Whither Williams?


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Two races into 2012 and Williams F1 have 18 points in the constructors championship, nearly 4 times their haul in 2011. The influence of a new technical team and the use of Renault engines appears to have reinvigorated this former giant of F1. That said, the use of two drivers primarily employed for the money they bring to the team rather than their racing skills does raise the question of where Williams go from here.

If 2012 proves to be a turning point for the team will faster drivers want to go to Didcot? Will a few good results allow Williams to go after new headline sponsors allowing them to choose drivers based more on skill than the size of their sponsorship pot? Kimi Raikkonen supposedly snub Williams for Lotus Renault, is this a reflection of the capabilities of the team in Enstone or just how far Williams have fallen in recent years. Where would the Williams be if Kimi had agreed to drive one of the blue and white cars?

I grew up in an era where drivers were queuing outside of the Williams motor home with the hope of getting a test driver, let alone a racing seat. Frank has made some odd choices with regard to drivers, engine suppliers and sponsors over the years. I hope this is a genuine return to form and not just the last roll of the dice.
It's a bit of a vicious circle. They need the pay drivers' money to build a faster car, but once they get a faster car they'll still need the money in order to develop and move forward, not forgetting having to pay the wages a faster driver will demand. You have to wonder if the current car would be higher up the standings in the hands of faster drivers, but on the other hand they wouldn't have the cash from pay drivers and therefore would the car be as developed as it is without their money? It's a tough one.
The key is obviously to get in a bigger sponsor (maybe Coca-Cola? Always thought someone should get in either them or PepsiCo to rival Red Bull in terms of sponsorship). Obviously finishing higher up the WCC standings helps in terms of prize money. Therefore I think the logical step is to think short-medium term for now, keeping pay drivers who can provide the cash which in turn can help provide a stable platform to build on. Of course, this all hinges on the design team playing their part in keeping the car semi-competitive.
I think the problem here is possibly faulty logic. People follow the logical path: Maldo (and Senna) are paydrivers. Paydrivers are slow. Therefore Maldo and Senna are slow. However, Maldo has been measured against a known benchmark (Barrichello), and was not shown up by him (In fact, I would say that Barrichello was the driver who was humbled last year). Maldonado is a GP2 champion, and deserves his place in F1. Furthermore, Bruno is showing himself to be a good little racer this season, and is certainly not being humbled (Although he needs to work on his qualifying).

So, the real question is: Are Senna and Maldo any good? And would it make any difference having a different pairing? Certainly, any difference would likely be small.
I too would love to see a return to glory for Williams. Their stock has plummeted in recent years and I think it is easily understandable why a top driver would be reluctant to take a gamble and join the squad just yet. Frank also treats drivers as disposable commoditiies which must make drivers wary about joining up.

Hopefully they can continue with their present form and entice one or two major sponsors to come on board, possibly at bargain rates, in formula one terms. If that happens, they may be able to do away with one pay driver and bring a talented up-and-comer on board. I doubt an established ace would be willing to chance his arm based on one season's results. Continued good form over several seasons would radically change the equation and possibly herald a return to the front rank.
It's a shame there isn't a Clay Regazzoni type figure to park himself into a Williams seat in the way Regga did at Ensign back in 1980 or could we categorise Barricehllo in this mould?. I suppose the problem is that high profile drivers don't bring sponsors to the door in the way they used to it's all about results these days, which is to be expected.
Is Maldo really that slow? Sure he is a loose cannon but he has shown that he has the pace to be in F1, winning a GP2 title and not exactly being embarrassed by Barrichello. And Senna is also picking up some nice points finishes. Of course, like many people I am wondering if this is in fact a podium car if it were in the hands of one of the 'rated' drivers.

And with Mike Coughlan as technical director, I'm sure they can get their hands on some blueprints from other teams!*

*The views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of cliptheapex.com and the site is therefore not liable for these views
I don't know whether either of the Williams drivers are fast or slow. As ever in F1 how much is the car and how much is the driver. Just be interesting to see a "star" stamping on the loud pedal in a Williams once again to see how quickly the car could go. Maybe Senna and Maldonado have reached the cars limits?
I think it's (possibly) too early to tell. On the evidence of China however, I would suggest that the car may be flattering the current pilots- witness the comparative ease with which they were passed by the McLarens and Red Bulls (ok, tyre condition played a part, but Alonso's tenacity in the truculent Ferrari yielded no better result than the Williams pairing, and I don't think anyone would suggest that he's not extracting the utmost from his equipment).

Senna is starting to shape up to be a pretty good racing driver though- qualifying needs some work, but two good points-finishes on the bounce are a good platform on which he & the team can build. Maldonado still strikes me as a bit of a loose cannon when he's dicing on-track: I'm never quite sure in which direction he's going to go off...
Good article FB and something I think a few of us have been thinking about. Its always the problem when you have a driver pairing where both drivers have an unsure rep - no benchmark. Maldonado and Senna look like they're pulling off good results but for all we know if they'd had Kimi in the car they'd have been picking up podiums or wins. We'll never know the answer unfourtunatly.

We do know the current drivers both have weaknesses though - Bruno yet again nearly got involved in a first lap incident and Maldonado once again nearly got involved in accident right at the end of the GP - but they are starting to pick up results which is all that Williams will want for now. The more points they pick up the bigger share of the prize pot they get meaning the less need they have for bringing in drivers with sponsors. Maldonado brings in such a big chunk of money though that as long as he's getting pretty reg top 10 finishes I doubt he'll be shown the door. Where Senna is concerned I think we'll find out at the end of the season whether Williams think they could of had their car in better positions on whether they keep him. I've brought him up so many times most of you will think I'm in love with him but Williams do have Bottas waiting in the wings who has shown he is quick and has loyalty to the team. Williams have a history of rewarding their test drivers with race seats (Hill, Coulthard, Button, Rosberg, Wurz) and I think if they decide the car could have done better this year it'll be him they turn too. So I actually think thats who Senna is racing against this year.

As for 'big name' drivers - my gut tells me that if you had an Alonso etc etc that car would be further up the field but you could never be sure. I think Williams are just happy to be steady building themselves back up again and don't want to rock the boat by paying big amounts for superstar drivers. I mean lets face it Williams have never had a history of splashes out big wages on big names - more a history of discarding big names when they demand too much.

The race that will be interesting to watch as per the car is Monaco. Firstly it closes the grid up a bit and secondly Maldonado is deemed somewhat as a Monaco expert. 2 wins and 2 seconds there in GP2 and we all saw how well he was running for a while last year in a much worse Williams. If the car is really as good as we think it is whats to stop him challeging for the top 3 there? Of couse he might throw it into the wall before the end but at least we'd get to see.

Lets hope this is a real Williams revial and not just a false dawn though.
I for one am very pleased to see Williams not having yet another dreadful year. They were my first love in F1 and its been sad to see a once successful team slowly slipping into the also-ran category. I agree with Senna's_right_foot that it is a vicious circle, success brings better sponsors and drivers which brings success. Williams have had too little success in the last couple of decades and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be able to develop the car throughout the year and not be at their most competitive right now.
Unless Williams win a race, or lead one on merit, it's hard to see them attracting a really top driver (i.e. one of the best six or seven). Their best bet is to identify young talent and create their own star, and Bottas looks like he may - very early days of course - be a talent.

If they can finish sixth in the constructors', say, that would be worth around another $11m in FOM prize money alone for next season (notwithstanding any Bernie bonuses) and might allow them to dump the thus-far-very-erratic Senna for a young driver of real promise, whether Bottas or someone rejected by another team. Hulkenberg was ideal, and I'm sorry that didn't work out.
Arseholes - did anyone ever think Williams would win another race or would fade sadly away in the way Lotus, Brabham and Tyrrell did?
Top Bottom