2011 Team Reviews - Williams


World Champion
Williams season review

There would be no return to the glory days for Williams in 2011, from being the ‘best of the rest’ behind the five powerhouses of Red Bull to Renault, in one season alone, they became the worst midfield team.

Although some rapid winter testing times had raised hopes of a noticeable improvement over recent years, the early results made it clear that the FW33 was a midfielder rather than a front-runner.

A close look at the FW33 told you a lot about what’s going on at Williams.

Its bodywork gave us a clue about the team’s sponsorship situation and the changes in their driver line-up.
And most importantly, you can see the innovations on the car that the team hoped would get them to the front of the grid. First, the sponsors. Or rather, the lack of them.

Several big names had departed over the winter including RBS, Phillips and Green Flag.

Not all of them have been replaced. But the logo of Venezuela’s state-owned petrol company PDVSA features prominently.

Their backing has come courtesy of a change in the driver line-up that has already attracted much comment. Nico Hülkenberg, who ended Williams’ five-year pole position drought last year, has been dropped for Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado.

For obvious reasons Williams received some criticism for this. But keep in mind Maldonado was the reigning GP2 champion – like Hülkenberg was and like Timo Glock, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg before them.

He may have came with some financial backing and that may have played a role in him getting the driver. But you couldn’t argue he didn’t deserve a shot at the top-flight. And he certainly had a stronger claim than Kazuki Nakajima did.

Still it’s a worrying reflection of Williams’ financial situation – to say nothing of Formula 1 in general – that a driver of Hülkenberg’s calibre has to make way for someone more sponsor-friendly.

The hard reality is F1 teams need money to survive – turn your attention to the back of the FW33 for evidence of that.

The team had developed – at some cost – their smallest ever gearbox to produce an extremely compact rear end on their car.

This and its low differential (note how steeply the rear axles are inclined towards the wheels) is designed to increase the effectiveness of the rear wing and boost downforce.

Many thought that may prove especially useful given how quickly rear tyres were going off with the new Pirelli compounds. But as ever it was hard to get a reading on how well the car is working from testing times alone.

The team’s testing programme had suffered setbacks due to problems with their Kinetic Energy Recovery System.

The flywheel KERS Williams developed for 2009 (but did not race) remains on the shelf – like their rivals the team used a battery system this year.

It fell to Rubens Barrichello to lead the team this year, however while Maldonado got up to speed he showed he was a match for the veteran. Many said to keep an eye out for the rookie at Monaco where he has a strong track record, and that is where he excelled, if he wasn’t involved with a race ending collision, then he would have finished the season ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the points.

The team scraped sixth in the constructors’ championship last year, narrowly beating Force India – which is where Hülkenberg has ended up as a reserve driver.

They were looking to better that this season, however, they hit a new low. Their worst season in F1 to date, with Maldonado being the worst Williams driver in the team’s history (points wise).

Being with Cosworth may have had a detrimental effect on performance, due to Cosworth being behind in the EBD development, and not running it at all early in the season, this lead the team to take a more radical design approach in some areas initially – with Williams unwilling to chance the EBD immediately until it could be confident that there would be no heat-level problems with the required exhaust layout and the Cosworth.

The team was in disarray and got criticised by it’s lead driver Rubens Barrichello, who claimed race days became test sessions, due to the team bringing rapids amount of upgrades in most races until the last quarter of the season, an act of desperation to gain some vital performance from their worst car in history.

Not only that, there was internal conflict between Adam Parr and Patrick Head. Parr had tendered his resignation, only for it to be turned down. And later that evening it emerged that there was a rift between Parr and the Williams director and co-founder Patrick Head.

In a conference call Parr told reporters: "Patrick has made it clear that he will be retiring this year. That's nothing to do with the restructuring, it's just the fact that he's turning 65 and had already signalled that it's time for him to move on to his next set of interests in life."

But Head has since denied Parr's claims, saying: "What you are telling me is news to me. I wasn't aware that Adam had said that.

"He wasn't in a position to make that statement. My plans are not in the public domain and they will only be when I make my own statement later in the year." Head, who set up the team with Sir Frank Williams in 1977, sold more than half his shares earlier this year, netting over £30m.

Their drivers this season didn’t have the best of times. Barrichello was matched by Maldonado who looked terrible in the first few races of the season, Maldonado really should have finished ahead of Barrichello in the points, but a collision with Lewis Hamilton put a nail to that coffin.

Rubens Barrichello was anonymous during the season, only achieving two points finishes, both being 9th places in hectic races, them being Monaco and Canada. Not once qualifying in the top 10. Although, there was still some fight left in the old dog in the latter half of the season, where he came from 18th in Abu Dhabi to finish 12th. The 12th position may have not meant much, but it was a good performance as he bet several faster cars around him.

His team-mate Pastor Maldonado however, had an eventful season. His first 8 races where poor apart from Monaco, apart from the retirements, his highest finish up until Silverstone was 15th, finishing 18th twice and 17th once in those 8 races.

He had the second most penalties this season, (no surprises who was first). He had one mad moment where he deliberately collided with – again – Lewis Hamilton, in a qualifying session at Spa. He got called up to the stewards, but was very angry and was told to come back later after he had calmed down.

Naughty boy!

Nevertheless, he showed some talent with a great drive in Monaco, qualified 8th, was running in 6th with strong pace, until he collided with Hamilton. After getting a grid drop at Spa, he managed to make his way from 21st to 10th, scoring his first ever Formula One World Championship point. He was quick in qualifying but faded in the race, he managed to do what his team-mate couldn’t this season, and that was to reach the pole position shootout, he didn’t just do it once, but he achieved it three times.

Not a great season by all means, but he has shown he can deliver at times. Not bad for a driver that’s tagged as a ‘pay driver’.

But many must wonder, with Maldonado’s season, what did Nico Hulkenberg do wrong to get replaced by Maldonado, who seemed mediocre at times?

The team after a horrid season is having several changes, technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist, Jon Tomlinson have left the team, signing infamous engineer Mike Coughlan (who was involved in the spygate), a big change in the engineering department, and getting a deal on the Renault engines, therefore ditching Cosworth.

They were even in talks with the 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, but that deal broke down, after it looked like a ‘done deal’. It was reported, that Adam Parr and Patrick Head, again where in conflict.
Things would have looked on the up for Williams if they signed the ex-Ferrari driver, with also Renault engines, and a shuffle in the team, their position looked much better than this year’s.

However, they didn’t get a top driver that they were after, but at the end of the day, you can’t have everything.

New engine deal, and new engineers should do them for now.

Highlights: New engine deal with Renault, and new engineers.

Lowlights: Having the worst season in their history.
One of the big problems Williams faced with the FW33 was highlighted in Autosport by Gary Anderson early on in the season. Williams had designed a car that had no body work at the back with the rear suspension top links connected to eather side of the back end of the gear box. This was in response to the new rules relatiing to the size and shape of the rear diffuser. The trouble was, having designed this type of back end, Williams didn't really seem to know what to do with it (Andersons words). As Sly pointed out, being behind the pace on the development of EBD didn't help matters either.

Poor old Rubens, he looked so out of sorts in the first few races it was clear that this was going to be his last seson. I would love to have seen him go on again next year because he is one of my favourite drivers but he should have called it a day at his home race in Brazil and left the stage with the crowd ringing in his ears. As it is, I fear he's going to spend the closed season on his knees to Sir Frank prepared to rent a drive if needs be and find himself waiting around at the back door just incase he gets thrown a bone. Not the best of ways for F1s most experienced driver to go.
Actually Nakajima is the worst Williams driver in history points-wise sly, not scoring a single one in 2009.

I knew Maldonado wouldn't be as good as Hulkenburg was. You could argue Maldonado matched Barrichello over the course of the season more than the German did in 2010 though.
Yeah, but he scored 5 points under the new system.

There have been many different systems since the very first year of Formula 1. Nakajima also scored nothing under the last system used prior to 2003 (as did Maldonado). If you start taking into account what points different drivers would have had had it not been for a certain system you'll start to drive yourself mad.
Harsh to say he's the worst but from a statistical point of view he had the worst season.

I got it from the BBC, they mentioned it.

To be fair, he was really terrible in the opening races, sometimes racing with a Lotus.

But he really should have had more points on the board, and matched Barrichello in qualifying and the race in the second half of the season, and mustered a point from the back of the grid.

His behaviour is what I think has tainted his season, judging by the way he is talked about. But performance wise, it wasn't bad.
There have been many different systems since the very first year of Formula 1. Nakajima also scored nothing under the last system used prior to 2003 (as did Maldonado). If you start taking into account what points different drivers would have had had it not been for a certain system you'll start to drive yourself mad.

But if you're comparing Maldonado with Nakajima for the title of "worst Williams season ever" it is unfair to use different systems, because you're then not comparing apples with apples. Maldonado had the worst full season of a Williams driver ever.

However, that is no doubt mainly due to the car. Compared to team-mates, Zanardi in 1999 and Nakajima in 2009 were worse than Maldo because they had a better car.
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