2011 Season: Williams preview

Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello

Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello

What they say:Mar.21 (AT&T Williams) Rubens Barrichello: Everyone is doubly excited about the first race as we should already have been racing by now. It was great to get more time at home with the kids but I want to get started and can’t wait to see the red lights go out in Melbourne and for the season to be officially underway. It is always an exciting moment when everyone lines up on the grid with no points on the board. I always fantasise a little about what could be, but I keep my feet on the ground and focus on the race ahead. I am absolutely looking forward to getting to Australia. 

Pastor Maldonado: I feel more than ready to start my first season in Formula One. I have never been to Melbourne before but we’ve done a good amount of testing which will add to the time I have spent learning the circuit in our simulator. I am now just looking forward to going racing. It will be a very exciting moment. My aim this weekend is to get a solid finish, and to score some points.

Sam Michael, Technical Director: Melbourne is a typical street circuit. It will be interesting to go there for the first time with Pirelli tyres, although there should be less stress on the tyres there than there has been at some of the higher speed test tracks we have been to so far. Albert Park evolves over the course of the weekend because the circuit is made up of predominantly public roads. This means that the track is slippery at the start of the weekend, but grip levels improve as rubber is put down on the racing line, largely done through all the practice sessions which help to clear oil and contaminants from the surface.

The FW33 is fully prepared for the first race of the season. Regarding the aero package, we have all the parts that we ran on the final days of testing in Barcelona, plus a few additional changes that we will test on Friday. The main focus over the course of the first few races is, of course, performance, but also to ensure that the car is reliable. We will also find out where we sit in the order. Overall, we are just looking forward to getting out there and going racing again!

From Cosworth’s perspective: As a circuit, Albert Park is very enjoyable, flowing and quite straight-forward on engine demands. It is a street race, though, which usually means a lot of debris on the track, such as rubbish or leaves, and that can have an adverse effect on the cooling systems as the race progresses. The race is high fuel consumption per kilometre which means that cars run one of the highest fuel loads of the season to compensate. Wet weather and safety car incidents, both of which are quite common in the Australian Grand Prix, can help manage fuel consumption and safety car periods can often dictate race strategy.

You could risk running lighter on fuel on the off chance that a safety car appears but if it fails to materialise there is a downside of having to run ‘lean’ for the entire race. On an engine severity scale, Albert Park is about middle of the range but the fact that it is the first race of the season means that this race will be the first time that the KERS-adapted CA2011k engine is run in anger over a full race weekend.

From Pirelli’s perspective: Here we are, at the start of what is a brand new adventure for us and all the teams. We’re very much looking forward to it, even though Australia is going to be somewhat different to the conditions we have experienced in official testing, with a more abrasive surface and higher temperatures. Despite that, we’ve seen that a number of teams already have a clear idea of the different strategies possible and Williams is certainly one of those. It’s obvious that there’s a lot of experience within the team, which will be a very useful resource.

vv What we say:Mar.20 (Daniel Chalmers) Looking ahead at the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship, which gets underway with the Australian Grand Prix weekend, at Albert Park in Melbourne with Free Practice 1 on Friday 25 March. 

Race Debut: Argentina 1978
Base: Grove
Chairman: Adam Parr
Team Principal: Sir Frank Williams
Director of engineering: Patrick Head
Chief Designer: Tim Densham
Technical Director: Sam Michael
Race starts: 540
Championships: 16
Race victories: 113
Pole Positions: 126
Fastest laps: 130
Points: 2,661
Podiums: 296
Races led: 219

Strength: As the team exist just to race the team is full of pure racers.

Weakness: Whilst the Cosworth engine isn’t too shabby it’s the weakest in the field.

It’s been a few barren years now for Williams but there are signs that they could be on the verge of a new and more positive era.

It seems like a long time ago when the team from Grove were winning championships galore.

The main problem for the team is their finances. It’s very hard to compete with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull who all have much bigger budgets and on the whole better facilities too.

It’s not become any easier as the team have lost RBS, Air Asia and Philips who were all major sponsors of the team.

Nico Hulkenberg showed promise last season, and surely would have become much more competitive had he remained at the team this year.

However it’s a sign of how hard times have become when Williams had to replace him with Pastor Maldonado who brings crucial funds from Venezuela.

With an all South American driver line-up it should hopefully help the team attract more sponsors from that part of the world. This along with a stock flotation will keep the team healthy financially.

In terms of the car it’s fair to say that the FW33 is a much more aggressive design, than the conservative designs we have seen over the last few seasons.

What’s particularly interesting is the rear end of the car. The team have gone for a small gearbox to allow for more development at the rear of the car.

The rear is tightly packaged in order to improve the airflow to the rear wing. This will hopefully help produce more downforce. This in turn could aid the preservation of the tyres during races, which is now critical with high degradation rate on the tyres.

When you look at the long stint times from Barcelona testing you certainly see evidence of the FW33’s ease on the tyres.

There was one stint where Rubens Barrichello did 13 out of 14 laps all in the 1:31s. Although that is not a particularly quick time (in comparison Red Bull and Ferrari were able to do 1:29s on full tanks) it’s very promising that Rubens maintained that pace throughout the stint. We have seen other very strong long runs from him earlier in the test too.

So Williams might not have brilliant raw pace, but could potentially be a very strong race car which can make progress through the field on a Sunday.

The raw pace of the car isn’t too bad though. In a one lap simulation Rubens posted a 1:22.2. That wasn’t a bad time considering the team didn’t have KERs working when that lap was set. Therefore they could have easily been amongst the few teams to set a time in the 1:21s.

Despite problems with KERs Williams do plan to run the system in Melbourne. Fingers crossed that is the right decision.

It’s very feasible that we could see Williams being one of the early surprises of the season. However their potential success could also depend on if they can keep up in the development race, which could be difficult with the strong teams around them in the midfield.

Team ratings:
Engine: 7
Drivers: 6
Aerodynamics: 7
Mechanical grip: 8
Reliability: 7
Pit Wall: 8
Rating: 41/60

Verdict: You sense much more positivity from Williams at the moment. The team are right up there at the front of the midfield. Would predict a higher championship position but feel Barrichello could be the only one scoring major points which ultimately could be costly.

Constructor’s championship position: 7th

Compiled by Daniel Chalmers