“Last year we had several opportunities we didn’t close out. I think ultimately, as a team, including the drivers, what we need to focus on is maximising our performance and delivering on it when we can.”
Last year’s FW34 was an excellent car on its day but suffered from inconsistency. The team also held off adding a ‘Coanda’ exhaust until the final round, leaving some of its potential unexploited.
That has been addressed for this year. Indeed, the team seems to have been a bit optimistic about what it could achieve with the new exhaust, prompting the FIA to outlaw one of its innovations.
The drivers’ first impressions of the new car were positive, describing it as being easier to drive and showing considerable potential. Towards the end of testing a new exhaust configuration appeared – Coughlan says the team aim to bring updates to every race this year having produced 35 floor upgrades during the course of 2012.
The question now is whether the team’s exciting driver line-up can make the most of what they’ve got. The team have put considerable effort into finding a place for Valtteri Bottas and expectations are high for the 2011 GP3 champion.
Matching his rapid team mate on one-lap pace will be a tall order but that’s the goal he has to aspire to. Pastor Maldonado had little to worry about last year from a Bruno Senna who had one hand tied behind his back but Bottas may prove a genuine threat.
The team will not be diverting practice time to a third driver this year and have pledged to make it a fair fight between their two charges. “We don’t have a number one driver,” said Coughlan. “We are absolutely desperate to take the same car to every race.”
Williams had a difficult winter with the Mark Gillan leaving and Toto Wolff moving to Mercedes. In response Maldonado’s former race engineer Xevi Pujolar has taken on the role of chief race engineer.
Sadly the team have also lost Lady Virginia ‘Ginny Williams’, wife of Sir Frank, who succumbed to cancer last week.
Car 16: Pastor Maldonado
Whether he can get his demons under control and let his obvious talent shine through will define his season.
His place at the team is inevitably linked to to the financial support he brings from Venezuela, and recent events in the country have cast doubt on how long it will continue.
But the team believe in their driver. “Pastor’s driving towards the end of the season was tremendous,” said Coughlan. “People didn’t realise the problems he was carrying in the car. He had great performance.”
Car 17: Valtteri Bottas
He brings little by way of sponsorship money and his track work last year was largely confined to practice session appearances in Bruno Senna’s car.
Bottas impressed the team with his pace and technical feedback and spent the winter conditioning himself for his F1 debut. “Valtteri is very disciplined, very focussed,” said Coughlan. “He’s worked very hard over the winter, lost some weight, put on some strength”.
With his track record and what should be a competitive car, Bottas stands out among the rookies of 2013 as the one most worth keeping an eye on.
But as he hasn’t started a race since the Macau Grand Prix in November 2011, we should be wary of expecting too much too soon.
Williams championship form
Williams in 2013: Your view
Will we see a new, more mature Maldonado in 2013? And how will Bottas fare on his long-awaited debut?
Have your say in the comments.
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Images ?é?® Williams/LAT, F1 Fanatic