It’s difficult for me to write about the Williams team without looking through rose-tinted glasses. I’ve supported the Grove based team since the mid eighties when I first became hooked on Formula 1 at the age of 8. The striking blue, white and yellow livery coupled with Mansell and Piquet behind the wheel (two of the most flamboyant drivers of their era) I was hooked. Since then I’ve celebrated all the teams successes through the Honda/Renault years and still kept the faith through the past seven barren years without a win.
My closeness to the team grew stronger at the start of the 2010 season when the team launched a ‘team player’ section to their revamped web site, giving fans more insight into the team and one of the best forums for fans to discuss Williams and F1 in general.
Through the team player initiative, I was lucky enough to be invited to the teams factory at Grove for the day in January of this year. We were treated to a tour of the museum and conference centre. The highlight of the day was two question and answer sessions with chairman Adam Parr and Sir Frank Williams himself! Both talked of great optimism about the new season, Sir Frank talked about aiming for the odd podium or even a race win in the right circumstances. This optimism grew as pre-season testing got under way with both drivers posting top ten times and Rubens actually topping the time sheet on one day at the final test!
Sadly though, by the time the F1 circus rolled into Melbourne for the first race, it soon became evident that the FW33 was way off the pace. Sam Michael and his team had put a lot of time, effort and faith in his revolutionary low line gear box. Although it did work and did improve the aero over the lower plane of the rear wing, it was apparent to all that the teams that had developed exhaust blown diffusers were gaining a significant advantage on track.
Technical director Sam Michael and Chief of aerodynamics Jon Tomlinson paid the price for the worst start to a season ever for the team. Both tendered their resignations and will leave the team at the end of the current campaign.
At this point, even for me, one of the teams biggest fans. I was wondering if this decline would be the start of Williams going the same way as other great names like Team Lotus and Tyrrell? In a recent fans Q&A in the teams e-paper, iGNITION. Sir Frank was asked about the future of the team and whether they could continue in F1. His answer was “The Williams team will be around long after the end of formula 1!”
The recent reshuffle is testament to Sir Franks and Patrick Heads unwavering devotion to the team they founded back in 1977. Mike Coughlan has been recruited as chief engineer and with the further editions of Jason Summerville as head aerodynamics and Mark Gillan as chief operations engineer coming on board soon, the winds of change are sweeping through Grove.
The good news kept on coming with yesterday’s announcement of a two year deal with Renault to be supplied with their championship wining V8 power plants with an extension into the new turbo era the aim.
Rubens Barrichello is talking about extending his contract by another year also. He obviously is swept up in all the changes and with his appetite for racing as strong as ever I would like to see one more year in F1 for him.
People seem to dismiss Williams these days as a has been team! I think it’s too early to consign them to the F1 history books. Williams lay second only to Ferrari in the most constructor titles won and Ferrari have a twenty seven year head start. When you see the sheer size of the factory at Grove and how many people there are devoted to getting the team back to winning ways it makes you think again.