Williams fail to get the most out of winning car

2012 F1 season review

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Williams’ season ended 70 laps earlier than everyone else’s as both their drivers crashed out within the first two laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix. It said a lot about a season in which their drivers carry much of the blame for failing to deliver on the team’s potential.

The 2011 season had been one of their Williams’ worst-ever campaigns. But the first year of their reunion with Renault produced a much more competitive car with which they ended their eight-year victory drought.

Williams team stats 2012

Best race result (number)1 (1)
Best grid position (number) 1 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 7 (2/5)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,997 (83.77%)
Laps led (% of total) 37 (3.1%)
Championship position (2011)8 (9)
Championship points (2011)76 (5)
Pit stop performance ranking9

But a final position of eighth in the constructors’ championship with a car that was the sixth-quickest on pure pace has to be viewed as a disappointment.

“The FW34 was a strong car and on the whole we feel that we should have done better with the equipment we had,” admitted team principal Frank Williams. “Our long-run pace was consistently strong and whilst we need to improve on our qualifying pace, at certain tracks we did manage to give the top teams a run for their money over a single lap.”

It all came right for the team in Spain. Pastor Maldonado inherited pole position from Lewis Hamilton and although he lost the lead to Fernando Alonso to begin with, the team’s confidence in their car’s ability to look after its tyres allowed them to get back ahead by pitting Maldonado early.

It was a richly deserved return to winning ways – but one that almost ended in disaster. While they were celebrating a fire in the pit lane destroyed a considerable amount of the team’s equipment. Fortunately injuries were limited and the team were able to continue racing in Monaco.

There was drama away from the track as well. Chairman Adam Parr announced his resignation from the team on the day after the Malaysian Grand Prix, less than a month after Williams referred to him as his “natural successor”. Parr recently confirmed the widely-rumoured suspicion that a falling-out with Bernie Ecclestone was behind his decision to step down.

Just four days after the fire in Spain, the team was back on its feet in Monaco. But while the previous race demonstrated Maldonado at his best, Monaco was one of several examples of him at his worst. In practice he collided needlessly (perhaps even intentionally) with Sergio Perez, and having been demoted towards the rear of the grid he piled into Pedro de la Rosa’s HRT within seconds of the start.

A litany of similar incidents ruined Maldonado’s season. After Spain he went nine races without scoring again. Although a car failure robbed him of a strong result in Singapore this was the exception rather than the rule: Maldonado simply had too many collisions, often with other drivers, and he can count himself fortunate he he didn’t earn the kind of punishment Romain Grosjean did.

Maldonado was the driver the team could rely on the get closest to the car’s potential most regularly, as the Laps per Position graph below makes clear. He – and his vital wedge of PDVSA cash – will remain at the team next year.

“Pastor has incredible raw pace and the ability to ring the neck of a car and find speed where others would not,” said Williams at the end of the year.

“He is showing more and more maturity with each race and his dominant display at the Spanish Grand Prix showed that he can handle pressure and drive a flawless race. With another season under his belt, I’m sure that next year he can confirm his position as one of the top drivers.”

Bruno Senna was clearly the slower of Williams’ two drivers, though he might have got closer to Maldonado had Valtteri Bottas’s 15 practice session appearances not been conducted exclusively in Senna’s car. From the moment that arrangement was announced Senna’s eventual replacement by Bottas seemed inevitable, and it was duly confirmed shortly after the season ended.

Senna proved a safer pair of hands than Maldonado, though his season was not without its share of incidents. On more than one occasion he was hit from behind by quicker drivers having stayed out long during his first stint in an attempt to make up the places he lost in qualifying – as happened in the two Spanish races.

Senna reached the points in half of this year’s races – twice as many as Maldonado, whose Spanish Grand Prix success and another strong run in Abu Dhabi (despite a KERS problem) ensured he finished ahead in the drivers’ standings.

But it added up to considerably less than the team were capable of in the constructors’. They improved by one place over 2011, but it’s not hard to imagine how they could have picked up another three.

Williams drivers’ 2012 race results


Pastor Maldonado1319811312161513118141659
Bruno Senna1667221017109177121018141510810

Williams drivers’ 2012 laps per position


Pastor Maldonado372737423760305746655379100716444361228106200
Bruno Senna0002417528754122841225511010037562630272761521

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Images © Williams/LAT

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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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26 comments on “Williams fail to get the most out of winning car”

  1. vuelve kowalsky
    8th December 2012, 12:43

    love maldonado, reminds me of montoya, but with less talent. Bring back memories of another formula one era, in wich not all drivers where perfect.

    1. ..with a lot less talent.

      As a big fan of JPM, I can appreciate your sentiments. He is the same mold, very aggressive, but the key difference is that while Montoya drove aggressively, he never crashed into people every other weekend, he actually knew how to win races…..Maldonado just seems a bit thick to me..haha

      JPM was one of the classic characters on the grid…unfortunately Maldonado just doesnt have the same charisma.

  2. Plenty of money to build and develop the car but not the quality drivers to maximise it’s potential. Perhaps with time they both will develop the skills but for Bruno elsewhere. Let’s hope we see more from them in 2013.

  3. Not just williams, I think there was serious quality in many of those midfield cars this year let down by the ineptitude of various drivers. Certainly Sauber and Williams were the two cars I would have loved to have seen a top tier driver in. Both had multi-race winning pace.

    In fact as a general theme its pretty fascinating – the top 5 teams (with the exception of grosjean) all have careers spanning 5-10 years ish (20 years in a certain case) – whereas the midfield average experience must be less than 2 years. Which to me goes a long way to explaining the mayhem and missed opportunities midpack. Never before can I remember seeing such a stark contrast the ‘haves’ (top cars, top tier drivers) and the have nots.

    Keith any chance of an analysis on that theme??

    1. You’d be hard pressed to argue that Sauber’s drivers under performed I think.

      1. I think it would be very easy to argue that.

  4. A car that good and only twice in the top 5. It’s only dissapointing.

    But it was great to see the team winning again. Hope they continue next year, it was a massive step foward compared to 2011 afterall.

    1. Could be a great thing for them to have Bottas joining the team … The one who should be worried is Pastor as Bottas has proven to be quick at some practice session and I don’t remember him crashing (either he is that kind of guy, either he kept a bit under the foot which would mean he had great pace).

      But enough “could” and “might” and let’s discover this next year … but that line up had to change somehow.

  5. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    8th December 2012, 12:50

    The biggest problems Willimas faces in 2013 is Maldonado.
    He can bring all the money available in PDVSA but if he keeps being stubborn, he could be shadowed by Bottas in his rookie year (unlikely, though). I never heard a single “It’s my fault and I’ll make out my mind” coming from Maldonado in the whole 2012. It can be just what PR tells him to say, but most o that terrible attitude make him well deserved of his multiple penalties. He should either grow as a racer or simple let the opportunity fade away.

    1. Surely the biggest problem is the driver who is slower than MAL? How can your faster driver, who gathered many more points than Senna, be the biggest problem? Sure he is dangerous and cant seem to think further than the nose of this car, but it is sure as hell better than a driver who hangs around the back and never really does anything worth noting. MAL put Williams and their sponsors all over the news, which I’m sure they would have enjoyed financially.

      1. Maybe because Maldonado was the one in his second season with the team and was always in the car, while his team mate lost 15 FP1?

        The fact is that Bruno Senna showed good race pace in 15 GP, as far as I can remember. In Australia and Brazil his races were badly compromised in the first lap through no fault of his own and in Bahrein, Spain and Canada he had the same sort of trouble that affected even a Champion like Button, both suffering to conserve their tyres due to their smooth driving style. Anyway, the slim performance window of this year’s tyres hurt them more in qualifying and that explains why Button could only score 7 points in 6 races (in the first half of the year) and Bruno had so much trouble to qualify well, as he also had the aditional disadvantage of losing a lot of track time in free practice.

        So, with more normal tyres in 2013 and not losing those 15 FP1 anymore, Bruno Senna can recover the qualifying form that saw him put the Lotus in Q3 four times, even managing to outqualify Alonso at Spa the very first time he drove a real F1 car. Add that to the speed and consistency he showed this year in the races and we will have a really good F1 driver, capable of winning races if he has a really good car. I’m sure he would match Paul di Resta’s speed if he could get the Force India drive.

    2. As Frank said, I feel he drove very maturely towards the end of the season. The Perez incident does make it very difficult to trust him though.

      1. Yeah, I got the impression the message given to the drivers with grosjeans penalty really did arrive to Maldonado and he got to grips with his temperament in the last third of the season.

  6. Over the course of this season, if have become a real fan of Maldonado. From what other people wrote about him, I had the bias that he was nothing more than a pay driver who only got the GP2 title by experience. But he actually is a superb driver. He has shown brilliance this season in Singapore, Valencia, Abu Dhabi (5th without KERS) and of course Spain. But brilliance one week is followed by appaling races, such as Britain and Monaco. What I expecially like about him is the utter denial of him having issues with crashing into other people, though of course his collision with Pérez in Monaco is inexcusable. Like Mark Webber, Maldo is a great exception to your average PR-talk racing driver.

    1. @andae23 Strongly disagree with you putting Webber and Crashtor Stupidado in the same sentence. MW is talking straight and is man enough to admit mistakes when he makes them. Maldonado on the other hand is the most disgusting driver, ever since the “first gen” Schumacher, only much slower. Not only does he intentionally crash into people, but it’s also never his fault. Whatever stupid he does it’s always the other driver’s fault, the car’s fault, the track’s, anyone’s but his. That’s not straight talking, that’s being a huge $$$$

      1. @montreal95 Exactly: I get that most people are irritated by Maldo blaming other people for his own mistakes, but I actually quite like this. Again, I don’t think that crashing into others is a very wise nor safe thing to do, but the fact that he keeps denying that he has problems with this really amuses me. He is different, just like Mark Webber is different by saying things the way they are. In my opinion, Webber and Maldonado are opposites when it comes to talking to the media, but both distinguish themselves from the other 22 drivers.

        1. @andae23 Ok, thanks for the clarification!

  7. They shouldn’t complain about this at all,they have the chance to sign a top driver Kimi Raikonnen was available at the beginning of the year before he signed with Lotus I think he visited the Williams factory but they didn’t signed him maybe because of the money but we are talking about “TOP DRIVER” look at Lotus imagine if they didn’t sign Kimi they would not be in the 4th place in WCC

  8. Maldonado has shown much better consistency since Monza. I’m sure, if the car is as good as this year, he’ll be getting a number of podiums in 2013.

  9. I don´t rate Senna very highly but I trully believe had he done the hole season his performances would be much better and Williams would be fighting for 6th place in the constructors. To miss 30% of running in a season for a relatively unexperienced driver is fatal and did cost millions to the team. For what? To give experience to Bottas? It would be better for himself to compete a full season in a lower category and do 4 or 5 FP1, he would develop has a driver and at the same time get some experience of F1.
    Williams can only blame themselves for this huge mistake and the price was high.

  10. There were not many drivers on the grid who could fight among the top end of the field like MAL could. We consistently saw him doing well on Saturday and then fighting for every inch on Sunday. Hell, he even won a race!

    1. He won a race, but threw away far more points than he successfully brought home. Must do better.

  11. Michael Brown (@)
    9th December 2012, 2:42

    Maldonado showed he could get the most out of the car, but not consistently.

    1. But how do we know he got “the most out of the car” ? Perhaps one of the WDC drivers could have challenged Vettel for the championship in that car, we will of course never know.

  12. Pretty dismal effort in the end but an improvement, with the car at least, from last year. The final race really did sum up their season and how a race winning team can finish so low in the constructors championship hardly adds up to anything other than needlessly throwing away points.

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