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Monaco GP: Williams determined to make progress, new updates for Monaco

By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Williams determined to make progress, new updates for MonacoAfter 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 – 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 – 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.

Also read:

• Red Bull Monaco GP Preview
• Ferrari Monaco GP Preview
McLaren Monaco GP Preview
• Lotus Monaco GP Preview
Mercedes Monaco GP Preview
Sauber Monaco GP Preview
Force India Monaco GP Preview
Williams Monaco GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Monaco GP Preview
Caterham Monaco GP Preview
Marussia Monaco GP Preview

Spanish GP: Williams looking forward to race at Barcelona again

By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Williams looking forward to race at Barcelona againOf 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 – 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 – 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.

Also read:

Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
Ferrari Spanish GP Preview
McLaren Spanish GP Preview
Lotus Spanish GP Preview
Mercedes Spanish GP Preview
Sauber Spanish GP Preview
Force India Spanish GP Preview
Williams Spanish GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
Caterham Spanish GP Preview
Marussia Spanish GP Preview

Bahrain GP: Williams hoping to be more competitive, disappointed to not have scored points

By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Williams hoping to be more competitive, disappointed to not have scored pointsNot 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

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

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.

Also read:

Red Bull Bahrain GP Preview
Ferrari Bahrain GP Preview
McLaren Bahrain GP Preview
Lotus Bahrain GP Preview
Mercedes Bahrain GP Preview
Sauber Bahrain GP Preview
Force India Bahrain GP Preview
Williams Bahrain GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Bahrain GP Preview
Caterham Bahrain GP Preview
Marussia Bahrain GP Preview

Chinese GP: Williams expects more favourable conditions in Shanghai

By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP: Williams expects more favourable conditions in Shanghai - Photo: Williams F1Last 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

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 – 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.

Also read:

Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
• Ferrari Chinese GP Preview
McLaren Chinese GP Preview
Lotus Chinese GP Preview
Mercedes Chinese GP Preview
Sauber Chinese GP Preview
Force India Chinese GP Preview
Williams Chinese GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Chinese GP Preview
Caterham Chinese GP Preview
Marussia Chinese GP Preview

Malaysian GP: Williams aim to score points with both cars

By Berthold Bouman

Malaysian GP: Williams aim to score points with both cars - Photo: Williams F1A 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

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.”

Also read:

Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
Ferrari Malaysian GP Preview
McLaren Malaysian GP Preview
Lotus Malaysian GP Preview
Mercedes Malaysian GP Preview
Sauber Malaysian GP Preview
Force India Malaysian GP Preview
Williams Malaysian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Malaysian GP Preview
Caterham Malaysian GP Preview
Marussia Malaysian GP Preview

Australian GP: Williams to test new aero packages at Melbourne

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP Williams to test new aero packages at Melbourne - Photo: Williams F1The 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 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.”

Also read:

Red Bull Australian GP Preview
Ferrari Australian GP Preview
McLaren Australian GP Preview
Lotus Australian GP Preview
Mercedes Australian GP Preview
Sauber Australian GP Preview
Force India Australian GP Preview
Williams Australian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Australian GP Preview
Caterham Australian GP Preview
Marussia Australian GP Preview

Grosjean fastest for Lotus on second day of final Barcelona test

By Berthold Bouman

Grosjean fastest for Lotus on second day of final Barcelona test - Photo: Lotus F1Romain Grosjean was fastest today for Lotus on the second day of the final Barcelona pre-season test days with a time of 1m22.716, in the morning the Frenchman caused a red flag as his Lotus came to an unexpected halt on the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

He was slowest yesterday and said about his last day of testing, “Even though the weather was far from ideal it was a pretty good day for us and it’s certainly a better feeling to end the session with the fastest time on the board rather than the slowest!”

Like yesterday, he remained optimistic ahead of the opening round in Melbourne, “We had strong reliability again today and the E21 feels good in all conditions, which is very promising for the season ahead. Of course, I wish I could have more time in the car before the season starts, but if we’re in the same position on the monitors when we get to Australia I’ll be very happy indeed.”

Although it was drier than yesterday, the weather again affected the test programmes today, most teams wanted to test the so-called Melbourne configuration, the configuration of the car as it will be on the grid for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, which will take place in two weeks’ time.

Grosjean beat Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-28 by 0.465s, Grosjean set his time on the soft Pirellis, Button on the mediums. McLaren tested a number of different set-up configurations, and in the afternoon evaluated technical upgrades during longer runs.

Pastor Maldonado - Photo: Williams F1

Pastor Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1

Third was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams FW35, he was nine-tenth of a second slower than pace setter Grosjean. “I had a good feeling in the car but we still have things we can improve,” said Maldonado. “This afternoon we were able to complete some aero evaluations, with particular focus on trying some different front wings. We now have enough data to make some decisions on that, so I’m looking forward to getting some dry running in over the weekend.”

Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Red Bull after completing 65 laps in the RB9. “I didn’t do that many laps today, but to be honest the weather wasn’t great and it was a pretty rough day in terms of the wind,” said Vettel. “It’s very cold as well. The tyres aren’t really working properly and I think everybody is suffering the same problem, struggling to make the tyres last for more than a lap,” he added.

Nico Hulkenberg was fifth fastest today in the new Sauber, he too experienced problems due to the weather, “It was a difficult day with changing track conditions, and it was very windy as well. This made it very challenging to do precise testing and get perfect results, but I think we made the best out of it and gathered a lot of data which the engineers can now analyse. I’m satisfied with the pace we had in dry conditions, however, we need to do more work on the intermediate tyres.”

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage - Photo: Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage – Photo: Toro Rosso

Returnee Adrian Sutil felt at home in the Force India VJM06 and took sixth spot after completing 62 laps. “I ran the full wets, the intermediates and it was good to discover the crossover point with the slick tyres,” he said. “I only ran the medium compound dry tyres today, but it was difficult to do too much set-up work because the wind was affecting the aero balance quite a lot. Overall I felt positive today and whenever I went out on track the lap times were competitive.”

Daniel Ricciardo was in the car for Toro Rosso and took seventh place, while Max Chilton was eighth for Marussia. Further down the order was Dutchman Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham, he had technical problems at the end of his stint and caused a red flag after his car stopped on the Spanish circuit.

“We had a technical issue that cut into our run plan so we switched from the full race simulation we were going to run to more set-up work and tyre evaluation. Unfortunately the rain came back again with half an hour to go, which again meant we had to change the plan but the forecast for the last couple of days is better so hopefully we can get back to the original run plan and finish the tests as we’d planned,” reported van der Garde.

Max Chilton on the full wet Pirellis - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton on the full wet Pirellis – Photo: Marussia F1

Nico Rosberg did a full race simulation in the Mercedes today, and therefore didn’t set a representative time, the German landed tenth place and commented, “It was great to run in the wet today which I have not done so far during our pre-season testing programme. The car felt good in those conditions and it’s important to have had this experience as there is always the chance of rain in Melbourne.”

And he added, “I am happy with my mileage today as every single lap is important for the learning process, and so overall it was a positive day for me here in Montmelo.”

Fernando Alonso also tried a full race simulation, his efforts were also  hampered by the rain in Barcelona, and the Spaniard was 11th and last after completing 102 laps. Ferrari tested a new exhaust configuration, new front wing end plates and a new diffuser.

Barcelona testing Day 2 – March 1

Pos  Driver              Team            Time       Gap        Laps
 1.  Mark Webber         Red Bull        1m22.693               90
 2.  Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes        1m24.348   + 1.655    113
 3.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso      1m25.017   + 2.324     59
 4.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams        1m26.458   + 3.765     85
 5.  Sergio Perez        McLaren         1m26.538   + 3.845    100
 6.  Esteban Gutierrez   Sauber          1m26.574   + 3.881     92
 7.  Paul di Resta       Force India     1m27.107   + 4.414     57
 8.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari         1m27.541   + 4.848    112
 9.  Max Chilton         Marussia        1m28.166   + 5.473     78
10.  Charles Pic         Caterham        1m28.644   + 5.951     83
11.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus           1m34.928   + 12.235    52

Williams launches FW35 – team to maximise gains of Coanda effect

By Berthold Bouman

Williams launches FW35 - team to maximise gains of Coanda effect - Photo: Williams F1Williams 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.

Formula One 2013 – Pay drivers still in the hot seat

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One 2013 - Paying drivers still in the hot seat - Photo: MarussiaPaying for a drive in Formula One, rather than being paid, is as old as the sport itself, even Niki Lauda paid for his first Formula One race in 1972. Being labelled as a pay driver is a stigma, but as a result of the economic recession — which has also hit Formula One hard — the pay driver has made a prominent return to the sport.

German Nico Hulkenberg, now driving for Sauber, was famously ousted by Frank Williams at the end of 2010 to make way for Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, who brought with him the money of  the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA. He was labelled a pay driver, and many said that Maldonado had more money than talent.

But he in fact saved the Williams team, as many sponsors had left the Grove-based outfit at the end of 2010 and Sir Frank really didn’t have any another option. Luckily for Sir Frank and his team, Maldonado proved to be a talented driver, as he not only won the GP2 championship in 2010, but also gave Williams their first victory in eight years when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix.

After his victory Sir Frank said to the many pay driver sceptics, “He [Maldonado] 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.” And that is of course to what it all boils down to, the dosh.

Heikki Kovalainen - Photo: Caterham F1

Heikki Kovalainen – Photo: Caterham F1

Last year Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen said, “Caterham know that they’ll need to pay to keep me next season. I consider Tony [Fernandes, team owner] a good friend but he’s a businessman and he has to do what’s best for his business and, if that means bringing in a paying driver, then that’s life. But I’d rather be out of Formula One than be paying to drive.”

These proved to be Kovalainen’s famous last words, as Caterham hired two pay drivers for 2013, Frenchman Charles Pic, who has the support of Renault, and Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, who brought wealthy sponsor McGregor with him.

Timo Glock left the Marussia team because they couldn’t afford to pay him, now Max Chilton and Luiz Razia will be racing for Marussia this season, again thanks to the many sponsors they have brought with them. A tricky situation, as both drivers have very little experience in Formula One, and Marussia’s future, in fact, depends on them.

Max Chilton - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton – Photo: Marussia F1

Chilton acknowledged it will be a difficult season not only for Marussia, but also for him. “It is not ideal and we will sometimes have a hard time. I had been looking forward to being Timo’s team mate, because of his vast experience,” he recently said. About pay drivers he commented, “Unless we were all capable, we would not be in Formula One.”

Mexican Sergio Perez was hired by Sauber because of his sponsorship, he has now moved on to McLaren, and was replaced by his compatriot Esteban Gutierrez, who also has an impressive sponsor portfolio. Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn defended her team’s choice to give the seat to Gutierrez, “Everybody who comes into Formula One is on a high level and if there are only a limited number of seats, then of course every team is looking for the best option. Who wouldn’t?”

Toto Wolff, who is now Mercedes’ Head of Motorsport, agrees with Kaltenborn and Chilton, “The classic pay driver was one who was clearly under performing but had a big budget,” he said. “There are no drivers who are clearly under performing. Most have either won championships before, or races, there is no one who is a waste of time. You simply can’t afford to put a complete loser in the car who is two seconds off the pace because it is going to hit you hard in the long-term.”

But McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, is clearly not a fan of pay drivers. “For me, personally I think it’s sad there are so many pay drivers in Formula One. The numbers have crept up,” said Whitmarsh. “I’m sure it’s good and exciting for those that can afford it, but you would hope in the premier form of motor racing worldwide, you would not have pay drivers.”

Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

And he added, “That means there are some good young, professional drivers who can’t get in and aren’t getting in.” Some of the pay drivers shouldn’t even be in Formula One said Whitmarsh, “It’s sad to say, but the reason that some of those guys are pay drivers, not all of them, but the reason that some are pay drivers is because they are actually and fundamentally not good enough to be in Formula One.”

But he understands why teams need pay drivers, “It’s difficult in Formula One for us to say to some of these teams ‘you can’t have pay drivers’. Sadly, they have become an important constituent of their budget, so I wouldn’t want to condemn them.”

And indeed, these drivers contribute to their team’s budget, and without them they wouldn’t survive. The Spanish HRT racing team ceased to exist as it became increasingly more difficult to find enough money for another season in Formula One. HRT also had in their short existence a long history of pay drivers, but that still wasn’t enough to survive.

Formula One has now become the survival of the financially fittest, and inevitably, if no action is taken, more teams will not survive. Although they deny they have financial problems, Marussia is dancing on the edge of the volcano, if they don’t improve their performance, they will not score any points this season and will not get any money from the sports commercial owners, and Formula One could lose another team next year.

Giedo van der Garde - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde – Photo: Caterham F1

FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t really care, he would be satisfied with only ten teams on the grid, “I’d rather have ten [teams], I never wanted 12. It’s just that ten is easier to handle, for the promoters, for transport. We’d rather have ten … so long as we don’t lose Ferrari.”

It seems former FIA President Max Mosley’s efforts to give other teams a chance in Formula One by restricting the spending of the existing teams, has become a failure. Current FIA President Jean Todt has shelved the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement), which means the big teams like Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, still spend ten times more than the smaller teams.

Ecclestone already said in 2011 the RRA was doomed from the start, “I think it was probably dead before it started. It is very, very difficult for all these people who are competing with each other to agree [on] anything that’s going to stop their ability to win.”

Formula One 2012: The ups and downs of the Williams team

By Berthold Bouman

Formula One 2012 The ups and downs of the Williams teamThe 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.

Maldonado wins the Spanish GP - Photo: Williams F1
“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.

Williams confirm Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas for 2013

By Berthold Bouman

Pastor Maldonado, Williams - Photo: Williams F1The Williams Formula One team announced this morning they have signed Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas for 2013, which means another piece in the 2013 driver line-up puzzle has fallen into its place. It will be the third season for Venezuelan Maldonado, while Bottas, until now test and reserve driver, has been promoted to race driver.

Maldonado, who won the Spanish Grand Prix this season and gave the Williams team a victory eight years after Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, commented on his contract renewal, “I’m really enjoying my time with Williams and I was obviously very happy when I was told that I would be continuing with the team in 2013.”

Looking back at the 2012 season he said, “2012 was a memorable year for me with the win in Barcelona and we made a big step forward in terms of performance. I have a lot of confidence in the team and hopefully next year will see us move even further up the grid and taste more success.”

Asked about his objectives for 2013 he said, “The goal is to be more competitive next year and have a car that is consistently in the points and challenging for podiums. This year we showed excellent pace at a number of tracks such as Barcelona, Monaco and Abu Dhabi, but we didn’t have the consistency to maintain that at every Grand Prix. We have all the tools needed to push the top teams, and hopefully we can learn from this year and move further up the field.”

Valtteri Bottas replaces Bruno Senna at Williams

Bottas, who has done a more than average job during this year’s Friday’s first free practice sessions as he regularly beat Bruno Senna and Maldonado, is of course looking forward to the 2013 season. “It has always been my life-long dream to compete in the Formula One World Championship,” the Finn said.

For him, the Williams team is a great place to start his Formula One career, “To do so with one of the most legendary teams in the sport is incredibly special. I’ve really enjoyed my three years with Williams so far and feel very at home here so my goal was always to stay for 2013 and progress to a race seat. I’m looking forward to getting my Formula One career started and enjoying a lot of success with Williams.”

Team owner Sir Frank Williams is happy with his driver line-up for 2013 and said, “In Pastor and Valtteri we have two of the most exciting talents in motor racing and I am especially excited about what 2013 can bring for Williams.” And he added, “Pastor has always demonstrated remarkable pace and this year has seen him mature as a racing driver. Valtteri is quite simply one of the most talented young racing drivers I have come across and we expect great things from him in the future.”

The announcement is bad news for Bruno Senna, but Williams wished him the best of luck, “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our departing driver Bruno Senna for his hard work over the past year and wish him the best of luck going forward.’’

United States GP: Vettel makes it three in a row for Red Bull

By Berthold Bouman

Sebastian Vettel made it three in a row today during the third and final free practice session for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas this morning.  The German double-World Champion recorded a time of 1m36.490s after completing 18 laps in his Red Bull. But this time it wasn’t a complete wipe-out, as Lewis Hamilton came closer and closer and was now in second place, just 0.258 seconds slower than Vettel.

Vettel, Red Bull Racing, fastest again in FP3

Surprisingly, Pastor Maldonado took third place for Williams, while Vettel’s championship rival Fernando Alonso was fourth, 0.690 seconds off the pace, his team colleague Felipe Massa was again sixth. Second Red Bull driver Mark Webber was seventh, followed by Sergio Perez who was the fastest Sauber driver today on eighth place, as his team mate Kamui Kobayashi was outside the top ten in 14th place.

Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button completed the top ten, grip was low again on the brand-new track and several drivers had problems on the circuit, but the biggest problem was to get the tyres working at the right temperature.

Bruno Senna was 11th for Williams, while Michael Schumacher was again outpaced by Nico Rosberg who was fifth, Schumacher had to be satisfied with 12th spot. Kimi Raikkonen was again struggling in the Lotus and was 13th, his French team mate Romain Grosjean was 17th, but had to sit out part of the session as his car had a gearbox issue.

Daniel Ricciardo was again the fastest Toro Rosso driver in 15th place, Jean-Eric Vergne was 18th. Not much luck for Paul di Resta, he was sixteenth in the second Force India, 2.163 seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel.

Timo Glock was this time the fastest driver of the newest teams, he took his Marussia to 19th place, while the third Frenchman in the field, Charles Pic, was 22nd in the other Marussia. This time Vitaly Petrov was the fastest Caterham driver as he took 20th place, Heikki Kovalainen was 21st.

As usual, both HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan were 23 and 24th, and judging by their times will have problems to comply to the 107% rule during qualifying.

And last but not least, Perez and Pic were summoned to see the FIA Stewards, as Perez tried to overtake Pic on the inside of Turn 7, a bit of an optimistic move, the Mexican hit Pic and forced him into a spin.

It seems Vettel is very quick at the Circuit of the Americas, and qualifying this afternoon should be a piece of cake for him and only technical problems could stop him from adding another pole to his tally, but Hamilton has closed the gap today, and let’s not forget Maldonado, who recently has been very quick during qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren

United States GP: Free Practice 3 Results

Pos  Driver              Team                  Time      Gap
 1.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1:36.490
 2.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1:36.748  + 0.258
 3.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      1:37.001  + 0.511
 4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1:37.180  + 0.690
 5.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1:37.247  + 0.757
 6.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1:37.262  + 0.772
 7.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1:37.298  + 0.808
 8.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1:37.415  + 0.925
 9.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  1:37.495  + 1.005
10.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1:37.538  + 1.048
11.  Bruno Senna         Williams-Renault      1:37.569  + 1.079
12.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1:37.760  + 1.270
13.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         1:37.765  + 1.275
14.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1:37.953  + 1.463
15.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:38.547  + 2.057
16.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1:38.653  + 2.163
17.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault         1:38.753  + 2.263
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.689  + 3.199
19.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     1:40.407  + 3.917
20.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      1:40.753  + 4.263
21.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      1:41.011  + 4.521
22.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     1:41.466  + 4.976
23.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          1:43.563  + 7.073
24.  Narain Karthikeyan  HRT-Cosworth          1:44.043  + 7.553

United States GP: Williams looking forward to last two races of the season

By Berthold Bouman

After a great result at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where Pastor Maldonado finished fifth and Bruno Senna finished in eighth place, Williams is looking forward to the final two races of the season. But, first a leap into the unknown, as the Circuit of the Americas is a brand-new by Hermann Tilke designed track, new to all drivers and teams.

Pastor Maldonado, Williams

Mark Gillan, Williams’ Chief Operations Engineer, is adamant his team will push until the end, ”We will be pushing hard right to the end with further updates in order to try to secure seventh position in the Constructors’ Championship.”

Williams has done some work on the simulator and Gillan said, “As this is a new track, with no historic database of information to call upon, it places even more importance on one’s circuit simulation tools and simulator to ensure that we’re fully prepared in terms of both car set-up and proposed run programme.”

Tyre wear will also be an unknown factor, Gillan reckons, “Pirelli bring their hard and medium tyres and as normal for any new track one will need to be careful on analysing the track versus the tyre evolution when making strategy predictions.”

Maldonado was upbeat ahead of the race, and the Venezuelan driver hopes to score more points this weekend, “After a good performance in the last race in Abu Dhabi I’m looking forward to getting in the car again and seeing what we can achieve in Austin. The team has worked very hard to get the car back to the sort of pace that can consistently challenge for points and that is what we will be looking for in this race.”

Senna is also ready for the challenges the new circuit will pose, “I’m excited to go to Austin because I’m hearing lots of good things about the track. It has both high-speed and technical sections so it will be tricky to learn for all the drivers and it’s always interesting to see how drivers cope with a new layout and new corners they haven’t driven before.”

He thinks the weather will play a role as well, “The weather can be very varied in Texas as well, with lots of wind and drops in temperature so that could be a factor. The car has definitely come on a lot in the past few weeks so we take good momentum into this race.”

Williams is currently in a secure eighth position in the Constructors’ Championship, 22 points behind Force India, but whether Sir Frank Williams’ team can beat the Indian team remains to be seen, as Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg have been very competitive all season, and therefore Maldonado and Senna will have to deliver solid results and as many points as they can score during the final two races of the season to take over seventh place from Force India.

Webber frustrated by accidents and incidents during Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

By Berthold Bouman

Mark Webber, who was taken out of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after 37 laps, was frustrated about the many accidents and incidents. Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Paul di Resta were dicing for position ahead of the Australian, but Perez was a bit too greedy as he thought he could pass Grosjean and di Resta in one move.

Mark Webber, Red Bull

Instead he hit di Resta, bounced off-track and when he moved back onto the racing line the Mexican hit Grosjean, spun and Grosjean had to move to the left to avoid a collision, but the Frenchman unwillingly moved straight into the path of Webber’s Red Bull. Webber and Grosjean both had to end their race.

“I probably should have hung back a bit,” said Webber. “It was getting pretty heated and it’s not unusual for that lot to hit each other. But I thought there was an opportunity to pass all of them down the inside and had it not been for Grosjean moving across to avoid Perez, it would have worked.”

Webber had a bad start and said, “I was slow away, which meant I dropped back to fourth and I was stuck in traffic thereafter. The car was strong when I was running on my own, but I was hardly ever in clear air and there seem to be a lot of incidents on this track when cars are running close together.”

After the first Safety Car period  Webber collided with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado, the Australian spun, very quickly got his car pointing in the right direction again and he could at least continue his race again, but lost a few places in the process.

Webber commented, “Maldonado and I made contact at one point and there were lots of other incidents.” Indeed, more incidents as Webber later in the race hit the Ferrari of Felipe Massa at Turn 11, this time Massa spun and Webber could continue, but a few laps later he was eliminated from the race after the Perez-Grosjean-di Resta incident.

“This place isn’t my favourite track,” Webber said on Monday, adding, “but a golfer can’t only play par 3s and I have to perform everywhere too. I was pleased with how I drove, particularly in qualifying, but it wasn’t to be in the race. That’s racing.”

Abu Dhabi GP: Williams looking for trouble-free weekend and hope to be competitive

By Berthold Bouman

Pastor Maldonado encountered many problems during the Indian Grand Prix, while Bruno Senna saved the day as he scored one point for his team. Williams is now looking for a trouble-free weekend in Abu Dhabi, and Mark Gillan, Williams’ Chief Operations Engineer, thinks cooling the car will be important.

Pastor Maldonado, Williams

“The Yas Marina Circuit layout of long straights and relatively tight corners puts a lot of energy into the brake system and with reasonably high ambient temperatures the general car cooling has to be run relatively open too,” he explained. “As per last year Pirelli bring their medium and soft tyres to this race and from an aerodynamics perspective the car will be set in medium to high-efficiency trim.”

Maldonado said about the challenges of the Yas Marina Circuit, “The race throws up some unique challenges because we start off driving in hot daytime conditions, but then the sun goes down and the temperature drops quickly. You therefore have to find a set up that balances these different conditions. The track also changes a lot each day and there is quite a lot of sand on the track surface which you have to deal with.”

Senna thinks the track suits the Williams, and hopes to be competitive this weekend, “Abu Dhabi could be an interesting track for us. It has a large number of slow corners which has not traditionally suited our car, but it is also hard on brakes and that is an area where our car has been very strong all year. We have had a lot of updates to the car recently so hopefully we can have one of those trouble-free weekends where everything comes together and we can be competitive.”

Video: Maldonado gives us his thoughts on the Abu Dhabi race this weekend

Video: Senna gives us his thoughts on the Abu Dhabi race this weekend