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Pat Symonds explains the story behind the Williams “miracle”
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Pat Symonds, Williams
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Aug 2014   |  9:07 am GMT  |  66 comments

“One of the racing team said to me last year, ‘It makes no sense to practice pit stops, because the car is so bad.’ This gets you nowhere. Check out our pit stops today; they are very good. The mechanics all believe in themselves again. There is a very different atmosphere in the team.”

Williams technical director Pat Symonds has been part of a revolution at the team that has seen them go from ninth in last year’s Constructors’ Championship with just five points, to podiums, a pole position and 135 points after half of this season.

The second fastest car in the winter testing is still the second fastest car at most venues, seven months and 11 races later, despite a smaller budget than Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.

Clearly a huge part of the story is the change to the Mercedes engine, but while acknowledging this, Symonds and others in the team point out that last year Williams also shared an engine with the dominant champion team – in that case the Renault, also used by Red Bull.

But with power units being far more of a performance differentiator this year, the Williams has benefitted hugely from the Mercedes association. They also have a quick, experienced driver in Felipe Massa paired with a young driver who is starting to hit peak form in Valterri Bottas.

But what is remarkable is how good the car is – for a relatively simple design – and how well they keep improving it.

Williams F1 cars

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Symonds has shed a little light on how they are doing it.

“I believe that we have just developed faster than our opponents,” says Symonds. “We have significantly improved the aerodynamics, which is pretty impressive because the new regulations actually allow only small steps in this area.

“How have we done it? We proceed logically. When I arrived at Williams, I spent the first period of time just watching. I could feel the panic in this team. They felt that everything would work out fine if they could screw enough new parts onto the car. Which is obviously not the case.

“This year we have fewer developments to be approved than last season, and I am proud that all of them have worked, bar one (a new rear wing). And that just needed a small modification to work; the problem was it was stalling. We have now corrected that.”

Felipe Massa pole position

Williams’ 2014 experience is important for F1 because it shows it can be done. Like Marussia (Symonds’ last team) scoring points in Monaco, which showed that life in the back of the grid teams is not without hope, Williams’ renaissance this year gives a beacon to some of the top teams like McLaren and Ferrari that have found themselves becalmed in recent years in the face of the slickness and sharpness of Red Bull and this year, Mercedes.

McLaren and Ferrari are currently groping around looking for the answer, with new management teams compared to last season. With far less money to spend than either of those grandees (and using the same power unit as McLaren), Williams has found a competitive formula – although not yet winning races, which is the ultimate goal for all of them,

“When people talk of a ‘miracle’, I say that it is just honest and logical engineering,” says Symonds.

“The good news for Williams is the quality of the people. They knew how to do it, just not what they should be doing. This has made my job easy. We have not flooded the company with highly paid celebrity designers, but fixed weaknesses here and there or strengthened some departments. We have managed to get more from the people who were already here.

“It was incredible. When I arrived, there was no confidence in the team. That is why they had all the panic reactions.

Williams Mechanics practice pit stops

And Symonds believes that there is room for optimism that the gap between teams will decrease as the Sporting Regulations on wind tunnel and Computational Fluid Dynamics kick in, restricting the amount of time even the richest teams can spend on aerodynamic development to 30 hours of each per week. This, he feels, will have an impact for the rest of the year, when trading off the development of the current car and next year’s car,

“Previously a big team with a wind tunnel that ran around the clock, could run both programs in parallel. Now that is no longer possible.

“Mercedes, for example, certainly has a greater aerodynamics department than ours. They can certainly generate more ideas (in the drawing office), but they too have to pass through the bottleneck of the 30/30 rule. This is a great leveller.”

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66comments

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1

James, great insight! Hope you are enjoying your holiday!

Could you please shed more light on the 30/30 rule? Is that part of the resources restriction agreement?

Could you also please shed more light on this RRA? what is its scope and how is it monitored?

Tks!

2

Massa has let the team down this year. They should have way more points than they currently have.

3

Watch Williams progress mirror Mercedes. The deal to sign Suzie to their ranks is paying off in more ways than one!!

4

I still think Alonso’s best chance of another world title would be at Williams, and it would have the added advantage of getting Massa to move on, possibly back to Ferrari.

5

It’s always a pleasure to read what Pat Symonds says. Thanks, Bart

6

I still find it ironic that Massa is working with Symonds, the man whose cheating effectively cost Massa the 2008 title!

7

Zzzzzz

8

Massa is always Massa. He is not at the level of the team. Valteri Botas is an humble-hunger boy ready to fight without excuses. Massa’s “bad luck” is product of his low self esteem trying to over deliver more than he can.

Let’s see on time to come.

9

strange if Williams keeps him for next season.

there are probably sponsor money rather than talent.

10
H.Guderian (ALO Fan)

EXACTLY!!!!

11

I say that it is just honest and logical engineering,” Steady with the honesty Pat

12

Am really glad Pat Symonds is back and explaining the new formula in a much more positive way.

I’ve always like Pat for his made simple to understand from the highly technical side of F1.

As for the fiasco of a certain race when he was dragged into, I still don’t believe he was guilty at all.

Listen to this:

http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/f1/podcast-with-pat-symonds/

13

Hiring Coughlan is really one thing I want to forget. A BIG BIG MISTAKE

14

From some recent Pat’s interviews ,I have known a bit why MAL feels happier at Enstone squad.

Their mindset really didnot help their revival in last years, which maybe Frank and Parr should take the responsibility.

15
Andrew Woodruff

Symonds obviously doing a great job. Who was in his role before him, was it Sam Michael – what was he doing all those years??

Is there anything in particular that is unique about the Williams chassis compared to the McLaren or other Mercedes powered non-works teams?

16

Mike Coughlan was Symonds predecessor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Coughlan

17

I believe they will become a big team again in terms of budget soon

18
Rupert Richardson

Great story. I’ve long had a high regard for Pat Symonds, ever since he worked his (pre Crashgate) magic at Renault

19

Nice to see Williams back to being competitive. How much effect did concentrating this year on F-1 have vs. the previous years where the company was developing it’s KERS for other applications?

Also, reading this interview I get the distinct impression Symonds is taking the lion’s share of the credit for the turnaround at Williams. Is it deserved? Can it really come down to one man in the Formula One of today?

20

Adrian Newey takes most of the credit at Redbull, so why not Pat Symonds at Williams?

21

When I was speaking to Sir Frank the other week, he clearly feels that Pat deserves a lot of the credit

22

I expected to hear more optimism from him. Seems he will soon follow Ross.

23

“We have not flooded the company with highly paid celebrity designers”

Haha that’s brilliant, only in F1 engineers get to be celebrities, there’s no other field in engineering where this is even remotely possible.

24

….and the best livery on the grid!

25

really pleased to see Williams in good form, I’d love to see them doing this well next year. McLaren need to turn their form around next year but I don’t think they will, they seem to be lacking direction and there hasn’t been much positivity coming from them.

26

Does ‘Force India’ get the same spec Merc engine as Williams ? If yes, then Vijay Mallya needs to take a long hard look at his crew. With his bottomless pockets and two good drivers, there is no reason why ForceIndia should lurk in the midfield.

27

Bottomless pockets? From a story in an Indian paper today, 12 August, regarding United Bank of India publishing the names of debt defaulters:

“While United Bank has gone after Mallya with great enthusiasm in trying to recover some of the Rs400 crore lent to Kingfisher Airlines, his name doesn’t figure in the bank’s list of wilful defaulters as on June-end.

That’s because Mallya has gone to court, trying to stop the bank from declaring him as a wilful defaulter. He, too, will probably feature in the “name and shame” list if a favourable verdict comes from the court, bank’s executive director Sanjay Arya told dna.

“We had earlier served notice to Mr Mallya, and now a case is being heard at the Calcutta high court, which will be decided soon. The bank will take necessary steps after that,” Arya said.”

The guy hasn’t paid some of his Kingfisher Airlines employees for a year and just had to sell his stake in United Spirits to repay some Kingfisher debt; here is a link to an July article in Forbes Magazine:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2014/07/02/indias-ex-billionaire-mallya-sells-more-assets-to-help-pay-kingfisher-debt/

I think we’re lucky Force India still exists.

28

Subrata Roy the owner of Sahara and part owner of Force India has been in jail since about March and it’s related to debts.

It’s a shame because the team is quite good.

29

VJ has always maintained that FI exists as an entirely separate entity, but I think you’re right.

I’d also say that as much as I like F1, personally I’d make sure all my workers were getting paid instead of spending absurd amounts of money to run around in the mid-field year after year.

30

– “Previously a big team with a wind tunnel that ran around the clock, could run both programs in

parallel. Now that is no longer possible.

Yep. The new regs and restrictions in the name of cost cutting etc may be fair in principle, but F1 fans are missing out on seeing the very best of the drivers competeing in the best of the cars.

That was why we watched F1.

Williams is a lovely story but they pulled the short straw when they went with Merc.

We find Ferrari by contrast unable to compete at the top through no fault of their drivers.

31

“but F1 fans are missing out on seeing the very best of the drivers competeing in the best of the cars”

how can the cars not be the best?

Are you saying it would only be the best if there were no rules?

OF course they are the BEST, between tyres, rules, physics and Engineering ideas, there are always limitations…to say they are not the best doesn’t even make sense…the best car is the car that wins within the framework of the formula……there is ALWAYS a formula!!!

It is called FORMULA 1 after all and not just 1 🙂

32

@ Mark

🙂 I think you miss the point

It was more to do with some of the best drivers not ending up in the best cars because their design teams let them down … if you read again carefully

33

A very interesting point in the last paragraph.

“they too have to pass through the bottleneck of the 30/30 rule. This is a great leveller.”

This is very interesting as it shows that there can be some kind of rules in F1 that make it fair on all the teams no matter how much money you have.

For years now you have had the smaller teams fighting on a budget and the richer teams winning on a budget, but those budgets are very different.

I don’t have any answers to my question but I would be very interested to hear other peoples views, but if there are more ways that create a kind of bottle neck within F1, this could just make the sport a bit fairer for the rich and the poor.

34

i think mclaren and ferrari could learn a thing or two from williams. it’s not always about money.

it’s structures and management.

have ferrari and mac become so bureaucratic that they’ve become slow and cumbersome ?

i notice driver salaries have been published.

what teams pay for each point earned in driver salaries;

ferrari 310,000 eu

mclaren 175,000 eu

red bull 105,000 eu

merc 81,000 eu

f india 61,000 eu

williams 37,000 eu

35

having followed williams as a team for very many years starting really with mansell it is gratifying to see them rise as a genuine competitor this year. IMO though it is largely due to the mercedes engine. last year williams had so many disappointments due to their inability to match the top teams when it came to innovation. the coanda exhausts were a prime example.

i recall patrick head stating when asked why williams were rapidly going downhill, he said, ‘we have very good people, that is not the problem, we just don’t have the ideas’. now we are seeing what can be achieved when you have the right people with the right ideas and the most powerful engine on the grid. williams are on the up, all they need to maintain the momentum is two drivers that can regularly haul in some tasty points at every race. bottas is doing fine but massa is the weak link. i am reasonably sure that he will be there next year as i think by memory he has a three year contract. no doubt there will clauses in there that could be enacted re performance but massa needs to lift his game. if he can do this then williams will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

36

I wouldn’t begrudge Massa a win, he’s had some tough times this year.

37

Absolutely. I cant even read the espnf1 site these days due to the unbelievably negative comments about him.

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