F1 Winter Break
Tapas and optimism from Williams
Tapas and optimism from Williams
Posted By:   |  26 Feb 2009   |  4:05 pm GMT  |  17 comments

Just had a very enjoyable day at Williams HQ in Grove where a few of us were treated to a series of briefings by the team. The drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima were there, we had a talk around the car by technical director Sam Michael and then a briefing on the team’s health, FOTA and other general F1 matters from Sir Frank Williams and team CEO Adam Parr.

They even threw in some lunch, all very trendy, with small tapas-sized portions and lots of them. Being Williams though it was roast beef and fish and chips in the tiny bowls rather than some continental nonsense. Rhubarb crumble and crème brulee for pudding. Hardly anyone drank any wine except a few of the older generation journos…

Williams is a no-nonsense team which has been living beyond its means for the last couple of seasons in an effort to keep up and which is therefore grateful to the credit crunch for forcing its main rivals finally to agree cost saving measures. I actually think that Williams could have been in serious trouble if FOTA had not happened and with it the agreement to slash costs. Now Williams will be able to compete more fairly and will be able to pay off their debt. Despite losing RBS, Baugar and Petrobras as sponsors, they are more diversified than some other teams, a point CEO Adam Parr made. It was interesting to see Sir Frank together with Adam. He defers to him more and more and you could see that he has great trust in his number two. Could be another handover soon a la Ron Dennis…

The drivers spoke with optimism about the season ahead. The headline quote of the day was Nico Rosberg saying that he wants to be in a top car by 2010 and although he hopes it can be with Williams, that is his clear priority. He looked fantastic, no I mean even more fantastic than he normally looks. He’s slimmed down, like many drivers, because the KERS system has added weight to the cars and that means weight has to come off the drivers. Nico also said that he was relishing the challenge of the new rules with all the buttons to press and front wings to adjust. He feels that F1 is moving even more towards the intelligent drivers and he’s keen to position himself as a driver with a great interest in and feel for, the technology.

Frank said that he thinks the Honda team will be on the grid in Melbourne in some guise or other, Adam added that the fact that they are still making things for the car, planning a shakedown test next week ahead of an appearance at Barcelona test the week after, shows that Honda are serious about the proposals in front of them.
Looking at the opposition, Frank said that he thought Red Bull look particularly strong. Sam Michael pointed out that the RBR car was more developed at launch than other cars, but that other teams had major upgrades planned before Mclbourne, so you could really only judge at the first race.

Everyone agreed that it’s very close with no more than 3-4/10ths of a second separating the cars which have tested so far. That’s mind blowing if you think about it. Sam also said that Williams are not ready with the KERS system and hope to bring it to the car soon. He reckons BMW and McLaren are the two teams who are most bullish about their KERS systems and are most likely to use them in Australia.

One interesting undercurrent I picked up was that there is some muttering about the Renault engine. They were down on power last season and were allowed by the other teams to bring their motor up to speed with the others. This was done on trust through a FOTA agreement, whereby each manufacturer presented its power curve and they all agreed what Renault should be allowed to increase by. The implication is that perhaps the power curve they demonstrated at the start was a little lower than the reality….and so they may actually be a little ahead of the others now! This would also help Red Bull as they use the Renault motor.

Sam said that the adjustable front wing was going to make a bigger difference to overtaking than he and others had anticipated, Apparently the drivers can get really close to a car in front through a fast corner onto a straight and that makes passing very possible,. It will be circuit dependent of course and Shanghai for example, with the long fast corner onto the long straight will see a lot more passing. Same with Bahrain.

The boost from the KERS button adds 5mph to a car’s straight line speed so the cars which start the season with KERS will be able to take even more advantage of the adjustable front wing for passing.

Final note, Frank was very unhappy about the BBC News coverage of the RBS pulls out of F1 in 2010 story yesterday. He felt it was far too doom and gloom and also not accurate in its depiction of the facts of the story. I didn’t see it, so I cannot comment, I was engrossed in Liverpool vs Real Madrid football match, which had a good outcome as far as I’m concerned.

To sum up, Williams seem quietly confident about the season ahead, the car seems to be going quite well in testing and the key for them is going to be to take their chances when they arise this year on the tracks they always go well on, the street tracks for example.

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another great article james - it's really good to hear the behind the scenes stuff - keep it up! Question: does the fact 8 teams (so far) with massively varying budgets can produce cars that run within just 3-4 / 10ths of a second mean the technical regs have taken away the power / skill of the designer / engineers - you may view it as just the opposite? Perhaps that was the intention (not so much more overtaking but closer racing generally). Will this reduce costs or mean there will be more exepnsive refinement - much to the annoyance of max.

V interesting re renault engine retune - seems the other teams were caught sleeping!


Surely Flavio wouldn't have pulled such a dirty trick with the Renault engine, James?!

Good news about the front wing and KERS; there have been a lot of naysayers about all those new systems but it's increasingly seeming like they will be of real benefit, and that's got to be good for the sport.

As for Williams, they're in the same boat as Renault - but 12 months further down the road. Both teams will, in their different ways, be a litmus test for the viability of Max's cost-cut vision of F1 as we see whether they can find enough sponsorship to carry on going racing...


"Apparently the drivers can get really close to a car in front through a fast corner onto a straight and that makes passing very possible".

Best thing I've read all week! I don't understand how that would be the result of the moveable wing though, surely it's due to the overall lower downforce levels?


How do Nico & Kazuki defend themselves against drivers with KERS, up close behind them with an extra 5mph on tap? Can they run with a higher top gear, nearer the rev limit?


Think Frank is one of life's true gentlemen. Very focussed and determined, but a remarkable and admirable gent to his core. You know exactly where you stand with FW: very direct and clear in what he thinks and says.

The Renault engines? ... possible tinkering, I guess ... but with their hulking looking launch car, they probably need all the engine power they can get.

Overtaking? ... how does a car on a Sunday suddenly go faster than it did on a Saturday if the cars are all in parc ferme and can't really be tweaked?

Teams will have maxed the cars out in terms of their trim, adjustable settings, KERS usage, etc, in quali, so it is difficult to see how a car that was slower on a Saturday is suddenly going to go faster on a Sunday afternoon than the car it qualified behind originally.

Being able to overtake may help when you are out of position due to fuel stops or if the car in front is really struggling because of a change (for example) in their tyre performance, etc ... but car P5 isn't going to overtake cars P4 and P3 in "normal" race conditions just because of an adjustable wing. The car in front can also adjust its wing settings and it can also pump its KERS button.

If you hit the KERS button coming out of a corner and going into a straight, the car that is following is going to struggle to keep up with you as the following driver won't be able to respond quickly enough to the leading driver's burst of speed. By the time they have caught up, their own KERS energy will have been used up and the lead car will already be heading into the next corner.

I want to see more overtaking, but unless cars suddenly change their performance levels from a Saturday to a Sunday, it just isn't going to happen in any meaningful way - except when cars get out of position in qualifying.


Finn --is it not the case that cars carrying differing fuel loads, sporting different compound tyres, being quicker on different parts of the track and being quicker at different stages of the race will result in more over taking in view of the the new regs?


Adam Parr is absolutely outstanding man. He understands the business and he has kind of Willams feeling. I enjoyed one of press conferences of 2008 with him when he was arguing I believe with Gerhard Berger and Christian Horner about customer cars, and I just loved his arguments. Before I knew him I was not at all sure who can replace Frank once he will be not able to manage his team, but with Adam I can see now. Very charismatic person too.

Well done James for article, it seems to me you know what we would like to know and that's rare!


I *LOVE* rhubarb crumble :o)

Forgive my naivety, but is there any significant difference in the intermediate/wet tyres this year? Slicks and moveable aero parts are an exciting proposition for dry races but what happens in the wet?


To Guy: I agree that WHEN there are discrepancies between the cars, we see overtaking (as we have always done) ... but a lot of the time the cars are on similar strategies (teams tend to cover each other's positions and all run fuel and tyre changes within the same small windows) and so 'real' overtaking is unlikely if cars line up in speed order from the Saturday qualy.

I hope we will see more overtaking/racing, but I don't see much evidence so far that real race pace overtaking will be more likely with the new regs.

I hope I am wrong!!


Loving your articles, keep them coming please! Have you thought about turning all this great stuff into a magazine? There is some good interactive electronic magazine software out there at the moment and with a few photos and sponsors you could turn this into a nice little earner for you!


To Finn: Thanks for your reply - i just re rerad your first post and understand your point, which is well made. I just hope the fact the cars can now physically drive at the maximum nose to tail should end up with more overtaking - as the quality of the driver should now shine through.

I also agree with John Snow - james - make some money out of this!!


I thought it was never the intention of the Overtaking Working Group to make a slower car faster than the car in front of it just by virtue of the fact that it is behind.

That would cause unthinkable results ... If Car X is inherently slower than Car Y, why should it be automatically faster just because it qualified behind car Y. It leads to the situation that P2 is as good as P1, because you will be faster than P1 by virtue of being behind it and automatically overtake.

What the new regs intend to do is prevent a situation where Car X is inherently 1 second a lap faster than car Y, but still gets stuck behind it! How often have we seen that!


The BBC story was a bit doom and gloom but it didn't solely concentrate on Williams, it also looked at other RBS sponsored sports such as the Six Nations, which is also going to be affected.

Sir Frank was interviewed in the piece so maybe he was misquoted.

P.S. the story was on the six o'clock news!!

P.P.S I hope your reference to the Real Madrid v Liverpool game was because you like to see English clubs doing well and not because you're a Kopite!


i now view renault and flavio with the same suspision that i had of ferrari in the jean todt days. looking at the end of last season, their engines were clearly not suffering performance deficit, and if they have been allowed to carry out modifications to increase power then they will be at an unfair advantage. only the fact that the other teams all decided to allow these mods to be made keeps me from thinking it was some dodgy deal done with the FIA tho i certainly do believe that renault have kicked ferrari out of the FIA bed.

the overtaking problem is a difficult to solve. the current rules are that the quickest car qualifies at the front of the grid and the slowest at the back. as this shouldn't change significantly for the race, then why should cars be any quicker or slower relative to each other than they were in qualifying unless they are 'out of position' for some reason (tyre issue, mistake, traffic etc). all the kers and adjustable wings will not change this.

this is why the FIA have sought to introduce the gimmick of ensuring that the cars cannot be set up for maximum performance throughout the race, in the hope that teams will opt for different strengths and weaknesses. for example, with the tyres now, the compounds will be two steps apart for greater differentiation. at Melbourne, teams will be using the super soft and medium compounds, and not the softs. (it's maybe also why a lot of modern tracks have a combination of high speed long straights and pathetic slow speed corners). given that the most exciting races have been where drivers are out of position in qualifying and have to come through the field, the only genuine way to get overtaking is by a method of reversed grids. however, this needs very careful considration to avoid it being a further gimmick designed to appeal to the short attention span exceitement seeking casual viewer. the whole boost to pass culture that the FIA has adopted is already falling into this trap. overtaking needs to remain rare enough to demonstrate genuine skill (and balls) rather than being the norm. it's like goals in football compared to baskets in basketball - sure a 0-0 draw can be a very dull affair (valencia anyone?) but we must be careful it doesn't go too far the other way.

as for williams, i wish them all the best and hope they do well. privateers are vital for the sport, and nico deserves a decent car too. it does look like another very tight midfield battle again this year though, with renault and RBR and toyota certain to be very close.


john g: The reverse grid is of course a feature of banger and stock car racing (UK stock not USA) where contact is allowed if not often essential, as a part of normal passing tactics. In touring cars we have a kind of half reversal in the third race with a weight penalty applied in the second to the winner of the first. Again contact often occurs "unintentionally" with the lads happily swapping paint throughout the races.

As you mention the greatest interest is generated by a driver coming through from the back (As Lewis's famous GP2 race) But in F1 that happens very rarely, takes exceptional talent in addition to having a power or speed or grip/handling advantage and a ruthless streak. There are very few combinations of those about now that Schumi has gone. My point is that where no contact is allowed (to "enhance" the passing move) the reverse grid is impractical.

Weight penalties in line with points scored might be possible, say 250g per point to be measured on the car weigh in scrutineering on Thursday before each race. leaders may have the equivalent of a passenger in the car by end of season but it would tend to spread the points out far more throughout the field, thus it would be quite possible for a midfield runner to win the championships.


Any views on the fins which Williams have mounted each side of the cockpit? Will their legality be questioned or is this another loophole allowing bodywork on that particular area of the car?

They should be banned for destroying the looks of an otherwise stunning looking car! The livery kinda takes me back to the days of the rothmans livery too...

All the best to the Williams boys...we need a privateer challenging for wins again to spice things up a bit.


Yes, Renault and Red Bull will have an unfair advantage this year with his engine, the same Ferrari and McLaren had last year.

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