A close look at the FW33 tells you a lot about what’s going on at Williams.
Its bodywork gives clues about the team’s sponsorship situation and the changes in their driver line-up.
And most importantly, you can see the innovations on the car the team hope will get them back to the front this year
First, the sponsors. Or rather, the lack of them.
Several big names have departed over the winter including RBS, Phillips and Green Flag.
Not all of them have been replaced. But the logo of Venezuela’s state-owned petrol company PDVSA features prominently.
Their backing has come courtesy of a change in the driver line-up that has already attracted much comment. Nico H?â??lkenberg, who ended Williams’ five-year pole position drought last year, has been dropped for Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado.
For obvious reasons Williams have received some criticism for this. But keep in mind Maldonado is the reigning GP2 champion – like H?â??lkenberg was and like Timo Glock, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg before them.
He may come with some financial backing and that may have played a role in him getting the driver. But you can’t argue he doesn’t deserve a shot at the top-flight. And he certainly has a stronger claim than Kazuki Nakajima did.
Still it’s a worrying reflection of Williams’ financial situation – to say nothing of Formula 1 in general – that a driver of H?â??lkenberg’s calibre has to make way for someone more sponsor-friendly.
The hard reality is F1 teams need money to survive – turn your attention to the back of the FW33 for evidence of that.
The team have developed – at some cost – their smallest ever gearbox to produce an extremely compact rear end on their car.
This and its low differential (note how steeply the rear axles are inclined towards the wheels) is designed to increase the effectiveness of the rear wing and boost downforce.
That may prove especially useful given how quickly rear tyres are going off with the new Pirelli compounds. But as ever it’s hard to get a reading on how well the car is working from testing times alone.
The team’s testing programme has suffered setbacks due to problems with their Kinetic Energy Recovery System. Such a problem has curtailed their running again this morning.
The flywheel KERS Williams developed for 2009 (but did not race) remains on the shelf – like their rivals the team are using a battery system this year.
It will fall to Rubens Barrichello to lead the team while Maldonado gets up to speed. But keep an eye out for the rookie at Monaco where he has a strong track record.
The team scraped sixth in the constructors’ championship last year, narrowly beating Force India – which is where H?â??lkenberg has ended up as a reserve driver.
Whether they can better that this year depends on just how quick and reliable their innovative car turns out to be.
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Images ?é?® Williams/LAT, F1 Fanatic