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A personal review of the F1 year – Williams
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A personal review of the F1 year – Williams
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Jan 2011   |  5:12 pm GMT  |  45 comments

Williams F1 team, 0 wins, 1 pole, 6th in Constructors’ championship

Williams is considered the weather vane of F1 – if it is in reasonable shape, then F1 is in good shape. The team struggled during the manufacturer era, whereas this moment should be good for the team, with the Resource Restriction Agreement pulling the staff numbers and resources of the leading teams down.


The team is definitely in transition from the late Frank Williams/Patrick Head days to the Adam Parr/Sam Michael days. This means everything from finding sponsors and drivers to technical direction. In practice it has been this way for a while but now it’s official.

The Williams team entered 2010 having not won a race in five years and while that didn’t change, there was at least the pole of rookie Nico Hulkenberg – the team’s first pole position for five years – at the Brazilian Grand Prix to boost the team. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to save his job as just nine days later he got the boot with this season’s GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado taking his place. Several sponsors left the team at the end of the year; RBS and Philips particularly and Maldonado brings a significant sponsorship package from Venezuela. This allows the team to retain Rubens Barrichello, whose impact on the team was very noticeable as the year went on.


Williams had a reasonable car at the start of the year, but it wasn’t very driver friendly. And Williams’ resources are not what they once were, so they couldn’t afford to run multiple programmes or take a wrong direction. With his 18 years experience, Barrichello made suggestions for an aerodynamic direction which really started to show results in the second half of the season. From Valencia onwards he qualified in the top ten at every race, bar one. He lined up seventh on the grid for the final race in Abu Dhabi, a very positive sign. Where Williams were impressive technically was in being able to incorporate the blown diffuser straight away. They brought it to Valencia, tested it on Friday and raced it on Sunday. McLaren struggled to do that.

Barrichello told me at the end of the season that he thinks his input on the design phase of the 2011 car should make it a more driveable car from the outset. He’s loving being listened to by his team and is driving very well. He should easily have the measure of Maldonado. This year Hulkenberg was on his pace in the second half of the season and the German was always faster than Maldonado when they were team mates in GP2.

Will the Williams team win again? Will the new management team be able to build it up to championship level using the existing business model and technical team? It’s a long term process and no doubt Parr has a strategic plan.

The team is diversifying into hybrid technology in partnership with the authorities in Qatar and I suspect that Parr has also had extensive discussions with the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar about getting more involved with the team as Abu Dhabi is with Ferrari and Bahrain with McLaren. That could be a bit of a game changer for the team if they pull that off. For 2011 they have the funds from Maldonado as well as other sponsorship income and FOM money, but the fact that they had to drop Hulkenberg tells its own painful story.

I’ve seen Williams from close up through several phases of their history, particularly the long, successful period of the 1990s. F1 is a different game now and needs a different road map. Let’s hope Williams finds it.

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45 Comments
  1. Joe says:

    Do a renault reveiw please! :D

    1. James Allen says:

      That’s tomorrow’s review, funnily enough!

      1. Galapago555 says:

        Are Ferrari to be the last?

      2. James Punt says:

        James,

        Slightly off topic but could you at some point find the time to explain what exactly the Resource Restriction Agreement is. What are the teams limited to in terms of budget, manpower etc? Is it the same for everyone or will the big teams still have the bigger budgets? And what will the sponsors think if they see the teams only spending $x when they have been paying big bucks before?

        Thanking you in anticipation

      3. James Allen says:

        Sure. Will do that.

      4. ian says:

        That will be good – and how it will be ‘policed’?

  2. Andy C says:

    This is the team I grew up watching winning. Frank and Patrick are racers and I’d love to see them do well.

    While I’d have loved to see nico stay i understand why they took Maldonado.

    Here is hoping we see them win again in the next couple of years.

    1. S.J.M says:

      I share that sentiment. Williams was the top team when I got into F1 when i was 9/10 years old and of course they are an English team too, so I have always had my support. I hope they win a race this season, or be competitive, but Il admit im worried about them getting back to that level.

      Like yourself, I “Get” why Hulk wasnt retained, but thats not to say i agree with it or like it.

      1. Andy C says:

        I think the chances of replicating such dominance are small, but they should be able to get back up there challenging.

        Keeping Rubens may turn out to be a masterstroke at the current time.

    2. Im the same, I started when it was the blue and yellow Canon Williams….

      In the history of F1, where does Williams now stand? They must be some of the originals along with McLaren & Ferrari…?

      Good on them!

  3. jmv says:

    Although painful to let the quick German go.. they seem to act with sense.. bringing in the money at all cost and retaining Rubens to keep the technical momentum up… hard choice but I guess the only one.

    I can’t help but think that Barichello and his input for car setup and development has been underestimated over the years (albeit by the greater public.. insiders like Ross Brawn know differently)

    Looking at each of the teams he drove for… the cars ended up achieving something… a pole or became podium finishers:
    - Jordan: he managed some good results, including first pole and regular points finishes (plus lots of heartbreaking retirements from points scoring position)
    - Stewart: team that was built from scratch… Magnussen/Verstappen as teammates were not so leading and technical… yet Rubens managed to achieve podiums with it
    - Ferrari: heavily overshadowed by MS but I can’t help but noticing Ferrari dropping of after his departure and perhaps input? Definitely Massa was not such a complementary “number 2 driver”
    - Honda/Brawn: did Rubens have some good input into the development of the Brawn challenger?
    - Williams: we see a turnaround in the grid position of Wiliiams… if next year they supersede Renault… I think a lot will be down to Rubens’ input

    I am not classifying Rubens as a outright WDC type of driver but definitely having him must be a huge asset (and am saying this with respect for all his teammates)

    If Rubens manages to bring back Williams from the back of the grid to regular podium finisher team.. I think he can be tremendously proud of his achievements as an F1 driver.

    1. Paul Kirk says:

      Absolutely, Jmv, I agree totally! And I too would love to see Williams knocking on the door of the big boys! (And maybe shutting it in their face!)
      PK.

    2. Dave C says:

      Well Williams is not at the back of the grid and I think you give Rubens a bit too much credit there, back in the Honda days you failed to mention the alarming decline they suffered in 07 and 08 after he joined the team, ferrari’s best days were down to Schuey and Brawn not Rubens, Williams might of improved slightly in the second half of the season but that’s down to the blown diffuser integration.

    3. Ry says:

      Well said. The guy has always been underestimated. I hope he and the team do well next year.

    4. Greg says:

      Agree, Ruben’s looks at his best. Now he’s a clear No. 1 driver and with a team who acknowledges his technical skills, better should come for both.

      I look forward to seeing Williams progress this year.

    5. russ says:

      the sacking of the Hulk is F1s’ biggest embarassment this year.The money from chavez will not help Williams move up the grid.
      It will put a nonddeserving driver in place of a Formula one Pole Sitter.Ill watch them slide further down the grid.Williams vs hispania.

  4. irish con says:

    all this talk about the money maldonado will bring to williams. i think this is wrong. renault learned the lesson this year i think. look at the money they spent rebuilding petrovs car and if they had a 2nd top driver beside the superstar that is kubica they would have finished 4th in the wcc. i think next year might be the same story with williams as i think nico in his second season in f1 beside rubens he would have been the superstar he has looked from a long time ago. i would rather see talent over money all day long.

    1. Andy C says:

      Yes, but they very nearly ran out of working capital midseason, even with the funding from petrovs backers.

      There is no point being the fastest team no longer in business….

    2. Ben says:

      if Renault learnt their lesson with Petrov, why did they sign him again for this year?

      1. Irish con says:

        Well he isn’t a rookie anymore so would expect less mistakes and more Abu dhabi performances and they couldn’t get kimi. If Kimi was in the car last year Renault would have been 4th instead of fith so more money and less spent fixing the car. In my view better.

  5. stuart fenton says:

    I read a description of Williams (the team, and the man) having a ‘battle of britain’ spirit. As a fan I can’t say a truer word has ever been said, and it is truly inspiring. They have a lot of character, the true British team! It is very easy to write a team off but the recent deals, sponsors, driver changes and also selling part of the team shows firm steps in a direction. let’s hope that it is the right direction. This year and next are to build a good foundation for when the letters V and W get stapled to the car. Let’s hope so anyway. A lot of wishful thinking for a team that truly deserve it

  6. jonrob says:

    The middle east connection is not new for Williams, I remember when it used to be Saudia Williams and our Noige drove for them.
    How come the RRA affects Williams but does not seem to affect Ferrari or McLaren etc?

    As has been said, a great pity to loose Nico, but how long will Rubens stay? He deserves some more success after all the years he spent playing 2nd fiddle.

  7. Richard Bell says:

    If I was a manufacturer looking for a team to join when the rules change in 2013, I’d choose Williams even though the logical choice would be Red Bull. I’m desperate to see Frank and his team winning again, I’ve read Honda are interested in returning, they’d be a perfect fit given their successful history together.

    1. Andy C says:

      Now that would be great. Honda belong in f1 as fantastic engine builders.

      I still hope formula 1 gets back to works engines, and racers building chassis (Ferrari obviously being the exception).

      I don’t think even the might of mercedes will be a success (as in doing a mclaren or Ferrari period of dominance).

    2. Martin says:

      The new management may be able to ignore being dumped in late 1987 for McLaren too. The thing with Honda is if you look at success that it had from mid 1985 to end 1991 you’d say great move. The 2008 V8 was perceived to be about the weakest engine on the grid along with Toyota.

  8. rvd says:

    I’ve always felt Williams was what F1 was all about. Sir Frank and Patrick are true F1 people. I’m not a big fan of Parr or Michael but I always pull for Williams to do well. As James pointed out, the F1 game is changing (not a big fan of that either). The technology and innovation -yes, the politics and BS -no.

  9. Ryan Eckford says:

    2010 for Williams was a reasonably solid and promising year.

    The categories that I measured the 2010 cars in include:
    Car Driveability, All Round Car Ability, Low Downforce Circuits, Medium Downforce Circuits, High Downforce Circuits, High Speed Circuits, Medium Speed Circuits and Low Speed Circuits.

    The categories in order of strength for the FW32 are:
    1. Low Speed Circuits(6th)
    2. Low Downforce Circuits(5th)
    3. High Downforce Circuits(6th)
    4. High Speed Circuits(6th)
    5. Car Driveability(7th)
    6. All Round Car Ability(6th)
    7. Medium Downforce Circuits(7th)
    8. Medium Speed Circuits(7th)

    Both Barrichello and Hulkenberg drove well at times throughout 2010. It is a bit of a shame to see Williams get rid of Hulkenberg, but I hope he can find a race seat for 2011. Overall, it was a solid year for a team that wants to return back to it’s glory days.

  10. Matt says:

    Williams needs an engine partner – Honda wants back in with the new engine regs… Williams / Honda – could that work… :)

  11. Ben says:

    When I first started watching F1 in 1996, Williams were the team to beat. It seems strange now, seeing them down in midfield.

    Hopefully they can get back up to the front. It might sound strange, but for me they’re still a beacon of ‘realness’ in the sport.

    I know teams like McLaren and Ferrari are very passionate. But there’s something about Williams, a kind of gritty determination, that appeals to me. I’d love for them to get back on top!

  12. Michael Grievson says:

    I’d love to see Williams at the front again. They deserve it.

  13. Kyle W says:

    It’s sort of ironic that Rubens will finally be a true #1 next year. It’s the first time since ’98 at Stewart when he was paired with the dreadful Magnussen. Since then, he’s partnered with 6 world champions, and been a part of 6 constructors titles (only MS with 7 has more). He’s probably one of the greatest 20-25 drivers of all time, but he’s always remembered for not winning. Here’s to hoping he can put Frank and Patrick back onto the podium next year.

  14. Toti says:

    Williams are a great team who acted in defiance of the corporate era. I think it was obvious BMW made them an offer way back when but it was not clear why they never sold until BMW destroyed Sauber. Frank and Patrick would never allow that. Both Frank and Bernie will die involved in this sport. The only problem I see for this team is their picks in drivers lately. First choices they are not. They have had good ideas and are clearly solid in engineering terms. Look at the double diffuser last year (2009). But Yamamoto? They needed a Kubica to drag the car home every time. Schumacher and Montoya lost them their last chance. I hope they get another as they are a top team, but when the money is not there?

  15. PaulL says:

    It’s a shame they chose to drop their fly-wheel KERS. I guess it was the only wise decision but they invested a lot in it right?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, but they are developing it with Qatar University R&D people for commercial use on buses, trains etc

  16. zombie says:

    Apart from a pole position,Williams achieved something else in 2010 – they did not whine/veto about Ferrari for a change! After the BMW divorce, i really dont see Williams fighting for a world championship anytime soon.And with a rejuvenated Renault/Lotus-Renault, a well funded Force-India, Williams will have its plate full to keep its what now seems to be a perennial mid-grid spot.

  17. Martin says:

    Hi James,

    I’m interested in your statement about Williams being the weather vane for the sport.

    Is there a consistent trend between viewer ratings/attendance and sponsorship interest?

    In Australia I don’t see much specific support for Williams, but then all the team merchandise tends to Ferrari and some McLaren.

    As far as the team’s history goes, it had its initial success with Cosworth thanks to Patrick Head’s ground effects work. From 1983 to 1987 it had a Honda connection. The first two and a half years were limited by the engine and to a degree the chassis, and then 22 wins came in less than 3 years. The year without a manufacturer engine in 1988 was poor. The Renualt years took time to deliver significant success. After two years of Mechachrome, BMW came along, and while there were only about 9 wins, it wasn’t bad going, with some races that it dominated. BMW clearly felt the aerodynamic development wasn’t there and dumped the team.

    Without good engines there will be a performance deficiency, and that largely seems to be where Williams has been since 2006. That won’t change for 2011 and with KERS unlikely to be a differentiator, the performance step up would come from the aerodynamics. There the team is limited in its resources to experiment and be bold in the early stages of CFD work. It also hasn’t developed a single diffuser car before, so its baseline may be a bit lower. All up it is hard to see where a major change is likely to come from.

    Courting Qatar may help in securing the future of the team, but Ferrari and McLaren have current expectations of winning, and that brings dollars. Appearances in Q3 that the TV cameras don’t follow won’t help so much. Qatar may also be a bit distracted in the coming years by the 2022 World Cup (and right now paying off the bribes…;-)). Adam Parr will need a really good contract to get any sort of financial priority if the oil slows down.

    1. VV says:

      “It also hasn’t developed a single diffuser car before”

      What sort of diffuser setup do you think they had before 2009?

      1. Martin says:

        Technically you are right, but dimensions of the diffuser are much more constrained now. As Adrian Newey commented, the regulation that allowed the holes in the diffuser has been around since 1994. That three teams exploited it for the first time in 2009 says something dramatic changed. The 2008 and 2007 Williams cars weren’t known for their high speed corner performance either, so it would appear that the team will be largely back to square one.

  18. Ed says:

    Hopefully VW link up with Williams for 2013. There is already a link there through Porsche and hybrid technologies, so its not completely out of the question.

    If you look at 1988, 1998-99 and 2005 onwards, you can see that Williams needs proper manufacturer support to do a decent job.

    1. Martin says:

      Recent history suggests that the VW group may be a better bet than Honda (proposed by others here). The word from the industry is that the branding is more likely to Audi or Porsche than VW. Given the number of brands in the group, the same engine could have many names.

  19. onyx says:

    I am sorry but Williams are yesterdays team-money talks in F1 which is why it will be Red Bull,Ferrari and Mclaren at the front again in 2011.Williams need some new technical input and they wont ever do anything with a cOsworth in the back.

    1. Rafael says:

      Over the years, I’ve read the Williams boys say over and over again, “Don’t count us out, we know how to win. We’re Williams!”. To no avail. It really pains me to say this, given I have the utmost respect for both Sir Frank and Patrick Head; but I agree with you: in my view – given how they’ve been going about the past few seasons – Williams F1 should have either sold up or folded 2 or 3 years ago.

      Back in their heyday, Williams were known for their solid trackside operations and sound/innovative race car design/engineering. But nowadays, it’s either a case of neither possessing both or they simply are unable to play both strengths simultaneously. I agree that the team’s now limited resources/funding plays some part in their uncompetitive form. But then again, Williams was never really one of F1′s elites – even back when they were title challengers. At their wealthiest, I would say they (only) belonged to the high middle class of F1′s economic hierarchy.

      Besides, I remember once reading an article that said Renault won the ’05 titles with a budget of only around $172Mil -nothing compared to the budget of McLaren and Ferrari at the time, which were perhaps both in excess of $250Mil. So it proves that although money is relevant to success, it’s not the answer to everything. Ferrari was always rich to begin with, but it was only when they started dominating the early 2000s that they became uber rich; success breeds success. Building good relationships too, I suppose, breeds success: had Sir Frank and Patrick been more accommodating to BMW (as Ron Dennis was – is – w/ Mercedes), then perhaps Williams F1 wouldn’t have found themselves in the situation they are in right now. It’s hard to think things will change next year, sorry to say.

  20. Adrian Newey Jr says:

    At the end of the day F1 is a human sport. You need the brains in the factory to come up with the right design. Clearly Williams had these people in the past.

    James – could you do a review on who you think are the key people behind the scenes in F1? The key designers (obviously me included), engineers, spanner turners, etc who make the difference between the teams?

    All the credit seems to go to the drivers yet I think its those in the factory that make the difference. People like Villenueve would never have gotten a championship without them…

  21. Pedro Muir says:

    Had to reread the second paragraph a few times; though Sir Frank had passed!

    I can see the Williams KERS system being one of the better ones, I am lead to believe that it can be used with any engine, not just Cosworth so could be sold to other teams?

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