Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012

Williams fail to get the most out of winning car

2012 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012

Williams’ season ended 70 laps earlier than everyone else’s as both their drivers crashed out within the first two laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix. It said a lot about a season in which their drivers carry much of the blame for failing to deliver on the team’s potential.

The 2011 season had been one of their Williams’ worst-ever campaigns. But the first year of their reunion with Renault produced a much more competitive car with which they ended their eight-year victory drought.

Williams team stats 2012

Best race result (number) 1 (1)
Best grid position (number) 1 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 7 (2/5)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,997 (83.77%)
Laps led (% of total) 37 (3.1%)
Championship position (2011) 8 (9)
Championship points (2011) 76 (5)
Pit stop performance ranking 9

But a final position of eighth in the constructors’ championship with a car that was the sixth-quickest on pure pace has to be viewed as a disappointment.

“The FW34 was a strong car and on the whole we feel that we should have done better with the equipment we had,” admitted team principal Frank Williams. “Our long-run pace was consistently strong and whilst we need to improve on our qualifying pace, at certain tracks we did manage to give the top teams a run for their money over a single lap.”

It all came right for the team in Spain. Pastor Maldonado inherited pole position from Lewis Hamilton and although he lost the lead to Fernando Alonso to begin with, the team’s confidence in their car’s ability to look after its tyres allowed them to get back ahead by pitting Maldonado early.

It was a richly deserved return to winning ways – but one that almost ended in disaster. While they were celebrating a fire in the pit lane destroyed a considerable amount of the team’s equipment. Fortunately injuries were limited and the team were able to continue racing in Monaco.

There was drama away from the track as well. Chairman Adam Parr announced his resignation from the team on the day after the Malaysian Grand Prix, less than a month after Williams referred to him as his “natural successor”. Parr recently confirmed the widely-rumoured suspicion that a falling-out with Bernie Ecclestone was behind his decision to step down.

Just four days after the fire in Spain, the team was back on its feet in Monaco. But while the previous race demonstrated Maldonado at his best, Monaco was one of several examples of him at his worst. In practice he collided needlessly (perhaps even intentionally) with Sergio Perez, and having been demoted towards the rear of the grid he piled into Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT within seconds of the start.

A litany of similar incidents ruined Maldonado’s season. After Spain he went nine races without scoring again. Although a car failure robbed him of a strong result in Singapore this was the exception rather than the rule: Maldonado simply had too many collisions, often with other drivers, and he can count himself fortunate he he didn’t earn the kind of punishment Romain Grosjean did.

Maldonado was the driver the team could rely on the get closest to the car’s potential most regularly, as the Laps per Position graph below makes clear. He – and his vital wedge of PDVSA cash – will remain at the team next year.

Start, Monaco, 2012“Pastor has incredible raw pace and the ability to ring the neck of a car and find speed where others would not,” said Williams at the end of the year.

“He is showing more and more maturity with each race and his dominant display at the Spanish Grand Prix showed that he can handle pressure and drive a flawless race. With another season under his belt, I?m sure that next year he can confirm his position as one of the top drivers.”

Bruno Senna was clearly the slower of Williams’ two drivers, though he might have got closer to Maldonado had Valtteri Bottas’s 15 practice session appearances not been conducted exclusively in Senna’s car. From the moment that arrangement was announced Senna’s eventual replacement by Bottas seemed inevitable, and it was duly confirmed shortly after the season ended.

Senna proved a safer pair of hands than Maldonado, though his season was not without its share of incidents. On more than one occasion he was hit from behind by quicker drivers having stayed out long during his first stint in an attempt to make up the places he lost in qualifying – as happened in the two Spanish races.

Senna reached the points in half of this year’s races – twice as many as Maldonado, whose Spanish Grand Prix success and another strong run in Abu Dhabi (despite a KERS problem) ensured he finished ahead in the drivers’ standings.

But it added up to considerably less than the team were capable of in the constructors’. They improved by one place over 2011, but it’s not hard to imagine how they could have picked up another three.

Williams drivers’ 2012 race results

Pastor Maldonado 13 19 8 1 13 12 16 15 13 11 8 14 16 5 9
Bruno Senna 16 6 7 22 10 17 10 9 17 7 12 10 18 14 15 10 8 10

Williams drivers’ 2012 laps per position

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Pastor Maldonado 37 27 37 42 37 60 30 57 46 65 53 79 100 71 64 44 36 12 28 10 6 2 0 0
Bruno Senna 0 0 0 2 4 17 52 87 54 122 84 122 55 110 100 37 56 26 30 27 27 6 15 21

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Images ?? Williams/LAT