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.