The teams: Williams, Honda, Force India & Super Aguri (F1 2008)

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Honda endured a hellish season but it might pay off in 2009
Honda endured a hellish season but it might pay off in 2009

These four teams ended 2008 propping up the constructors’ championship table. One of them had gone bust so long ago many had forgotten they were ever there.

Where did it go wrong for Williams, Honda, Force India and Super Aguri in 2008? And will things be better for the three that remain in 2009?

Williams

Nico Rosberg stood on the podium after the first round at Melbourne and it looked as though we would have to get used to seeing him there. But the team?s struggle at Sepang a week later was a reality check. Throughout the rest of the season Williams conspicuously failed to deliver on the promise it showed in pre-season testing.

At times it seemed as though inexperience in their driver line-up was holding them back. At races where the team might have capitalised on wet weather to grab some points Nico Rosberg too often appeared with his front wing missing early in the race. Kazuki Nakajima spent his rookie season trying to get near his team mate?s pace, and his continuation at the team next year is not necessarily a vote of confidence that he has achieved it.

In the second half of the year work on the FW30 slowed markedly as the team focussed its efforts on 2009. But alarmingly this historic team is showing the classic signs of decline: having lost its manufacturer partner (BMW) several sponsors followed, resulting in lower car development than their rivals, making them less competitive, so their results become poorer making them less attractive to sponsors and so on.

It’s not too late to reverse that trend, but finishing eighth in the constructors’ championship for the second time in three years shows the depth of the trouble Williams are in.

Honda

Honda has made an enormous gamble. New team principal Ross Brawn focused their efforts on 2009 ?ǣ to the obvious detriment of their 2008 contender.

The result was a 2008 championship that was almost as bad as last year, but for Rubens Barrichello?s inspired podium at Silverstone. He might have done even better at Singapore where he, like Fernando Alonso, was poised to take advantage of the safety car, until a car failure halted his progress.

Better to get those problems out of the way this year than next, when they absolutely must be fighting at the front end again.

Force India

The team which, as Spyker, scored a point in 2007, ended 2008 point-less. But that deceptively simple statistic is misleading. Force India was a stronger and more credible outfit this year than last.

Reinvigorated by long-overdue budget injection, the team quickly developed the VJM01, catching up with trends in a aerodynamics (shark fin) and mechanicals (seamless shift gearbox).

Reliability remained a problem, however, particularly for Adrian Sutil, who lost six finishes due to car failure.

Owner Vijay Mallya?s initial hopes of getting cars into Q2 more than once and picking up the minor points were not realised. But news of the team?s supply deal with McLaren-Mercedes for next year shows Mallya is in it for the long run.

Super Aguri

What killed Super Aguri? Lack of sponsors? The FIA?s U-turn on customer cars? Nick Fry?

Super Aguri limped into the 2008 championship and contested four Grands Prix but were living a hand-to-mouth existence. Before the Turkish Grand Prix Honda announced it would not continue to support the team and that was its death knell.

But the patient had been sick for some time. When Honda created Super Aguri in 2006 it envisioned being able to run a team at greatly reduced costs by using the parent team?s chassis. But as the FIA?s attempts to bring in rules permitting customer cars failed, Super Aguri increasingly looked like an un-viable team, whatever giant-killing feats it had achieved in 2007.

Honda have problems of their own but all the same in light of the McLaren-Force India deal they might have made a mistake in letting Super Aguri go to the wall.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 15 comments on “The teams: Williams, Honda, Force India & Super Aguri (F1 2008)”

    1. Every race Mclaren and Ferrari try to improve by makin their cars go at least 0.2 seconds faster than the previous race. If these teams Honda, Williams and Force India cannot keep up with improving every race then they are going to fall behind. There may be many reasons why they cant keep up, mostly financial id guess. Next year for the 2009 season lets hope theyre further up the table with points.

    2. Just for the record: a Force India car did get through to Q2 on one occasion, Fisi qualified 12th in Monza.

    3. BG – well said, have tweaked the text accordingly. Ta.

    4. Reliability remained a problem, however, particularly for Adrian Sutil, who lost six finishes due to car failure.

      Owner Vijay Mallya’s initial hopes of getting cars into Q2 more than once and picking up the minor points were not realised.

      Adrian Sutil would more than likely have realised the picking up points part of that had it not been for Kimi’s Ferrari using him as a brake….

    5. I think Nick Fry killed Super Aguri. He saw them as a threat to his own establishment.

    6. And Honda gave up on development this year, if SA kept racing this year, and developing, they would have made Honda look even worse.

    7. TommyBellingham
      11th November 2008, 19:38

      Honda to be good in 2009 – Biggest joke in F1

    8. Williams seem to be on the slippery slope, and very close to the cliff sadly. With most of their current sponsors in financial trouble, it’s not hard to imagine their stock falling ever lower. It reminds me of Jordan, most recently. The same sort of decline, in around the same timeframe. As a Williams fan, it’s getting hard for me to be optimistic about their chances next year, even if they provide a fast car for the first race.

      Honda is a joke, what they did to Super Aguri (even starting it) is a bigger joke – but not funny.

      Force India should be optimistic, but like Williams, they probably lack the resources to develop their Mclaren parts well during the year. Give them a couple of seasons and they might go somewhere with VJM’s expansion plans.

    9. Inclined to go with Tommy above , Honda seem to always promise far more than they can deliver , in last three years esp. I had some respect for Barrichello in the past , and even almost fell for the sorry story that he was “made” to be No. 2 at Ferrari , otherwise could have won the championship , but his inability to lead the Honda team towards steady progress , despite his vast experience gained by the time he joined Honda , now proves that he was in fact riding on Schumachers’ coat tails instead (no small wonder he apparently led the chorus of a song containing derogatory words against Schu. after the Brazil GP ?) . He is a good driver in a good car , but unfortunately that is where his talent seems to end.

    10. @Jean,

      Its doubtful Barrichello is responsible for Honda’s downturn. Since the appointment of Nick Fry to head the team, there has been a progressive downward slide ever since. The win in Hungary of 06, could easily have gone to Pedro Delarosa had he not been fueled too heavily.
      The first signs things were going awry at Honda was after the appointment of Gill de Ferran. It became a comical act, the team, and all we saw was a total loss of direction and purpose.

      Barrichello coming to the team at this same time, also brought some confusion, though not necessarily through any fault of his, Honda was unable to harmonize the feedback from both of the drivers regarding the developmental direction the cars should take. Barrichello had an idea of what direction the team should take, he had come from a multi championship winning team and thus had the requisite authority on a winning car’s characteristics. However, Honda’s engineers where unable to deliver on those tasks. It would seem like they were constantly moving back and forth between what each driver was suggesting and coming up with the worse compromise possible.

      Barrichello with all his experience, should have been allowed to assume full authority in the development of the car, and Button providing some input. But with button being the lead driver and the one with whom Honda felt their immediate future rested on, they could not totally discount his own input.

      In all, I still am of the belief that ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of Fry. He has not been able to get that team to work harmoniously. Granted, there was some resentment when Willis was sacked and Nakamoto was brought in. But I very much doubt that is the very reason why Honda is under performing. A team cannot progress if there are lots of disgruntled workers. The head must always instill discipline.
      As for Button, I am unable conclude that he really has the ability to motivate the team towards achieving anything. I may not have much doubt in his driving ability, where I do have concern is in his ambition.

      Come next year, with all the regulation change. KERS aside, practically every external aerodynamic device or contraption has been stripped off the cars. The cars are going to be easier to design and build, no longer are there going to be complicated analysis of interactions between those winglets and paddles and vanes. Honda may yet find themselves able to compete effectively once again.

    11. Yes , Oliver , no doubt it’s not all Rubens’ fault , but I must basically stick to what I say above , furthermore Honda did not just employ him to drive only , all drivers who reach F1 can do that , they must have for his experience gained with the years at Ferrari , not to mention the switch to Bridgestone at the time , whom Ferrari had worked extensively with .Therefore they would have been listening intently to what he had to say. That’s why I don’t believe he is capable of assisting a team towards developing a winning car.

    12. I have thought that Honda’s problems are because they have too many chiefs, and not enough indians.
      As a company, they appear to be well ahead of most rivals, yet the F1 team is trying to pull in too many directions at once – and Aguri’s little plaything didn’t help matters.
      Perhaps Ross Brawn will be able to join the dots and square the circles within the management and the team itself. This will take time however – look how long it took to get Ferrari pointing in the right direction.
      Button talks big but has never really shown that he has the capacity to do any more than go backwards in a race. Barichello I think would be providing lots more experience, but it still has to be used effectively by the team to get results.
      Perhaps next year will see a reborn Honda back at the top of the grid, and maybe enough confidence later on to bring back SuperAguri too….

    13. Honda are a joke, people hate Toyota but at least they can produce a reasonable car what have Honda ever done? Then they went ahead and killed off Super Aguri because they were better than them. Nick Fry and Honda killed off Super Aguri period.

    14. Rabi – I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but Honda have won a race…

    15. Super Aguri killed off Super Aguri. It was never Honda’s plan to continually feed money to SA forever – it was the fact that SA couldn’t find reliable sponsors that killed them. Honda supported them more, and for longer, than was originally envisaged.

      I too fear for Williams. They are the last proper racing team out there in F1 now, in the sense that they aren’t manufacturer/large corporation-backed like the rest. Unfortunately that makes it difficult to compete. Eventually Force India’s megabucks will count and Williams will be the slowest team, I fear. Their hopes must be pinned on either (A) the complete reconstruction of the sport (under the guise of “cost-cutting” etc.) which would give them a chance, or, maybe just as likely (B) the implosion of the sport as the manufacturers begin to drop out – either simply due to cost or due to Mosely’s interfering to achieve (A).

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