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New look Williams floating on a wave of confidence
New look Williams floating on a wave of confidence
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Feb 2011   |  4:35 pm GMT  |  103 comments

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.

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Didn’t know the forum rules allowed such brilianlt posts.


There are some nice shots of the FW33’s rear

end here:


I love your site James, a daily port of call for all F1 fans!


THanks for that!


the new Williams looks great! Would love to see the team back on form and a win for Barrichello in Interlagos would be epic! You never know…it could rain and he could finally win his home race…


“Floating on a wave of confidence”. Nice


Thanks, I try


Colour scheme looks good, from what I can see of it.

Did Frank forget to pay his electric bills or something? What happened to actual lighting 😉

I dare to hope that this car could be really good. I would absolutely love to see Williams do well this season, as I grew up watching them in the 80s90s.


I’d heard last year that Williams were looking to renew the Renault engine link instead of Lotus (the yellow and green one). Were there any serious negotiations on that?

Prediction this year > Williams to win a GP. Possibly Hungaroring.


They talked, I saw several negotiations in the team motor home.


That, i suspect, would have been a very successful partnership, although I imagine Renault are customer engines only now, rather than works provided (i.e manufacturer funded and)?


I am surprised by how long Sam Michael remained with the team.

We’ve seen in other teams much more rotation of that position (technical director / or semi technical director in PH presence)

This guy came in this key position in the early Montoya / RS era.. was part of the sliding back on the grid of Williams… and now part of slowly coming back..

I wonder within F1 circles how Michael is perceived in terms of leadership, technical ingenuity etc (we know what Montoya thinks of him 🙂


His record speaks for itself.. lol


Very good for Williams indeed. It’s just one thing: Who is going to score points and win races in case the car is that good?

Certain Brazilian had a car to win championship a few times. There was always someone else who won it in the end. Do not get me wrong, I wish him all the best, but to be honest, I do not believe in him.


Instead of concentrating on the FW33s tight rear end maybe sam michael needs a tight kick on his rear end only then will williams F1 regain its former glory .The arrival of sam michael as technical director was the begining of williams free. Adam parr joined in 2006 as chief executive and these two have taken williams from the top 3 to the bottom 3 .Patrick head should never have been removed as technical director Adrian Newey, Neil Oatley, Ross Brawn,, Geoff Willis etc have worked under Head’s supervision early in their careers, and all have moved on to greater things.Unfortunately as you put it the Frank and Patrick show has become the Adam and Sam show


That’s a bit harsh! Michael came in as TD and they won races. Then BMW left and the slide began. You can argue about what he’s done with the limited resources since then, but I think BMW leaving was the biggest reason for decline.


After michael came in as TD they won only one race in 2004 with montoya and none ever since Montoya also left as Sm mishandled his latino tempperament (French gp 2003). Also if Forceindia,Sauber,Torro rosso,Brawn,Red bull etc all relative newcomers compared to Williams could get a decent customer engines and win championships theres no reason why williams could not.Instead Sm opted for toyota and cosworth engines like the judd in 1989 and the mecachrome in 1998….thats bad decision making.


James – do you happen to know of the performance differences between the Cosworth and Renault/Mercedes/Ferrari engines?

If we consider Williams rivals – engines in brackets -Slightly ahead of them (on last year’s results -) Lotus-Renault (Renault), Mercedes (Mercedes) AND

– Their points-finishes rivals – Force India (Mercedes) Sauber (Ferrari) perhaps Toro Rosso (Ferrari)

Williams clearly believe in Cosworth and think they can compete with the teams mentioned above but with Team Lotus running Renault engines this year do you think sticking with Cosworth is a good call?


Williams had a Renault engine in 1989 not Judd, that was the year before and they mainly had to go with Judd because Honda decided to supply Mclaren instead of Williams with their engines, Judd was a stop gap and even PH admits that the engine wasnt that bad and the main reason they had a very bad year was becuse their car had active suspension and it was crap.

I think it was the night before the Silverstone race in 88 that they decided to change from active to passive and they worked all night and Nige finished 2nd.


James – appreciate your debrief on the launch – almost as good as attending in person! (just like your earlier coverage of the Autosport awards night).

I may have missed the point earlier – why did Williams go for a float on deutsche bourse instead of UK FTSE? With the absence of german sponsors, are german investors going to be any more enthusiastic/wiser? won’t williams be more focussed on returning dividends and pumping the share price to the detriment of developing the car?


Less disclosure of confidential info about FOM and FOTA matters needed, also I wonder whether UK underwriters were harder to pin down given reasons for share sale


Williams was founded and run by Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head and have won 7 wdcs the last in 1997 (JV) 9 wcc and have 113 wins. Their last good season was in 2003 with 4 wins and 4 poles with montoya in the FW25 designed by Patrick Head and Gavin fisher. In 2005 sam michael replacd Head as technical director and the rest is history with no wins ever since….NUFF SAID


so does that make them the 3rd most succesful team ever?

Not sure of your point


The point seems to be that Sam Michael has not continued the team’s pedigree.. I.e. since Michael took over from Head the results have been disappointing. Now I’m not necessarily agreeing with the diagnosis..

I can see how from their current status, having a rookie/vastly experienced driver combination is good for developing the car, but it is no replacement for having someone like Montoya and Ralf.

I was at the Williams factory at Brazil race day last year (what are the chances they’d be on pole then?) and the spirit within the team was such a positive reminder of their determination.


In fairness, the team’s pedigree had been slipping for a while. Ever since the treatment of Hill, and the comment that they didnt need a driver, but that a trained monkey could win in their cars, the team lost their head designer (Newey?) and the rot set in.

So, I dont think its fair to point to Michael and say thats the point at which they went from a front running team to a midfield team.

I would also content that neither Ralf nor JPM were particularly adept at developing cars. Ralf’s time at Toyota and their huge budget is testimony to that.

Having said all the above, teams’ success is cyclical, and I for one, would like to see Williams back at the front again.


Finally a decent old style launch. Bring back the glist and glamour. The launch in a pitlane is boring. This should be a opportunity to showcase your brand to the world and sponsors


I just love this team, I just hope that some of the resources raised in the flout will be invested back in the team.


I like ‘the Adam and Sam show’, it really shows that Frank & Patrick have been very professional in making sure the team has a future far beyond their retirement. Those two will always be legends at Williams, and indeed across motorsport, but as Ferrari have showed, you can be hugely successful after the passing of your inspirational founder. I really hope Williams do well this year, they deserve it as much as, if not more than, any other team in the paddock.



Thanks for the update. It made me laugh that the “car’s “tight rear end” which caused a few titters of laughter” was then followed by “he took me around the back to have a look and the packaging is remarkable….”

Probably my juvenile behaviour but certainly made me chuckle and some clever writing!



Robin, did you not realise that James has been asked to write the screenplay for a new film… it’s called ‘Carry On F1’. Hattie Jacques is playing Norbert Haug, Kenneth Williams is Stefano Domenicalli and Sid James will be Bernie. Ooooooh matron 😉

Anyhow on a sensible note, as others have pointed out “what goes around comes around”, so we have another pseudo-retro livery in 2011… which I kinda like.

I’m pleased that so many teams have really got their thinking caps on and have come out with some great innovations. It seems that the teams have realised that simply copying a design isn’t always the best way forward. Although of course unique design can have disadvantages as well as advantages. But it’s good to see some marked differences towards “going racing” – it’s one of the things that drew me into F1 in the first place.

I hope that Williams have some good results and really get back into the mix at the pointy end. Wouldn’t it be great to have 5 or 6 teams challenging for race wins! 🙂


I love that the livery looks so much like the 1994 – 1997 livery. Looks awesome! Great to see Williams with renewed confidence – hope it’s going to be a great season for them.


It’s gonna be tight! The livery looks very nice, likely to stand out. Now’s the time for Williams to deliver good results, almost all car manufacturers are gone… Although FI, Sauber and STR look quite menacing at least in testing… Think we’ll have some nice battles this season, if it ever goes ahead.


I hope Williams do well. I’d love to see them back at the front


..strange, its changed back again to the usual layout?! you making changes?!


Were you on a mobile? Mine sometimes switched auto between mobile and normal web version.


i was on a laptop, but i do recall seeing something about mobile browsing! all seems ok today!


not sure if i like this new layout James!


It actually looks like the old Rothmans-sponsored Williams! Which… looks really nice but also it has to be said, that brings back a few sad memories.

Anyway, a vast improvement on the bland Williams of the last few years.


Last time a Brazilian was in a Williams in that paint scheme it didn’t work out so well. I wonder if Rubens has any weird feelings on it. He’s a pro, albeit a pretty superstitious one.


Yeah Rubens was also lucky to survive that weekend don’t forget. And he is ludicrously superstitious but I’m sure all that will be gone by the time he gets in the car in Melbourne.

Instead of thinking about that, it seems like he might actually be thinking about podiums again. If the testing impressions are anything to go by.

I always get a little tinge of sadness when I see that old Williams paintjob, but instead of being sad about I should just watch some Senna onboards on YouTube instead. =)


There are a couple cars on the grid this year that when you squint they seem like f1 cars of yesteryear! Its awesome!


Very interesting. Appreciate the different livery too.


the best “profits“ a f1 team can do is good race results,It is the Adam and Sam show now as you rightly say, lets just hope they d`ont forget that.


Just a thought on the livery that has a striking resemblance to the 1994-1997 Rothmans…

With all this muttering about Canada not happy with Lotus adopting the JPS colours, as the subliminal advertising sends the wrong message. JPS Loved that free press.

And obviously Ferrari’s connection with Philip Morris, although softened more and more each year, got a lot of airtime last year when the barcode was said to be to obvious, again publicity the brand pays for…

Could the Williams back to ‘old school’ winning ways look and feel not fit in the same boat? Sounds ridiculous I know… but the reported growth in sales of the JPS brand since the Lotus colours were released won’t be lost on other ‘naughty’ brands attempting similar tactics?

Interesting ponder, Or am I just reading into things?


Where on earth are you getting reports of up-sales in the JPS brand?


Read it in an article linked off F1Fanatic twitter I think, it even listed spikes in buying when the black and gold colours were launched at the Autosport show.

Regardless of the article its obvious that the brand exposure would be good for JPS, why would that be surprising given the amount of forum chatter discussion around the brand, especially given the nostalgia to relive yesteryear, if you’re a smoker why not try the brand again, and relive the racing all the oldies miss so dearly?

This is a marketers job done for them, possibly for free. But only Reno’s Accountants will ever know if that’s the true story.


I think the red detail – stripe – is from their new sponsor, and the dark blue/white has been a Williams thing for quite a while,

I can’t see a legal issue – even though it clearly is similar to the old Rothmans scheme,


James, do you know if the suspension on the Williams is push-rod or pull-rod because surely the pull-rod would have enabled the Williams mechanics to create such a tight rear (if you would pardon the pun) with a small gearbox and extreme driveshaft angles?

Secondly, how long will the PDVSA sponsor deal last for? I’d imagine that if Maldonado isn’t performing to espectations and is swiftly replaced (presumably by a non-Venezuelan driver), that PDVSA will withdraw their support for Williams. Didn’t this happen in 2009 when Nakajima was ‘disposed’ of when Toyota ended their three-season deal with Williams?


James didn’t answer the second half so I’ll take a mildly educated, slightly informed but hopefully logical stab at it. Joe Saward mentioned that the deal would be $36 million a year for five years (http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/for-goodness-sake/). That’s a huge sponsorship deal and points to the fact that PDVSA isn’t solely sponsoring Maldonado. It’s an advertisement for Venezuela. Maldonado easily has the first year free. He won’t blitz the field and conversely he shouldn’t be in the weeds the whole season. But if Barrichello is finishing in the top half of the points consistently in the second half of the year* and Maldonado isn’t scoring at all, then it would be difficult for PDVSA not to reconsider their position on second driver. Having Maldonado in the car buys kudos in Venezuela. However, having two cars in the points and challenging names like Ferrari, Mercedes or McLaren in the constructors championship or on TV screens during their sponsorship period is more important for the brand and national image. That is where this sponsorship is truly derived.

*Wanted to make a note. The reason I said second half is because the Williams rear end is an advantage that the rest of the field won’t be able to adopt until next year (like the Tyrrell 019, the first high nosed F1 car in 1990). Hence the team’s quiet excitement. It is designed into the car. Their aerodynamics are lacking compared to the basis Ferrari and Red Bull have from the past few years. Theoretically, they should have a higher potential for rear downforce because of their rear end, and each percentage of increased airflow to the rear end, ie. better aerodynamics at the front end and sidepods, will yield a higher return of rear downforce than their competitors. So their development through the year should be quicker than others.

Apologies for the tome.


Don’t apologize – very interesting.


Pull rod

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