By Berthold Bouman
After another disastrous weekend in Spain, Williams are determined to get the so much-needed performance out of the 2013 contender, the Williams FW35. The Monaco Grand Prix, round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship, is always a special Grand Prix, and there is no room for errors on the tight and twisty street circuit.
Mike Coughlan: The grip levels change the whole weekend
Technical Director Mike Coughlan is aware of the problems Williams have encountered this season, but is determined the extract the maximum out of the car he has designed. “Monaco may be one of the shortest tracks of the year, but it’s the most demanding, especially for the driver. Although the corner speeds are the slowest on the calendar, you have to use as much of the track as possible and the closer the driver can put his car to the barriers the faster he will go,” Coughlan said about the famous circuit.
And he further explained, “As it is a street circuit the grip levels change the whole weekend so it’s important to give the drivers as much time on-track as possible in order for them to gain confidence, particularly for Valtteri who has never driven here before. Due to the bumpy nature of the track, a good mechanical platform is required. We need to raise the ride-height and increase the steering angle capacity for the tight, twisting corners. We also run with maximum downforce there.”
Pastor Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1
Pastor Maldonado: Monaco is a very difficult challenge
Pastor Maldonado knows the circuit well and said about this weekend’s challenges, “I always look forward to this race as I feel very comfortable driving the circuit. You can also feel the history of Formula One as you drive through the streets and tackle some of the really famous corners. Monaco is a very difficult challenge, both mentally and physically, as you have to try and find the limits of the car with no margin for error if you push too hard.”
The Venezuelan driver reckons qualifying and the right tyre choice are important this weekend, “Qualifying will be very important at this race and is probably 70% of the weekend because overtaking is so difficult and risky. Tyre strategy and tyre management is important as you always use the softer compound of tyres in Monaco and they are very sensitive this year.”
Valtteri Bottas – Photo: Williams F1
Valtteri Bottas: The most challenging race on the calendar
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas is looking forward to the event, but has never raced on the street circuit. “This will be my first time racing in Monaco and I’m really looking forward to it because it’s such an iconic track. It’s definitely the most challenging race on the calendar for the drivers, being an old school street circuit with no room for mistakes and I’m looking forward to the challenge of being on the limit at all times while being so close to the walls,” said Bottas.
He too, thinks the tyres are the most important factor this season, and said, “In the past tyre wear in Monaco has been quite minimal, but with Pirelli bringing the softs and super softs to this race the tyre degradation may be more of a factor, although less than we saw in Bahrain and Barcelona.”
Williams are currently ninth in the Constructors’ Championship as they have not scored one single point this season, Bottas and Maldonado are 17th and 18th in the Drivers’ Championship.
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By Berthold Bouman
Of course, Williams have fond memories of the Spanish Grand Prix, as Pastor Maldonado won the event in 2012, and gave Williams the first victory since 2004. But there was also drama as a fire broke out in the Williams garage while the team was celebrating their victory.
Mike Coughlan: Track conditions can change a lot
Technical Director Mike Coughlan commented about the track, “Track conditions can change a lot during the weekend, making it a challenge to get a good set-up. The track layout, with its high average speed, also makes it quite hard on tyres. Surprisingly it has a similar power sensitivity to Monaco, due to the long corners and demand on handling.”
Williams too, will bring updates for the car to Barcelona and Coughlan said, “As the first race back in Europe, traditionally many teams will bring upgrades to their cars – and we are no different. Following a successful aero test at Idiada last week, we have a number of upgrades which we will be looking to run over the coming races.”
Pastor Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1
Pastor Maldonado: The track can be quite hard on tyres
Of course, Maldonado is happy to return to the circuit where he scored his maiden Formula One win, but he is more concerned about the tyres, as the track’s surface will change during the three days. “All the drivers know the track very well and we have some good data from testing here earlier in the year, but the track changes quite a lot so you still need to familiarise yourself with the conditions during practice and set up the car accordingly,” said Maldonado.
The tyre choice will also be important according to the Venezuelan driver, ”The choice of tyre compound will also be a big factor on how well the teams handle the track conditions as the track can be quite hard on tyres. We are now entering a very important part of the season because the next couple of races are quite close to the factory, so there will be more opportunities for us to react to our performance on track and make changes to the car.”
Valtteri Bottas – Photo: Williams F1
Valtteri Bottas: The win last year was a big motivational boost
Although he never raced a Formula One car on the Spanish track, Valtteri Bottas does know the track well from his Formula Renault and Formula Three days, and the young Finn said about this weekend’s challenge, “The win last year in Barcelona was a big motivational boost for everyone and was a good example of what we can achieve when everything comes together.“
And he added, “We are working hard to get back to that level and following a good aero test last week at Idiada and a number upgrades coming for this race, hopefully Barcelona can be the start of improved performance for us this year.”
Despite their efforts, Williams still has to score their first points of the season, the Grove-based outfit is ninth in the Constructors’ Championship, Bottas and Maldonado are 16th and 17th respectively.
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By Berthold Bouman
Not a very good start of the season for Williams: two retirements, and no points scored. Williams is getting ready for round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship: The Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit, near Manama.
Mike Coughlan: It has been disappointing not to score points
Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan admitted the new car is not fast enough, but he is confident the car suits the Bahrain circuit better, “We feel that the current car, whilst not as competitive as we would like, will be more competitive in Bahrain.“ And he added, “It’s been disappointing not to score points in our first three races, but we can be pleased with the fact that Valtteri [Bottas] has managed to bring the car home in every race so far with very solid drives.”
But Bahrain is a tough circuit according to Coughlan, “Bahrain is a circuit that has some key characteristics that will present new challenges for the teams. It’s a high braking circuit so brake wear will be a factor, it is tough on rear tyres and it has a high ambient temperature. For engines it is a high power, high-efficiency circuit that places a premium on straight line speed and the Renault engine should be robust at this sort of circuit.”
Two retirements for Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1
Pastor Maldonado: Track conditions can change quite a lot during the weekend
Pastor Maldonado is looking forward to another challenging race and commented, “Because the Sakhir circuit is in the desert the track conditions can change quite a lot during the weekend, especially with the sand being blown across the surface, so the teams will have to be ready to react to the different conditions.”
“Tyre degradation is also expected to be quite high at this race which can always throw up some interesting challenges for the teams,” the Venezuelan added.
Williams hoping to be more competitive – Photo: Williams F1
Valtteri Bottas: We need to try and find a good car set-up
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas had a busy start this season, but the rookie is learning fast. “It’s been a very busy start to my career with two back to back races in a row, but it has meant that I have had a lot of time in the car and the chance to try and understand its characteristics.”
He thinks the tyres will be an important factor during the race, “The tyres tend to drop off quite a lot at this circuit so in Friday practice we need to try and find a good car set-up to maximise the long run performance for the race so we can keep the tyres alive longer than others.”
Williams is currently ninth in the Constructors’ Championship, while Bottas is 16th, and Maldonado 20th in the Drivers’ Championship.
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By Berthold Bouman
Last year Williams made a rocket start during the first few races of the season — they won the Spanish Grand Prix, this year the Grove-based team has been confronted with many problems, and the new 2013 contender, the Williams FW35, seems to suffer from a chronic lack of speed.
Mike Coughlan: We have a better understanding of where we are
Technical Director Mike Coughlan is aware of the problems and said, “After a difficult two races we’ve been back at the factory going through the data to try to understand where we need to improve. We feel we have a better understanding of where we are and the whole team has been working hard to improve our competitiveness going into the next few races. Ultimately we are looking at a significant upgrade for the Spanish Grand Prix.”
But he’s expecting cooler weather, and that might help the British team, and Coughlan said, “The ambient conditions in China will be kinder although the weather can be quite changeable. The cooler temperatures we expect are not only more favourable for the car but also for both the team and driver. The circuit is also usually quite hard on tyres, so that could prove another challenge.”
Two retirements in two races for Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1
Pastor Maldonado: This can be quite an unpredictable race
Driver Pastor Maldonado knows the circuit well, and reckons the race will be a real challenge for him, “This can be quite an unpredictable race and the weather conditions are a particular challenge. There is also a mix of different corners so you need to get the right balance between good straight line speed for the very long straight, whilst still having good grip in the lower speed corners.”
And he added, “Another challenge is the strategy as there are a few difficult decisions the engineers face when deciding what type of race to run here. We haven’t had the best start to the season and we need some time to improve our car to be solid in the points, but the whole team is working very hard so let’s wait and see how we can adapt the car for this race.”
Valtteri Bottas – Photo: Williams F1
Valtteri Bottas: Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge
Valtteri Bottas knows the circuit from free practice last year, but has never completed a race in a Formula One car on the Shanghai track. “It’s a track that shares similar characteristics to the last Grand Prix in Malaysia. Whilst not as hot and humid, the weather can be variable so you need a car that works well in different conditions,” said Bottas.
The Finn thinks the tyres are the key to success, “Getting the tyres to work will be the biggest challenge facing all of the teams, as the temperatures are often low and the smooth track surface is quite different to what we saw in the first two races.”
Williams is currently ninth in the Constructors’ Championship, while Bottas is fifteenth, and Maldonado, as he retired from the first two races, is 22nd and last in the Drivers’ Championship.
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By Berthold Bouman
A miserable start of the season for Williams, Pastor Maldonado retired from the Australian Grand Prix after 24 laps, while rookie Valtteri Bottas eased the pain just a little bit by finishing his first Formula One race in 14th position. After a disastrous qualifying, Maldonado said the FW35 was ‘undriveable’, and the Venezuelan even feared a repeat of the 2011 campaign.
Technical Director Mike Coughlan: Working hard to solve the problems
“Following a difficult opening to the season in Australia, the team has regrouped and been working hard to solve the problems we encountered last weekend,” said Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan. “We have a good idea where to focus our efforts and learnt a lot in Melbourne which we will implement in Malaysia to continue working to improve the performance of the FW35 throughout Friday testing and into the weekend,” the Briton added.
Asked about the goals for the Malaysian Grand Prix Coughlan said, “Our aim is to move forward from where we were last weekend, with a view to end the race with both cars in points-scoring positions.”
Valtteri Bottas – Photo: WiIliams F1
Pastor Maldonado: The weather conditions can change in an instant
Maldonado has put the Australian Grand Prix behind him, and is ready to tackle the next challenge, the Malaysian Grand Prix. “I had a disappointing Australian Grand Prix and the car isn’t quite where we hoped it would be, but we will be working hard to unlock the potential that we saw in testing.”
But it won’t be a walk in the park he warned, “Malaysia is one of my favourite circuits and it’s also one of the most challenging, testing your skill and concentration towards the end of the race as the heat takes its toll on you physically.”
About the Malaysian weather he remarked, “The weather conditions can change in an instant and in the last couple of years the weather has gone from 40 degree heat to thunderstorms and heavy rain, with extreme changes in track temperature as well.”
Valtteri Bottas: Looking to improve on performance
Bottas also thinks the weather and humidity will be the biggest challenge this weekend. But he also hopes to improve on his performance, although 14th place in Melbourne wasn’t too bad for a rookie.
“I learnt a lot from my first Grand Prix in Australia and whilst we weren’t as competitive as we had hoped, the fact that I brought the car home safely in my first race is a positive I can take away and we will now be looking to improve on our performance for this race,” said the Finn.
He also expect problems with the new Pirelli tyres, “Last year was very difficult because we had hot humid track temperatures combined with a series of rain showers. The fast corners in the second sector of the track are the most challenging because it’s really hot for the tyres and in these high temperatures you need to be careful not to degrade them too quickly.”
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By Berthold Bouman
The Williams team is also ready for round one of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit. Williams replaced Bruno Senna with the talented young Valtteri Bottas, who will make his Grand Prix debut this weekend.
Mike Coughlan, Technical Director: New aero packages for season opener
Williams’ technical Director Mike Coughlan was pleased with winter testing, but has already planned to test two new aero packages on Friday. “We have some further aero tests planned for Friday with both drivers in Australia. The results so far have been interesting and so we’ll make our final decision on Friday evening as to what we will run over the weekend.”
Williams is concentrating on the Pirelli tyres this weekend, and Coughlan said, “The ambient temperatures in Jerez and Barcelona are very different to what we expect to find in Australia, so we’ll be looking very closely at tyre degradation during practice on Friday. Overall, we are very much looking forward to the start of the season as we have confidence in the FW35.”
Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas – Photo: Williams F1
Pastor Maldonado: We expect to be more competitive
Pastor Maldonado is confident the Williams FW35 will perform well this season, “We have been working extremely hard over the winter to improve the performance of the car and we have noticed good potential in the recent tests in Barcelona.”
About the development of the car he commented, “I’ve been involved with the FW35 build since the start of the project in early 2012, working with the engineers, design office and the technicians in the wind tunnel to push for improvements on all fronts.”
He expects to be more competitive this season, “Obviously we don’t know what other teams have done and you can only learn so much during testing, but we expect to be more competitive than last year. I like street circuits so I always enjoy coming to Australia and now I just want to start the season and find out where we stand.”
Valtteri Bottas: Car showed strong reliability
Rookie Valtteri Bottas is optimistic ahead of his first Grand Prix, “We have had a good winter at the factory and the car showed strong reliability and performance during testing. The FW35 feels like a new car in comparison to the FW34, behaving and responding differently around the track to the car I was driving on Friday mornings last year and I’m impressed with the improvements the team have made.”
The Finn thinks he’s well-prepared for the physical demands of Formula One, “The winter has seen me preparing hard for the demands of driving a full race which I haven’t done before in Formula One. However, I’ve always done a lot of fitness training and have driven a lot of miles over the past few years with the team, so I’m feeling fully prepared. The first Grand Prix of my career is a big thing for me and I can’t wait for the lights to go out in Melbourne and see how the FW35 performs against the competition.”
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By Berthold Bouman
Williams was the last team to launch their 2013 contender at the Circuit de Catalunya, Spain, today. The FW35 is an evolution of its predecessor, but according to a statement, it has a new gearbox, new rear suspension, new radiators, a new floor, new exhausts, new bodywork, a new nose, and the car is a lot lighter as well.
As there have not been any significant regulation changes, Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan has had a relatively easy job. “I’m pleased with the gains that we’ve been able to make with this car. It’s a better, more refined Formula One car than the FW34 and I think everyone involved in the project can feel proud of the work they’ve done,” said Coughlan.
Coughlan also said Williams will during the season explore the benefits of the Coanda effect. “The Coanda effect is going to be a big thing for us,” he said, and added, “There’s been no rule clarification concerning this area of the car, so we’ll work closely with Renault to maximise the available gains. Use of the DRS is more restricted this year, so we’ll take some resource away from that and focus on other areas.”
Sir Frank Williams was proud to present his new car, but was cautious about the expectations of the FW35, “We will have to wait until Australia to truly see what we have, but we believe it is step forward from last year’s car which was also a very competitive vehicle.”
He nevertheless remained optimistic about the forthcoming season, “I’m hoping that with the current team we have in place, our new FW35, the combined talent of Pastor [Maldonado], Valtteri [Bottas] and Susie [Wolff], and the continued support from our partners; we will be in a position to challenge the very best.”
All Photos: Williams F1
Pastor Maldonado is ready for his third season with the British outfit, and he’s confident the FW35 will be competitive, and even thinks about winning more races, “Last year we won a race and were competitive, but this season we must be even more competitive which I believe is possible. Consistency will be our aim to close the gap to the teams in front.”
And he added, “Being part of the Williams family is very special as a driver and I want to thank Frank [Williams] for not only giving me the opportunity to drive for him, but also to deliver a win. My goal is to help take the team back to the top.”
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas will make his Formula One debut this season, and he’s looking forward to his first Grand Prix for Williams. “I have been doing a lot of training, meeting with my engineers and working in the simulator in preparation; so I feel ready. We know we have improved our car from last season but I am looking forward to seeing how it compares on track. We have a busy test programme ahead but I’m really excited,” he said, adding, “The moment the start lights go out in Melbourne is a moment I have been building towards my whole career.”
Development driver Susie Wolff is actually the only one who has already had a taste of what the FW35 is like before the official launch, as she did the initial shake-down at Idiada. “Being the first to get behind the wheel of the FW35 at Idiada was a real honour. It was a special feeling to drive the FW35 out of the garage for the first time and successfully complete its first kilometres in front of many of the team who have put so much effort into the design and build,” she commented.
Today is the first day of, in total, eight days of testing at the Barcelona circuit, the first four days are scheduled for this week, the next and final four days of testing take place from February 28 to March 3.
By Berthold Bouman
The Williams Formula One team confirmed Susie Wolff will continue her role as development driver for the Grove-based team, and her level of involvement will even be increased in 2013. Wolff joined the team led by Sir Frank Williams in April 2012 and she spent a lot of time in the team’s simulator to develop the FW35, Williams’ 2013 contender.
Wolff will also do more in-car testing this season, and will be the first to drive the FW35 at Idiada next month, and will do the majority of the aerodynamic testing this season. Mike Coughlan, Williams’ Technical Director commented about Wolff and her role within the Williams team, “Susie has proved herself to be a valuable addition to our driver roster and her feedback during simulator sessions is second to none.”
And he added, “As a result we will be stepping up her role this year and I’m looking forward to the progress we can make with Susie’s input in conjunction with that of Pastor [Maldonado] and Valtteri [Bottas].”
Susie Wolff – Photo: Williams F1
Wolff said in a Williams statement, “I really enjoy my time working with Williams and feel very much at home here. Last year was a valuable experience and I certainly feel that I’ve developed a lot as a driver.”
About stepping up her role as development driver she said, “Increasing my role this year will further this progression and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the FW35 for the first time next month.”
“I’m showing that women can play a role at the top-level of motorsport and would like to thank Sir Frank Williams and the whole of the technical team for the trust they continue to show in me.”
Susie Wolff-Stoddart was active in the German DTM touring car championship for seven years before she decided to move to Williams. In 2003 she won the BRDC Rising Star of the Year Award, and was nominated for the BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award in 2003 and 2004.
By Berthold Bouman
The biggest surprise of the season was, without a doubt, the resurgence of the Williams team. After a disastrous 2011 campaign Sir Frank Williams decided to overhaul the whole technical department of his team, and also decided to switch from the Cosworth engine to the very fast and reliable Renault engine.
He also hired Formula One spy-gate sinner Mike Coughlan and made him Technical Director, Pastor Maldonado was still very welcome as he brought many millions of dollars to the team, and Williams hired Bruno Senna as second driver.
Maldonado proved to be a regular top ten qualifier, but Senna only once made it into the top ten, which was disappointing to say the least. During the first race of the season the Williams car seemed promising as Maldonado had advanced to sixth place during the Australian Grand Prix, but he made a small mistake on the penultimate lap, crashed hard, and finished in 13th instead of sixth place.
The Malaysian, Chinese and Bahrain Grands Prix didn’t bring the Williams team much fortune either, but when Maldonado was promoted to pole-sitter of the Spanish Grand Prix — after McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton ran out of fuel after his qualifying lap and was demoted to 24th and last place — all eyes were on the Williams team.
Maldonado initially lost the lead on the Circuit de Catalunya to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, but after an epic battle with the Spaniard he regained the lead again and went on to win the Spanish Grand Prix, giving Sir Frank his first victory in eight years.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling winning my first race,” Maldonado reported after the race. “Alonso was chasing me hard but we looked after our tyres well and I managed to open the gap towards the end. The team has worked so hard all year and this win is for them. To be the first Venezuelan to win a Formula One race is a big honour and hopefully I will win more races in the future.”
Until then, Maldonado had been labelled as a pay-driver, with more money than talent, but after his maiden victory Sir Frank said, “He did a great job, he’s a very happy boy, he deserves to be. He fully deserves to be in the team with or without the dosh. The truth is that if you haven’t got the dosh you can’t go Formula One racing.”
But after the triumph, there was the tragedy. A fire broke out in the Williams garage during a victory speech of Sir Frank just an hour after the race, seven Formula One personnel were taken to hospital, a total of 31 personnel were injured by the blaze but most of them could be treated by the doctors present at the medical centre of the Circuit de Catalunya.
It was a very narrow escape, but it was time to move on, as Williams now thought they could win more races with the car designed by Coughlan and his team. But it didn’t happen, not for Maldonado, nor for Senna.
Although Maldonado regularly qualified in the top ten, he was involved too many times in silly do-or-die overtaking manoeuvres and other on-track incidents which cost him dearly as he received numerous grid penalties and was also officially reprimanded by the FIA Stewards and received a 10,000 Euro fine after he had taken out Sergio Perez during the British Grand Prix. In fact, he didn’t score one single point until the Japanese Grand Prix in October.
The same applied to Senna, the highlight of his season was the Malaysian Grand Prix in March, where he finished sixth and collected eight points. He was also involved in too many accidents, which all can be attributed to being too inexperienced, or being too eager.
Williams had a very fast car in 2012, but their drivers did not have the patience or experience to regularly score points. Both gentleman threw away at least some 50 points each, therefore Williams finished the season in seventh place of the Constructors’ Championship, Maldonado was 15th, and Senna 16th in the Drivers’ Championship.
Williams 2012 is the story of missed opportunities, the one victory didn’t bring the team back to the top, and after the Spanish Grand Prix everything went downhill again. Senna will be replaced by the talented Valtteri Bottas in 2013, but Williams first and foremost should give their drivers more guidance and personal coaching in 2013, to avoid another disappointing season, a season that started so well.