Williams have fallen into F1’s vicious cycle – one which has claimed other teams before.
Poor performance leads to falling sponsorship revenues which restricts development leading to worsening performance.
They reached a new low in 2011 as they fell three places in the constructors’ championship, only finishing ahead of the three teams that first appeared last year. Where does this once-great F1 team go from here?
Williams responded quickly to their desperate start to 2011. Technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson were earmarked for replacement in May and have since found places at McLaren and Toro Rosso respectively. In a seismic move, Williams stalwart Patrick Head will also step back from his F1 duties and work elsewhere within the company.
In their places has come the controversial appointment of Mike Coughlan – a central figure in the ‘Spygate’ scandal four years ago. In addition to that, next year Williams will have access to the world championship-winning Renault engine, replacing the Cosworth power it has used for the last two seasons.
|Best race result (number)
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|Championship position (2010)
|Championship points (2010)
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Williams hopes for 2012 are invested in a car which must be both quicker and more reliable than the FW33. The aggressive rear packaging of the car with its low gearbox and driveshaft proved problematic.
The car had seven race-ending malfunctions during the season – several of which were due to transmission problems – and suffered repeated KERS failures.
When the car did see the end of a race it was rarely quick enough to reach the points. A Williams finished on the lead lap just six times in 38 starts.
Rubens Barrichello gave the team its first points of the year in Monaco, inheriting ninth place after rookie team mate Pastor Maldonado retired following a collision with Lewis Hamilton.
Barrichello finished in the same place in the following race at Montreal, calling on his vast experience in a very wet race. Those were his only two visits to the top ten all season.
Maldonado added his first and only point in F1 so far in the Belgian Grand Prix – a race he was fortunate to start after another run-in with Hamilton. Maldonado, who had lost time being passed by the McLaren at the final corner on his last lap, drove up alongside Hamilton’s car and made contact in a move somewhere between intentional contact and sheer carelessness.
He went some way towards redeeming himself on race day, rising from a penalised 21st to finish tenth. And that was Williams’ third and final points-scoring finish of a desperate year.
The season reached its nadir in Abu Dhabi where the team recorded its worst ever starting positions, the pair lining up on the back row after Maldonado was handed a penalty for an engine change and Barrichello’s car broke down in Q1.
The team has already announced it will retain Maldonado to drive the Coughlan-designed, Renault-powered FW34. But whether he has someone sufficiently experienced and capable alongside him, or Williams have to plump for another well-heeled driver, will signal whether they are continuing their alarming tailspin.
2011 F1 season review
- The 2011 F1 season: The complete F1 Fanatic review
- Your 2011 F1 predictions revisited
- 2011 F1 statistics part 3: Stats and facts highlights
- 2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination
- 2011 F1 statistics part one: car performance
- New 2011 rules produced best racing of last four years
- What F1 Fanatics really thought of the 2011 season
- Sebastian Vettel voted F1 Fanatic Driver of the Year
- F1 Fanatic’s article highlights of 2011
- Dominant Red Bull join F1’s top teams