May 31st, 2013 (F1plus/H. Hough).- Just after a year after a dominant victory at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix Williams are struggling to make an impact. Six races into the 2013 season and they have failed to score a single point whilst continuing to struggle in qualifying. They have twice had a best result of just 11th place but are yet to truly bring the challenge to their mid field rivals. It is often said you should start the season as you mean to go on but apparently Williams didn’t get that particular memo.
For a team that has such an illustrious history 2013 must feel a world away from what they should be achieving. The team’s 2012 victory was their first since 2004 but over the 2010-12 seasons they seemed to be making steps forward. There was Nico Hulkenberg’s pole position in Brazil in 2010 and Maldonado’s win, however this year their progress seems to have stalled.
Qualifying has not been a strong point for the team. They have only reached Q2 on three occasions in six races with Maldonado qualifying 15th in China and starting 14th after Mark Webber was disqualified and Bottas qualifying in 15th in Bahrain and 14th in Monaco. It us fair to say Valtteri Bottas hasn’t had the best car to start his F1 career with and may go some way to explaining his struggles.
If qualifying has been poor it is nothing compared to the disappointment Williams have faced on race days. With no points from six races the car appears both poor in high and low fuel conditions. The team has twice finished a race in 11th - with Bottas in Malaysia and Maldonado in Bahrain. However only Bottas’ performance in Malaysia was close to securing points as he finished just over a second behind 10th place man Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso. When Maldonado finished 11th he was 20 seconds behind 10th placed Jenson Button.
Then there was Spain. Just 12 months on from Maldonado’s superb win beating Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard lapped the Venezuelan as he finished a lowly 14th. After the emphatic win I doubt anyone at Williams expected a year on they would be struggling to keep pace with the midfield.
At this same point last year the team had 44 points. They simply don’t seem to have made any progress despite the regulations remaining the same in 2013. Whilst last year they were challenging Sauber and Force India this year you are more likely to find them just keeping themselves ahead of the backmarkers.
To say the team is struggling would be an understatement. They are in the deep end only marginally keeping their head above the water and ahead of the Marussias and Caterhams. For a team which appeared to be making bounds forward after a difficult few years since 2004 it looks as if the brakes have been applied. 2012 showed the team could still mix it up amongst the big boys at the front - but they have failed move forward.
In an interview with Formula1.com deputy team principal Claire Williams said the team were aware the start of the European season would not be a new start to the season for the team. Encouragingly she revealed the team had identified where the problem was but would not give a time frame to Williams’ problems being solved.
The team may know what they need to rectify to sort out their car and get their season back on track. However they don’t seem too confident this will be any time soon. The team has announced a move to Mercedes power in 2014 in a hope to boost their performance with the move to V6 turbo engines. Whilst this may show promise for the future there will become a point where attempting to improve this season will be to the detriment of next season. If the start of 2013 is anything to go by Williams had better be planning ahead for 2014 any day now.