Williams F1 Team today confirmed the line-up for 2013 which had been suspected for some time – Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas.
The promotion to a race seat of the 23 year old Finn, a protege of Williams’ shareholder Toto Wolff, is an exciting step for F1, as he has impressed with his Friday morning test performances at Grands Prix this year.
He won the GP3 championship in 2011 and has been with Williams in a reserve driver capacity since 2010. Williams did a similar programme with Nico Hulkenberg, giving him several years as an apprentice with the team before he got his race opportunity in 2010. Despite a pole position in Brazil that year he was dropped in favour of Maldonado, for largely commercial reasons. However Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix this year and has shown his speed in qualifying.
But inconsistency has dogged him with only two points finishes since that victory in Spain. If he can mature into a consistent performer with the pace he has, he can move up the driver rankings.
As a result Williams finished 8th in the Constructors’ Championship in what was arguably one of the top five cars this year, as Sir Frank Williams acknowledged,
“The FW34 was a strong car and on the whole we feel that we should have done better with the equipment we had,” he said. “Our long run pace was consistently strong and whilst we need to improve on our qualifying pace, at certain tracks we did manage to give the top teams a run for their money over a single lap.”
The new technical team of Mike Coughlan in charge of design and Mark Gillan in charge of operations, seems to have gelled quickly and there is no reason why Williams shouldn’t have just as good a car in 2013, with no major rule change. It is up to teams like Mercedes and Force India to out develop them over the winter.
In hiring a rookie, they are taking a gamble on their constructors’ championship position again, the key will be securing results quickly and regularly, but Bottas’ pedigree indicates that he should get up to speed and won’t do anything silly.
The move leaves no space for Bruno Senna, who leaves the team after just one season. His best chance of a seat in 2013 now lies with the Caterham team, as team-mate to Charles Pic.
Senna brings a budget of around €10 million and the deal was said to be close in Brazil, but with Caterham securing 10th place in the Constructors’ Championship for a third season, with a substantial financial bonus as a result, the next weeks and days will be key to deciding which direction they go on drivers.
Bottas said, “It feels incredible to be driving in Formula One next season and to be with a team like Williams, with all its pedigree, is even more special. I’ve worked hard to get here ever since I started karting at six years old, but the real work starts now as I prepare myself for the biggest challenge of my career. The fact that I’ve been with Williams since 2010 will help a lot though because I know the engineers really well and have a good working relationship with them.
“There are only a handful of circuits on the 2013 calendar that I have never driven, in Australia, Monaco, Valencia, Austin and Singapore. There will still be a lot of work to do but it means that I do have some knowledge to work from heading to most races next season.
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