Today Williams had a formal launch of its new FW33 car at its base in Grove, Oxford, incorporating a technical walk through of the car with Sam Michael and the launch of the new livery.
The livery is quite striking and in comparison to last year’s car it catches the eye much more. The blue is darker than last year, more akin to the blue of the BMW Williams era and the accent colour is red, thanks to new sponsor PDVSA, the Venezuelan oil giant.
There is a degree more confidence about the team at the moment than we have seen for a few years. This may be partly due to needing to make everything look ship shape for the benefit of potential investors in the shares which go on sale shortly.
Today’s guests at Williams featured the unusual combination of media and potential investors. Toto Wolff, the minority shareholder in the team, was ferrying the latter around with Williams CEO Alex Burns. I got the strong impression that quite a few of the money men were German, not surprising as that’s where the company is floating, so Wolff was kept busy explaining the workings of the team.
What makes this IPO unusual is that it is not so much about raising money for the team, but a partial exit and cash out for Patrick Head. No-one would begrudge him that – as chairman Adam Parr said, Head has put in 160,000 hours to the team over the years and with not a little success. But investors don’t care about that, they just care about making a return on their investment and the team’s financial performance is the key here. With the Resource Restriction Agreement in place, controlling how much teams can spend and with revenues from FOM and sponsors like PDVSA, the company expects to make profits.
But the confidence runs deeper than that. Williams has an interesting car and it seems to be going well on track, so the target seems to be fifth in the constructors’ championship. With a rookie driver, Pastor Maldonado, (who was there today) this task is made more tricky as there has rarely been a more tough time to be a rookie in F1 and a team sacrifices points by hiring a rookie over an experienced driver.
Despite a few technical niggles, especially in Jerez, the team has covered 3,800 kilometres so far with another test to come and Michael reports that there are no problems with the car.
Michael did the technical walk through and got very excited about his car’s “tight rear end” which caused a few titters of laughter. But he took me around the back to have a look and the packaging is remarkable. The key to it is to make sure that the airflow to the lower part of the rear wing is clear, because that’s where there’s lots of downforce to be had, so the gearbox is very small and low. It wouldn’t have been possible in the days of the double diffuser, but the banning of that has opened up the possibility.
This means a more extreme driveshaft angle than has ever been attempted before on an F1 car, which is a risk. The team has done endless dyno testing on the driveshafts and so far it’s been reliable. But as Sam explained, it won’t be until the drivers start smashing the car over the kerbs at Monza that we’ll know for sure.
I’ve been to many Williams launches over the years, everything from a metaphorical three ring circus in the Rothmans days to the “here’s a cup of tea, there’s the car now clear off we’ve got work to do” kind of launch.
Today the team announced that it has joined forces with Michelin star chef Michael Caines of Gidleigh Park fame. His influence will extend to the catering at the race track so Williams is sure to be a very popular destination in the paddock. Their freeloader management strategy will have to be sharp!
There was no sign of Frank or Patrick. This was the Adam and Sam show – a new page for the team and they carried it off it well. Now it’s about getting the most out of the car on the track and picking up where they left off last season with Barrichello qualifying in the top eight and challenging for points.