This is the third part of the ‘Three to Think for 2014’ series, and here we look at the Team filled with history and heritage, Williams. There have been so many reasons, as to why this Team has gone backwards in recent years, and yes we have lots of stories all through the years from various people assessing the situation including us. But anyway, for a Team who have seen so much of Formula 1 with lots of ups and down in their journey, 2013 hasn’t been an ideal start for this Team. It’s not at all ideal to comment on a Team’s performance based on just one race, but if the general feedback from the associated parties are correct, things are certainly looking gloomy at this stage for this iconic Team. Yes, We have Mike Coughlan who confirmed that Sepang will be an decent place to assess their performance, and that they are in a position to recover. But Is it really necessary for Williams to keep focused on 2013 season or Should they move on for lots of better prospects in their Journey?
Isn’t it very surprising to see things change in a dramatic fashion in a matter of days, if not months?
We can have a storytelling session on the Williams 2013 season, They have gone through so much in this very short period. The only team to launch a car in the Second Test at Barcelona, amidst high hopes, and expectations. Pastor Maldonado and co believed that this car is a step up from its predecessor during the unveiling, and commented on the fact that the week’s gap between the third Test, and the first race is important for them to analyse the data they have generated, and to work on the car to extract its full potential, which was supposed to take this Team from behind its nearest rivals like Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso to the back of the Top 4 Teams.
"I think we have the potential to be ahead and for sure I would like to be even more competitive and even very close to the top teams. We have great potential; we just have to work very hard as a team and let's see. We are quite happy; no problems during the winter tests so it's a great starting point to have. We are looking forward to Melbourne now, we still have a week to work very hard to analyse the data and we feel confident. We'll see. We are trying to learn from the car. Remember that we have four days less than the other teams so there's still something to learn from the car and we're fully focused on it. Our guys our working very hard so I hope to be there from the first race." - Pastor Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado is no joke in Formula 1. Performances aside, he is one important driver, who has the power to run a Team on his will, if he pushed for even more infusion of funds from his Country. Currently Tabled at £29 million a year, He is the amongst the best ‘Pay Driver’ a Team could afford, again in terms of the Finances. He had a huge backing from the late Hugo Chavez, who was pushing Maldonado to a new level, and the money was routed through the state-run oil company, PDVSA. Unfortunately through, the future of Maldonado is uncertain, with the rival parties asking for the £29 million should be spent on better deeds, then making a single man as the icon of the whole Country. Currently, there is a huge rumor that Maldonado may not be able to pledge in the funds for next season, if the rival parties comes into power during the upcoming elections.
There was too much of emotions running through this Team in the last Weekend, Sir Frank Williams was unable to attend the Australian GP, and it was Mike Coughlan who made the calls for the entire Weekend. Maldonado was complaining of the lack of performance of FW35 after the Free Practice sessions, and also the after Qualifying and the Race, with the point being that it was undrivable, and that the Team is back to where it belonged in 2011.
"The track is completely different, the conditions and everything, For any reason we didn't adapt our car to this track in whatever the conditions are. In the wet we were slow, in the dry as well. The pace for tomorrow seems to be much better but qualifying pace is really bad. I think we're back to two years' ago with the conditions in the team. We need to work very hard to sort the problems; the car is undriveable at the moment and we need to work. That's it." - Pastor Maldonando
When asked by Autosport about the Performance of FW35, Coughlan stated that the Team is on track for this weekend’s race at Sepang, as it will show the relative performance of the FW35.
"We are disappointed with the performance and I don't want to blame the tyres, We have got some issues with the car but we've got some direction and we've been looking at the data. This is the first time we've had running at a track like Melbourne and we did learn things. We have some plans moving forward and we will implement them for Malaysia. Certainly, Malaysia will be an interesting Friday for us."
Coughlan doesn’t seem to be concerned about the flyaway races, and he believes that the Team should be back to its 2012 form, as the car is relatively based on FW34.
"I don't think so. The car is so similar to last year's car and we've not changed anything fundamentally. Even though a lot of the components are new, we haven't changed anything fundamentally. What we've done is go down an avenue that hasn't reaped a reward and what we've got to do now is take a step back from that and look at some of the set-ups from last year and some of the aerodynamic things we did last year. Then we'll reassess it and go again. Certainly Malaysia will be an interesting Friday for us.”
He further went on record to state that the FW35 was competitive in the first test, and it lost some ground as others have improved significantly after the first test.
"At the first Barcelona test when the car first ran we really thought the car was quite competitive. We haven't taken it forward and if anything we've taken it backwards. Some teams have moved forward - Lotus and Red Bull have looked strong all the time - so I think we've got some homework to do yet."
Lastly, when asked about the reason for switching to the launch specification of FW35 for Sepang, Coughlan says that the reaction that the Team got from the drivers at the Jerez Test, was more impressive then compared to the upgrades that were brought in for the Third Test.
"We went back to the launch [specification] purely because the drivers were more comfortable at the first test, and the cooling is a little bit easier with that bodywork, so we thought that was probably a better base with fewer unknowns. We'll maybe have a comparison again in Malaysia depending on the temperatures."
The bottom line seems to be that the Team which had high hopes on moving to the back of the pack consisting of the ‘Front Running Teams’, will need to do some serious homework in the coming races, and the Grand Prix weekends until the European Races probably will be more of an extended test sessions. The Team will be under severe scrutiny, as they will need more time to evaluate the changes that they have brought at the third test at Barcelona.
2014: A Year for Redemption?
With major regulation changes set for 2014, Williams have an ample chance to rewrite a success story. Unlike the Teams that have earlier featured in this series, Williams have a strong Engine partner whom they can depend upon, for the 2014 season. It will be a perfect opportunity to put the money straight on 2014 rather then lose countless number of races, and then revive a fightback for nothing in this season.
Everyone associated with Williams at this juncture is ready to fight for glory. The man who was making the calls at the Australian Grand Prix, Mike Coughlan was making a comeback after the spygate scandal in 2007. He rejoined Formula 1 in May 2011 as he was part of the Technical shakeup that Williams was forced to look into, after few disastrous campaigns. 2012 was by far the most successful season that Williams has seen in recent years, and the part of credit has to reach this man. Yes, 2013 is not looking good at the moment. Although Williams Team have stated that Sepang will be far better place to judge their car, it will be a litmus test for Williams, and especially Mike Coughlan if FW35 performs poorly again. It would be a far better move, if Williams admits something has fundamentally gone wrong with FW35, and thus puts more resources into the 2014 season.
Their Engine Partners meanwhile will also be looking forward to the 2014 season as well. They lost the plot on the basis of Engine Performance with the V8’s. They however can boast of the Extra Mileage that their Engine offers as compared to its rivals in this era, but then everyone in the paddock has been voting for Renault as the poorest of the lot (Cosworth, not included though) inspite of the Three World Championships that they assisted to Red Bull. With Cosworth all set to leave the sport in 2014, Renault will fall back if they don’t improve. Renault have clearly set the targets of extra recognition that they deserve in the sport, and plenty of Teams are in the queue to get the services of Renault, but the common word that’s been going around is the lack of power that these Engines offer, and this particular word is not doing any justice to Renault. 2014 will be the ideal year for Renault as they can have a payback at its rivals.
The Curious Case of Maldonado:
With the uncertainty over Maldonado, A major sum of backing that Williams receives through the PDVSA network will surely cause a major hurdle for this team. If the party that comes into power at Venezuela decides to pull off the support for Maldonado, it will leave Williams a major hunt to find a suitable replacement of services. They need to hunt for a driver who can either bring that much amount of money, or a sponsor who are willing to invest the same. The hunt for the huge sum of money will surely take some precious time, which will again add more trouble to this already troubled team.
Again, its our general assumption, but the Williams Team will surely be on a different spectrum for next season, if they decide to switch the focus completely in the near future. They are not afraid to experiment, they have shown in the past, especially in the 2009 season where they along with Brawn GP, and Toyota pulled up a loophole in the FIA regulation, and used it to their advantage. Yes, what happened after the initial hype was a different story. But then, 2014 is really a nice target for this Team, to regain their lost honour. Conditions at the moment seem to favor them. Mike Coughlan will be looking forward to shed his negative image that he built up during the 2007 season, Renault will be looking forward to building a mammoth powerhorse. They have the resources at this moment which need not be guaranteed for the future.
It would be wonderful idea, to press the switchover button now. When Sir Frank Williams decides to completely switch off his focus from Formula 1, Championship would be a best farewell present.