By Alan Baldwin ,Reuters
LONDON — Former Formula One champions Williams say they have reason to be optimistic about the future despite hitting a new low in Abu Dhabi at the weekend. For the first time — or at least as far back as co-founder Patrick Head could remember — the nine-times constructors’ world champions started a Formula One race with both cars on the back row of the grid. Neither Brazilian Rubens Barrichello nor Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado finished in the points, their sixth successive blank sheet in a dire season that has brought just five points from 18 races. In old money, with points only awarded to the top 10 finishers from last year, Williams would not have scored even a single point with just two ninth places and a 10th to show for their efforts. Head, chairman Adam Parr and Barrichello refused to be downcast however. “Fundamentally the car is too weak and unusually we’ve been unable to improve that situation during the year,” Head, one of the sport’s engineering greats who presided over seven drivers’ titles between 1980 and 1997 and is known for speaking his mind, told Reuters. “But I’m very confident that with the new senior technical staff that we will turn that around. Already major progress is being made on next year’s car on pretty much every parameter on it,” he added. “I’m very confident we’ll dig ourselves out of it but when you are in a season like this … it’s obviously extremely stressful for everybody.”
Technical Changes Williams will next year jettison the Cosworth engine for the same Renault unit that powers champions Red Bull and have also rung the changes at management level with technical director Sam Michael now departed.
Parr said the new team of technical director Mike Coughlan, aerodynamics head Jason Somerville and chief operations engineer Mark Gillan was already showing huge potential. “As we have taken on the new team, and as they have dug under the stones, we have realized there are some quite profound failings in the way we have been doing things,” he told Reuters. “But they’re not going to be fixed overnight, so with the best will in the world we are just being more realistic about where we are and where we need to get to. “I feel very energized about where we are at the moment because the people here are just stunning, without exception,” added Parr. Barrichello, whose future beyond next week’s Brazilian season-ender remains uncertain with the team known to have had discussions with 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen about a possible comeback, agreed morale was improving. “On the engine side, structure, new thinking, motivation, everything can be a big step for next year,” he told reporters. “That’s what I believe. I don’t know if it’s going to be a winning car but it’s going to be a hell of a lot better.” Barrichello said the comings and goings had caused problems, with a lack of leadership once it had been announced Michael was leaving and before the new people had got their feet under the table. “Right now I think people are accommodating quite well, they’ve done everything they could to improve this car which is a very bad one,” said the 39-year-old veteran of 19 seasons. “So they are putting all their efforts on a new one.” Parr said Williams had made a “huge error of resourcing and judgment” in concentrating on a new gearbox rather than the exhausts and mapping systems that teams like Red Bull had exploited to such telling effect. Head refused to point the finger at any one area, however, even if Williams are the only team to have exceeded their engine quota this year and picked up a penalty for it.
“What’s disappointing for everybody, Sam included, is that we were really determined to make a big step forward this year and a lot of very hard work and good effort was put in and some quite bold steps were taken,” he said.
“But ultimately the overall sum was far from where it needed to be.”