Mans team. It has 2 windtunnels and over 500 superbly qualified personnel. It’s diverse activities ensure it has income from many sources not only F1 prize money. Contrast it to Tyrell which didn’t have anything outside its small group of racing-loving people dedicated fully to F1, who had an expertise of getting results by being technically radical in their ideas, otherwise they couldn’t compete at all. Facilities? What Facilities?

    For all those reasons, the comparisons aren’t valid. So good luck to Williams, they have the means to be successful again and I hope they’ll start their upward trajectory this year already!

    • Banburyhammer (@banburyhammer) said on 9th March 2012, 21:49

      The last point is probably the most important. MEchanically Williams can still make a car as good as any other. Its the aerodynamics thats letting them down, bt they are not a team will shortcomings in every department – just the aero and the sporsorship revenue. And despite the battering Williams are having in the stock market, they are a canny investment. Whats pushing the price down in the performance on tank, and nobody seems to notice that as a company I think they have a properous future.

      They arent a McLaren in that respect, but other motor manufatureres are coming to Williams to use Williams technologies, Williams expertise, Williams facilities. Theyll be back.

  7. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th March 2012, 5:32

    I’m finding it really difficult to get excited for Williams this season. Whatever progress they might have made in their car design has been offset by producing what I think is the ugliest car on the grid and a driver lineup that I think is absolutely uninspiring. I can understand the need for one pay driver, but two? Williams needs a driver who captures the Williams spirit, someone who is exciting to watch. Someone like Kamui Kobayashi.

    If 2012 does not go well for the team, then I predict that 2013 could start without them.

    • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 10th March 2012, 7:48

      I agree that it would be great for Williams to have someone like Kobayashi.

      However, your “prediction” about 2013, regardless of how 2012 goes is one of the most lunatic I’ve read here for a while. If that’s a prediction, then you can call the Mayan doomsday 21 december 2012 a prediction as well. So you’re right. No Williams in 2013, and no Ferrari and Mclaren too

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th March 2012, 9:39

        I think a 2013 without Williams is a distinct possibility. They’ve been in freefall for years. It took them longer than it should have to realise that change was needed, and now that they’ve finally got it, a lot hinges on their ability to turn things around. If 2012 is as dire as 2011 was, then they’re going to have a lot of trouble securing a budget and may be forced to sell the team for 2013.

        • Alex said on 10th March 2012, 18:51

          Williams recent financial results with increase in profits shows how wrong you are regarding your prediction.

          Even more so, when people seem to forget F1 is not the only thing Williams does.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 11th March 2012, 9:48

            Williams recent financial results with increase in profits shows how wrong you are regarding your prediction.

            If they are driven by profits, there will soon come a time when the Formula 1 team is shut down or sold on because it is making a loss.

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 10th March 2012, 8:35

    If 2012 doesn’t go well for Williams at least they can blame it on the raft of changes they’ve made.

    2011 was a disaster. They know it. We know it. It would make for a great comeback if they can at least be challenging in Q1 with one of their drivers consistently. I think Senna shows promise but like many others he just needs to iron them out. Both drivers have pretty much on years experience behind them so it will be interesting to see who has the upper hand.

  9. Williams hoping the only way is up in 2012

    It’s not like they can really sink that much lower down the grid. I’m starting to think the only way for Williams is out.

  10. Denis 68 said on 10th March 2012, 10:41

    How the mighty have fallen. Having to resort to two paydrivers.

    How can you really be expected to be taken seriously anymore when you only employ paydrivers?.

  11. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 10th March 2012, 14:32

    Although Bruno Senna is getting a paydriver rep right now, a few good results should put him back in the underdog position, one that is beloved by fans. It would be quite something if it is a Senna that leads Williams’ resurgence in this sport.

    On the other hand, people are more skeptical about Pastor Maldonado. He too may get good results, but somehow, I’m not sure people will really warm to him (especially after his shenanigans at Spa last year). But Williams are in desperate need of good results, and they will surely take it from whoever gives it to them.

    I think it’ll be close between Williams and Caterham this year (and maybe Sauber too), but Williams will win that battle – just.

  12. Alex said on 10th March 2012, 19:01

    The paydriver ******** is getting annoying and shows how people have become ignorant of Formula 1 history by throwing the term around cheaply.

    The drivers people keep calling “paydrivers” have racing CVs that prove they are quite capable drivers. You need to be one to be GP2 and R3.5 champion and GP2 runner up.

    Throwing the term around like some illiterates do, cheapens the term and lowers people who don’t deserve it to the status of the like of Alex Yoong, Taki Inoue, Yuji Ide, Diniz, Rosset and other actual paydrivers.

  13. Jianwei Zhu said on 28th July 2012, 14:46

    I’m a fans of Williams and start put focus on this team from 2003, I’m afraid the drivers are the only question inside this team. Here we can see they made very disappoint positions for several years from end of 2004, the drivers were changed during those year but points are still very bad. Fired Sam Michael seems to be a good idea so the new engineer director or some other boss could made this team back to track, but I’m afraid this is difficult and time consuming.
    The bad situation and points not only made them hard to get more sponsors, I believe this also made the team in a disappointing status, this will change something with the time flies, the teamwork, the communication method, and etc… while all the other teams around them are getting fast improvement, so it’s a bit difficult for them to make something positive shortly, but anyway, hopefully, they can be back, as soon as possible :-)

    • Jianwei Zhu said on 28th July 2012, 14:48

      I’m a fans of Williams and start put focus on this team from 2003, I’m afraid the drivers is not the only question inside this team. Here we can see they made very disappoint positions for several years from end of 2004, the drivers were changed during those year but points are still very bad. Fired Sam Michael seems to be a good idea so the new engineer director or some other boss could made this team back to track, but I’m afraid this is difficult and time consuming.
      The bad situation and points not only made them hard to get more sponsors, I believe this also made the team in a disappointing status, this will change something with the time flies, the teamwork, the communication method, and etc… while all the other teams around them are getting fast improvement, so it’s a bit difficult for them to make something positive shortly, but anyway, hopefully, they can be back, as soon as possible :-)

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