Maldonado’s “best car” was another Williams failure

2013 F1 season review

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Another trying season for Williams began in the worst possible way with the death of Virginia Williams, wife of team founder Sir Frank Williams, in March. While the team grieved, the decision was taken to postpone a major announcement about its leadership.

This had come about after Toto Wolff announced in January he was leaving to join Mercedes, just six months after his promotion to executive director in the wake of former chairman Adam Parr’s departure. In May the team belatedly confirmed Claire Williams had been promoted deputy team principal to steer the ship.

She faced a gruelling first year. Williams were race-winners last year but their new car was well off the pace and scored points only twice in nineteen races.

The frustrations of the season were felt most keenly by Pastor Maldonado. After the penultimate qualifying session of the year, having just been knocked out in Q1 for the eighth time, he voiced a suspicion that his difficulties were due to someone in the team “playing with” his car’s settings.

Maldonado’s incredible claim was widely derided and the team were quick to deny it. He later issued something of a retraction, suggesting he’d been in an emotional state when he made the comments. But by this stage in the season he had already made clear his intention to leave Williams.

Williams team stats 2013

Best race result (number)8 (1)
Best grid position (number) 3 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 5 (2/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,114 (93.13%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2012)9 (8)
Championship points (2012)5 (76)
Pit stop performance ranking10

It marked how rapidly the relationship had deteriorated between driver and team. Just last year Maldonado had ended their eight-year winless streak at the Circuit de Catalunya.

It was at the same track during pre-season testing this year that Maldonado gave his first verdict on the car. He sung the praises of the FW35, calling it “the best car I’ve had”.

It seemed the team’s decision to maximise development time on the new car and not have it ready in time for the first test – unlike every other team on the grid – had paid off. It hadn’t.

In his third season with the team Maldonado had clearly hoped for better than a repeat of the trials he endured with them in his debut season. In the end it was not the team’s most experienced driver who produced their best results, but his rookie team mate.

Valtteri Bottas took advantage of wet conditions in Canada to put the car third on the grid, a performance that recalled Nico Hulkenberg’s superb pole position at Interlagos in 2010.

Their competitiveness was further blunted by problems with their wheel nut retention device. They were fined over 100,000 for two separate incidents in Japan and India where the mechanism failed, compelling them to slow down their live race pit stops for safety reasons. Over the course of the season their pit crew was bested by Marussia’s.

Finally by the United States Grand Prix the team had come to the realisation their exhaust-blowing configuration was costing them more than it was bringing to the car. This time Bottas cracked Q3 in a dry session and brilliantly brought the car home in eighth place.

This meant Williams ended the season as they did two years ago: with just five points on the board, and only the struggling 2010 entrants behind them on the championship table.

Williams responded to their latest dire season in much the same way they did two years ago: by finding a new engine partner and rearranging their technical staff. Mike Coughlan, who arrived in 2011, was shown the door and the Renault engine supply deal agreed two years ago also came to an end.

With Pat Symonds arriving in Coughlan’s place and an impending switch to a new engine supplier – Mercedes – Williams have more than one reason to be optimistic about next year. But this isn’t the first time that’s been said about this once-great team.

Williams drivers 2013 race results

Pastor Maldonado14111416111510171411131612111716
Valtteri Bottas141113141612141216151513121716158

Williams’s 2013 season in pictures

2013 F1 season review

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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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39 comments on “Maldonado’s “best car” was another Williams failure”

    1. @full-throttle-f1

      “you removed a sparkplug out of Pastor’s engine, didn’t you?”
      “oh, yes !”

    2. Frank: No wheel nut?
      Claire: Nope
      Frank: Good :-D

    3. Frank: I just p**ped
      Claire: Great! Let’s change your diaper.

    4. “Why aren’t you in the car?”
      “Daad, I’m not Susie!”

    5. Jack (@jackisthestig)
      4th December 2013, 12:25

      “Keep this to yourself Claire, but Lotus’ mystery Quantum investor is just me putting on a foreign accent on the phone to Eric Boullier.”

      1. Best one yet :D

    6. Hey claire…. pastor thinks hes here on merit! Hahahaha

  1. You could wonder what could have been had their coanda not been such a troubling thing.

    1. Probably no better.

      1. They scored an 8th in USA without one and Bottas was looking pretty quick in Brazil up until the first round of pit stops.

        I’d say if they were making the same gains as everybody else they’d have looked similar to 2012

  2. I hope 2014 is a good year for the team. When I started watching the sport in the early 90’s they were like Red Bull are today. 20 years later and they are struggling. I find it hard to imagine Red Bull staying in the sport in 20 years time when they find hard times. I guess that’s what a family orientated business brings. These guys are a huge part of the F1 story, it would be fantastic to see them having some strong weekends next year.

    1. In the end of the day, only a handful of teams stay. Brabhams, Benettons, Jordans, Minardis, Red Bulls come and go, only a few teams, such as Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, maybe even Sauber and Mercedes, only these few teams stay.

      1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        4th December 2013, 17:31

        @austus Mercedes was a big absence (due to tragedy) but the only everlasting teams (as far as I remember) are Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Sauber. (good they got rid of that “BMW Sauber” name)

      2. @austus

        I think RB will be around for a long time, even if they have a couple of bad seasons: they had a horrible car until 2008 and have invested in a junior team, something unique in the sport. They want to stay here for a long time I think

    2. Williams didn’t become the all-conquering force that they were by copying the previous years best car and making incremental improvements to the concept, as teams today have to, they achieved greatness by developing new technologies, something the rules no longer allow.

  3. I think Maldonado’s comments are just yet another example of how academically challenged he is. Of course the FW35 was going to feel faster than the FW34; the regulations had been stable and the designers could then just focus on finding more downforce, not conforming to new regulations. The problem is the other teams found even more downforce…

    1. While I agree – tell that to McLaren :)

      1. maarten.f1 (@)
        4th December 2013, 16:29

        @barnstabled The MP4-28 isn’t an evolution of the MP4-27. As I understood it, they felt they were unable to improve performance on the 2012 car and went in a different direction (which turned out to be a disaster). Not sure whether Williams did the same or not.

        1. I didn’t state it that well, but yes, that was my point:

          “The regulations had been stable and the designers could then just focus on finding more downforce”

          McLaren had a race-winning car during stable rules and decided to make a new one instead of improving what they had which even at the time seemed crazy and in retrospect looks down-right idiotic.

      2. @barnstabled @maarten-f1 – All teams, even those who have appeared to go backwards, have created cars that are faster than their 2012 iterations. The MP4-28 is faster than the MP4-27, the problem is everyone else improved their cars to a greater extent.

        1. My point was more that McLaren were stupid to design a new car when they could have just improved on a race winning one. Retrospect, yes, but people were saying this during pre-season testing. I never said that the MP4-28 was slower than the MP4-27.

  4. I can understand Maldonado’s emotional state when he made those claims in Austin. Despite his claims about the FW35 being such a great car, it clearly was not that good. After all, he was qualifying on the front rows of the grid in the FW34, but the FW35 rarely looked like it could make it into Q3. Rage and frustration can make people do and say funny things, and while rumour and hearsay suggested that Williams were of the opinion that Maldonado could only produce an exceptional performance when the stars were uniquely aligned, the FW35’s results speak for themselves. It’s not like they gave him a diamond in the rough that he threw away. The FW35 was a lump of coal. So while Williams might not have sabotaged Maldonado the way he suggested they did, they certainly did not help.

    And to think that twenty years ago, they were the cream of the crop. Now they’re heading down the same dark path as Tyrell.

  5. Does seem Maldonado’s 2013 season was all the teams fault. ‘Bad workman blames his tools’ comes to mind. In the last few races he seems to have just moaned and moaned and made the accusation that the team are sabotaging his car, which later back tracked on. Not looking forward to him in a quick car next year, he’s far too aggressive and careless.

    I hope Williams produce a quick car in 2014 and get a good grasps of the new regs and engines. Massa and Bottas is a strong line up and hope to see them on the podium.

  6. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    4th December 2013, 12:10

    It’s just shocking how far Williams fell backwards from 2012. The fact the car only showed signs of progress when the team essentially started reversing development, fitting basic conventional exhaust exits, is just ridiculous. In hindsight, they would have been far better off carrying on with the 2012 FW34.

    The optimism surrounding the car during the first Barcelona test does seem strange. I don’t understand why the drivers felt so positive about the car during it’s first few hundred miles of running then found it so unpredictable from then on. I remember reading an article in Autosport on the plane over to Barcelona for the second test where Gary Anderson said the level of detail on the Williams and McLaren was very impressive and he expected great things from the two cars in the coming season. Around the same time I also remember him being unimpressed by the rate of development of the Mercedes and Red Bull cars, particularly the Mercedes front wing. Come the end of the season, the teams with a more conservative approach to new car development have been far more successful.

  7. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    4th December 2013, 13:20

    I’m no fan of Bruno Senna, but i think he did help to develop last year’s Williams car very well. Someone should pick up Bruno as a test driver a la Pedro De La Rosa. Williams have done well getting rid of Pastor Maldonado.

    1. except it was Maldonado who flicked Williams and left, not the other way around…

    2. Williams didn’t get rid of Maldonado. He left the team.

  8. The only positive thing I can see about Pastor moving to Lotus is the potential for Lotus to invest his PDVSA millions in producing a competitive 2015 car, booting him out at the end of next year and giving Hulkenberg a winning car. Wishful thinking?

    1. @barnstabled Wishful thinking?

      No, just profoundly mean-spirited and spiteful.

      1. Exactly. Maldonado could then taste his own medicine.

  9. Team fortunes and performance can be cyclical and while Williams may be due for a good spell they will need more than luck to bring them right. I hope that as they solved some of their issues at the end of the 2013 season they can do better in 2014. Retaining Bottas, bringing in Massa and ridding themselves of Maldonado are good moves, but they really need the technical side of their team to perform. Best wishes for Williams with the team they have assembled now. Having Ross Brawn take on the challenge of joining a team like Williams would be a dream come true.

    1. @bullmello Both Claire Williams and Sir Frank have said as recently as this Fall (2013) that the #1 impediment to Williams’ return to consistent success is lack of sufficient financial resources, so I fail to see how, in your view, their losing the millions of dollars Maldonado brought to the team will help them advance…

      1. @joepa – Unfortunately there is no easy financial fix for all the F1 teams in this boat. Massa reportedly brings millions in sponsorship, but probably not as much as Madonado did. I guess the snide response would be to say that they will save the difference in cars not destroyed by Maldonado. But, it goes deeper than that. Sometimes it is as simple as recognizing something technical, like the exhaust issue, is not working sooner rather than later. Having the right people to do technical isn’t always the money, but having the right people. Hopefully Williams does have the right people for 2014.

        I would love to see Ross Brawn buy into the team as an active partner. That would solve a lot of problems and be a great challenge for Brawn to turn this team around.

  10. Williams has been such an embarrassing shambles for the past few years. Can’t see them getting out of the hole unless they bring in a serious team principal (Ross Brawn?). Who else can help them? Clare Williams? Don’t think so…

  11. pastors race results chart look like the Himalayas! talk about inconstancy!

  12. I will only put this here and say that little piece right there, ****** up the whole year for them..

  13. Does anyone else think Bottas looks a bit chunky for a F1 driver? Maybe it’s just the camera angles….

  14. nikander Pellonpaa
    5th December 2013, 7:42

    In retrospect, I wonder if Coughlan and his design team were over-committed to their original coanda exhaust concept when it was deemed illegal by the FIA last February. That verdict allowed the team less than a month to prepare significant revisions for the first event of the season. Perhaps Coughlan’s eagerness to impress Frank led him to pursue a radical direction over the Winter from which it later proved impossible to recover from after the FIA’s verdict. With Williams’ limited budget and Coughlan’s need to save face by salvaging his original vision for the 2013 car, their entire season and his F1 career may have been sacrificed in the process. Hopefully a tell-all interview is in the offing.

    Selected quotes from last Spring…

    “Last year’s FW34 was an excellent car on its day but suffered from inconsistency. The team also held off adding a ‘Coanda’ exhaust until the final round, leaving some of its potential unexploited.

    That has been addressed for this year. Indeed, the team seems to have been a bit optimistic about what it could achieve with the new exhaust, prompting the FIA to outlaw one of its innovations…

    …Williams’ troubles with the FW35 have mainly centered on the exhaust upgrade introduced at the final pre-season test, although the team’s drivers initially gave positive feedback about the changes.”

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