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Revival is the word as Williams rack up both sponsor dollars and miles
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Feb 2014   |  10:07 am GMT  |  87 comments

If ever there was a case study of how quickly things can change in F1, it is the Williams team.

They won the Spanish Grand Prix in May 2012, failed to get a podium for the rest of the season, then had a dismal 2013 with only 5 points scored (four of them in the penultimate race).

Now the signs are that Williams is going through a renaissance; the team has the right hybrid turbo power plant in Mercedes and it’s announced a series of sponsors in recent days with an even bigger one to come on March 6. It even has a new logo, to underline that a page has been turned and it’s a fresh beginning.

Last night the team confirmed that Brazilian oil giant Petrobras was rejoining the team after an absence of several years. At the same time Banco do Brasil came on board; their logo will appear on the engine cover of the car, as well as the overalls worn by each driver. This makes it a significant deal.

Felipe Nasr comes as part of the package; the former GP2 driver will attend all Grands Prix during the season and will get to drive the car in three tests and five FP1 sessions during the year.

And on March 6 the team will unveil its new Martini livery at a ceremony in London’s West End. Sadly for the media this clashes with McLaren’s Ron Dennis breaking his silence, leaving anguished journalists trying to be in two places at once!

Revival is the name of the game at Grove. The team has bounced back from a disastrous technical foray under Mike Coughlan, whereby they were unable to master the exhaust blown diffuser and paid a heavy price, given how far ahead of the game their then engine partner Renault was in that technology.

This year the EBD is banned and that means that Williams’ baseline is closer to the other teams, who have all lost a lot of downforce from the removal of the EBD. On top of that the Mercedes looks to be the best prepared and most potent engine in class at this early stage of the new formula. Williams has been racking up the miles again this week in testing at Bahrain; after a poor first day with an electronics issue, which knocked out the fuel system, the car has covered 176 laps of the 5.4km Bahrain circuit in the last two days – almost four race distances worth of mileage.

Pat Symonds is now in charge of the technical department and it will be his job to steer the team through the development maze which lies ahead, not only in the new hybrid technology but also in aerodynamics, which are much changed this year and offer great scope for finding gains throughout the year.

They need to work on all aspects of their competitive approach; last year they were consistently among the slowest at pit stops, for example, giving away seconds to the top teams and even their midfield rivals. This will be a key indicator of a change of approach this year, if they can raise their game in areas such as this.

The driver pairing looks well balanced; Felipe Massa has a lot of experience and is still quick, as he showed regularly against Fernando Alonso last season. He also has a point to prove after a demoralising experience next to the Spaniard. He is also very small and light, which helps the engineers in these cars. Valtteri Bottas is in his second full season and has showed that he has the speed, now he needs to turn in complete race weekends to rack up the points.

Pastor Maldonado must be wondering about the wisdom of his move away from Williams to Lotus, which is still struggling to do the miles with the troublesome Renault hybrid engine. But the car looks sound and once Renault gets on top of its problems, the team is likely to feature. Maldonado needed a change of air anyway and Williams appears to have proved able to replace his PDVSA sponsor dollars.

Claire Williams as commercial director has clearly done well this winter and Williams will no doubt present itself with confidence at the launch on March 6 in London.

But recent experience will tell them to take nothing for granted. F1 is an unforgiving business and things can change quickly, as they well know.

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I truly hope Williams is amongst the top 4 or 5 teams It will make the racing all the more interesting/exciting I also hope Massa can show he still has it


It looks like Williams is building themselves a solid foundation for the Future. One can feel Pat Symonds influence already. I like his no nonsense approach.

I am looking forward to the Martini livery. (Mercedes) Silver Grey and Martini works best for me:


Much kudos to Claire as well for following her intuition. She had the courage to give Pat a second chance in a top team.

Massa, Pat & Williams will all be back with a vengeance this year.

Should Ross change his mind, he could find himself a new home in F1 …


In order to guarantee Williams’ return to top form, Felipe, Valtteri, Susie, and Felipe N., all need to start sporting Nige and Keke moustaches circa mid ’80s.


+1 😀


I’ve never been a huge fan of Williams, and was only really put into a position of supporting them when Rubens drove for them. On which note, how about 2011, when their testing form and innovative rear end caused many to tip them for wins? That didn’t end well for them, did it? So while I suppose it would be nice to see a great team back on form, I’ll believe it when I see it. Personally, I suspect the absence of Sam Michael is responsible for this apparent upturn in form…


Looks like Claire and Pat were smart appointments… 2 good drivers too

Tom Haythornthwaite

I haven’t always agreed with or respected Frank Williams’ decisions but I do sincerely hope they do well from now on. Racing wouldn’t be racing without proper privateers.


Felt sorry for Massa multiple times the past four years, so it is great to see him and Williams get along well.


Its very interesting times in F1- this new engine formula must surely attract sponsors to more relevant technology. With Claires background in marketing and the new people she put in place it must be just starting to pay dividends. I hope the new environment inspires Felipe to his old form but Im really expecting Bottas to be the gun for the team -I like the idea of another great Finn in the sport. I just hope he is not relinquished to a no2 because of the big latin american money and 2 Felipes to contend with !


F1 needs a successful Williams F1 Team. Here’s hoping that they are in for a successful future.


Unfortunately many teams, even successful ones flounder and die in the very harsh and brutal world of Formula One. Since the 1970’s alone, Tyrrell, Lotus (the real one), Brabham and Ligier, race winners all, have disappeared.

For a while in the late 2000’s it looked rather ominous for Williams as well. Then they came back with a surprise win at Barcelona in 2012 and though 2013 was disastrous, it was clear following that lone Spanish win, Williams still had the capability to succeed in F1. It’s as though the resources were available but just not being utilised in the correct way. Now that’s changed, the team is starting to flourish again and its really great to see.

2014 could be Williams best season this century and provide one of F1’s most successful teams a great platform to develop around over the next few years.


Awesome!! And about time to. When was the last time we saw a competetive Williams F1 team? 2005?

It all went down after they lost the works deal with BMW!

They have solid drivers also now, hoping for regular podiums and a few wins under their belt this season. Force India slowly making its way to the top have one more team to worry about I guess.


+1 about the solid drivers.

Felipe Massa definitely seems to have regained his mojo and has a point to prove.

Bottas has the speed and the racecraft (canada 2013) where he was third off the grid but had the nous to stay out of trouble when the main contenders were battling it out.

All we need is Martini Livery now


Would be ironic if Massa beat Alonso this season


At least he’ll be allowed to try this year!


It would only happen in a Disney movie!


Going off relative Speed trap figures the Williams has never had less than 60 kilos of fuel on board at the start of a run so there are quite literally whole seconds to shave off their times just from removing fuel. It may not be a title contender but the Williams is a peach and will pleasantly surprise us all, mark my words!


Gaz Boy in #7 mentions Smedley at Williams. I’d heard earlier that that didn’t come together. Does anyone know differently?


Max, as far I’m aware Rob is joining Williams, he’s is on “gardening leave” at Ferrari at the moment. The earliest he is allowed to join Frank and Claire is March 2014.

Rob and his wife Lucy have a young family and want to move back to Blighty to bring them up. Big Rob also likes a pint of bitter, full English breakfasts and roast dinners, and the Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire area is better for that than Modena/Maranello!

Rob won’t be Felipe’s race engineer this year, as Frank and Claire have offered work on the technical depo, so expect Big Rob to be working with Pat Symonds getting stuck into some spade work, which is what he loves.

As a straight talking no nonsense Yorkshireman Rob will fit like a glove at Frank and Claire’s.


delighted Williams are on the up, really want them to do well. they’re better off without pastor, massa can bring more to the team and bottas is a rising star


Agree, Frank and Claire have a potential new Mika or Kimi on their books.

Heady days potentially at Grove!


James – can you shed some more light on the Mclaren press call for the 6th? Is this expected to be a title sponsor announcement or to discuss the management shakeup?

Also, any news on where Whitmarsh will surface?


It’s just Ron breaking his silence and doing some interviews with people like me!


I hope you optimised for the big occasion


I have some questions which are quite relevant


We all eagerly await ‘your report’ to us James! I’m especially interested in the report that he ‘came back’ on the exact anniversary of his ‘stepping down’ so was there really a Gentleman’s Agreement there – though I doubt he will reveal that!

Jose Sanchez kowalsky

Then we know where you are going. The livery can wait.


“McLaren’s Ron Dennis breaking his silence” What do you mean?? Please, tell us more.


He will…on March 6 😉


Oh Martini!!! Great blast from the past and a very warm welcomeback to the F1. The present and future is looking promissing for Williams with all the new sponsors and their Mecedes engine.

Robert in San Diego

Glad to see Williams on the upswing. Those prime years of Nige through to Damon were magic and I would love to see them back.

Just a nice solid year will do very nicely thank you. Show that you belong again while all around you were losing their heads.


If the opposition ever takes over in Venezuela, and his sponsor money dries up, Pastor will be out on his ear in no time.


Great news for Williams, but even better news for one of the nicest guys in F1: Massa. Go Massa! I hope Massa has a dynamite season with lots of champagne celebrations.


Yes, good luck to Felipe, but I’ll bet he misses his mate Big Rob on the radio though, even if the straight talking no nonsense Yorkshireman is working behind the scenes at Frank and Claire’s.

That’s a point, he is allowed contractually to start at Grove next month; I bet Frank and Claire can’t wait for Mr Smedley to roll his sleeves and start working with the equally straight talking – and savvy – Pat Symonds!


Good luck to Williams this season and especially to Massa!

Off topic: had the pleasure of meeting Gary Anderson this week in Nottingham. What a lovely bloke. He said he’ll be working with FOM this year and sadly will not be with the BBC. He had lots of time to talk and was very pleasant. Top bloke!


OK, one question, are you sure he said FOM not FIA? Unless he learned to operate a camera I don’t know what he would do there lol.

And yes, it’s a shame he’s not with the BBC anymore, but at least he now writes for Autosport occasionally.


If he (GA) is doing media work it will be FOM. FOM are the broadcasters of F1


He did say FOM but it was in a “safety advisory” capacity so FIA would make sense. Nonetheless he is a great guy who engaged in a few minutes of conversation while he was very busy.


Why are people raving about Williams so much? I’ll be surprised if they aren’t the weakest Mercedes powered team.


My opinion, is that Williams is starting off in a good position relative to the field, and they should be able to out develop Force India, and possibly McLaren, throughout the season.

I base that opinion on the abysmal development of the MP4-28 during 2013, and the fact that Force India seems to be lacking the cash to fight the development race.

Finally, I think they’ve got a very good driver pairing with Bottas and Massa.


If you follow F1 and the testing closely you will know why and also prepare to be surprised.


Did you just go by Martin before, or are you a new Martin?


Right now is it better to be the weakest Merc powered team, or the strongest Renault powered team?

Think about it… 😉


you beat me to it…i was also going to say much rather the slowest of the Merc team than the fastest of the Renaults…cos even the quick Renault team ain’t all that quick these days.

may be a bit early, but i reckon the Merc teams and Ferrari are the strongest going into the run up to Melbourne.

That Martini livery will rock. y’know what;d also look neat…the old Parmalat livery from the Brabhams in the 70’s…

my vote for most gorgeous car still, though, goes to the Jordan 191 in 7-up colors. Imagine a “Coke” or “Pepsi” liveried car…


I bet Pastor is having a tinge of regret, don’t you think!


Yep and I bet he’s not the only one, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles 🙂


It seems that a lot of people are expecting you to be surprised then 😉

Jose Sanchez kowalsky

Poor maldonado. Bought a circus, and the midgets grew on him.

But itt is obscene to be spending that kind of money in motorsports, when Venezuela needs it for educación and health. And young people are dying on the streets.


Good luck to Williams this season, nice to see them on an upward curve. As one who was initially sceptical about the appointment of Claire Williams, thinking it was nepotism on the part of Frank, I am more than happy to have been proved wrong.


Yep, I was skeptical about Claire too. For me, she seemed to have come from nowhere too quickly and that always worries me. Dont want to count chickens at this stage, but she is absolutely on her way to proving many of us wrong.


Let’s not count our chickens just yet. This isn’t the first time Williams have show good pre season pace only to dissapoint when it counts. They had major issues for the last few years and that includes the culture there, not just the mechanical stuff. No one knows what fuel rates anyone is running and who’s to say Williams isn’t running light and going after sponsorship dollars? I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but to make such a monumental leap all of a sudeen? Don’t know, I think I’ll wait till a few races in to make that call, James.


Well said and kudos for the honesty 🙂


Frank and Claire have made some excellent recruitments. Firstly, getting Pat Symonds on the pay roll. Pat is a very sharp, savvy operator who brings excellent clarity of thought and good operational efficiency to a team. Secondly, getting the Merc V6 contract will give them a potential power/torque advantage. Thirdly, signing up Felipe and getting his mate Big Rob to look after the engineering department behind the scenes. Fourth, Vatty is a potential Flying Finn in the mould of Keke, Mika and Kimi.

I rate Claire very highly, she is very streetwise and sharp. Having common sense and being able to think on your feet is vital in F1 and Claire does seem to those qualities – remember in Spain 2012 Williams out witted Ferrari on strategy which helped Pastor onto his win.

I reckon Frank and Claire will do some serious business this year, maybe not a championship, but podiums or even wins are there if Grove can realise its potential.

Frank and Claire are in a good place at the moment.


I think Smedley stayed at Ferrari in the end.


I’m not sure there’s much to link Claire Williams with strategy calls. The Barcelona track favours new tyre grip with its high speed corners. In the early 2000s I remember a Schumacher-Hakkinen race where unusually the fastest laps were set with new tyres and high fuel rather than old tyres and low fuel as at most tracks. In 2012 the Williams was a bit quicker than the Ferrari at that stage of the year, so it was a case of on what lap could you stop and safely get home without hitting the cliff. The Williams could go earlier, so it was hardly a challenging strategy idea to try for an undercut.

All the teams have lot of data to show when the best time to make the pit stop is. If there is enough of a performance advantage over the car ahead opportunities to diverge from the ideal for a given car can occur and these can be used to make a pass in the pits.

Where teams tend to get caught out is when tyres don’t behave in the way expected and the race pace is significantly different to the expectations, usually due to track temperature. Monaco 2012 was a missed opportunity as Ferrari didn’t anticipate that the soft tyres would have significant warm up issues on the Red Bull and the Mercedes. The Ferrari strategy of running longer was good, getting Alonso ahead of Hamilton, but there was the possibility that another lap, if the tyres could have lasted, may have allowed a place to be gained. That was a tactical opportunity that wasn’t taken. It may not have worked.


Thanks for the essay Martin, excellent analysis as always.

You’re right about how Barcelona during the re-fuelling era favoured new tyres versus light fuel; apart from 2005 when tyre stops were banned!

You’re probably right about Claire not directly calling the shots on strategy, what I would say is she has recruited some very street wise savvy operators which can make sound decisions at the sharp end of the grid. Pat Symonds is a good example, Pat is very good at out-foxing other teams and thinking on his feet.


Yes, short and sweet is a challenge for me at times 🙂 But Pat is definitely a sharp operator.


PS James – if Frank and Claire’s main sponsors are from Italy and Brazil shouldn’t it be racking up sponsors euros and Brazilian reals rather than US dollars? The FIA switched to Euro currency quite some time ago as the European Union has the biggest economy in the world (bigger than the USA and China combined!).


The EU economy is not bigger than the USA’s and China’s combined! Not even close. Even USA plus Canada is bigger than the EU.

The FIA is based in France, so why wouldn’t they use the Euro? Still, the USD is the world’s reserve currency, and will remain so, especially as their economy is (finally!) coming back into its own.


GazBoy, never said anything about the FIA relocating. It should stay right where it is. I think any organization like that would hold a number of the “big” currencies, lest they be caught out by one diving vis-a-vis the others.

I find it quite ironic that you were discussing corruption, and FIFA came up! 🙂


RE KRB: We’ll have to agree to disagree I’m afraid. I can’t imagine the FIA in Paris relocating to the United States any time soon. The same applies for the Formula 1 industry in Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Or FIFA, football’s governing body – based in Zurich.

The FIA switched to the Euro because the European Union, along with Australasia and Singapore, is the cleanest, least corrupt place in the world to do business and is not tarnished with a currency involved in all sorts of impropriety such as money laundering, extortion and kidnapping – HSBC New York was involved in laundering Mexican drug funds for example.

Anyway I’ve got that off my chest, respect to the commonwealth realm of Canada – I forgot to mention that Canada is one of the world’s least corrupt countries. Probably something to do with, like Australia, New Zealand , Hong Kong and Singapore it is part of the Anglo-sphere.

Always look forward to the race at Montreal. The likes of 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 were fantastic races!


Sorry GazBoy, I don’t buy it. France’s Hollande is in the process of chasing out all the capital from his country. Too many meddling politicians looking to build a “legacy” in Europe … just serves to keep potential foreign investment monies permanently on the sidelines. Of course the EU is a big market and has some clout, but in terms of future growth its prospects are dim compared to those of the Americas and SE Asia.

The US economy, even in spite of Obama’s ill-advised economic policies, is still the most diversified and dynamic economy in the world.

I say this as a staunchly proud Canadian still basking in the glow of sticking it to our American cousins in both the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey this week. 😀


PS The US dollar being the reserve currency – I’m not that applies in Russia, China, France, Germany, Iran, Vietnam and Cuba.

There was a grand prix in Cuba – for sports cars, but netherless it attracted some of the big names including Fangio and Moss. In fact, the great Argentine was kidnapped by Castro’s men – although he was unharmed and later released. In fact, he became good friends with his captors!


I forget to mention that the FIA is a European organisation and has links to the EU (the FIA has a strong input into car safety in Europe, Japan and Australasia) it is probably duty bound to have the Euro. Also, I wonder if the CIA has been tapping the FIA and Jean Todt just like they were tapping up Mrs Angela Merkel and even possibly other European statemen/women? There’s a lot of tension between the United States and European Union which is probably why the FIA will remain in Paris, with its close transport links to the motor sport industry in Stuttgart, Munich, Modena, and of course Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire!


And it’s even managing progress in spite of the makeup of Congress and the White House continuing to make decisions which drag us down.


Sorry, my mistake SAYING EU economy bigger than USA and China combined.

However, EU economy is still bigger than the USA though.

Remember, Northern Europe – and I class Paris and Northern France as being part of Northern Europe – is along with commonwealth realms of Australia, New Zealand and Singapore the least corrupt area in the world where business dealings have to be transparent – hence why the Germans and Swiss want to have a nice chat with Mr E.

The USA is actually the most corrupt developed western country – at the end of 2013 it was ranked a pitiful 19th, totally outperformed by Northern Europe and Australasia. Therefore because the United States is tarnished by corruption and bribery most organisations prefer to use European/Australasian currency as it is “cleaner” and “safer” than the US dollar.

Check the Corruption Perception Index for more info and you will say why the FIA has adopted the more stable, less corrupt Euro.

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