Williams had a successful day in their home race at Silverstone last weekend, collecting their first double points finish of the season, which included a fifth place for Rubens Barricello.
The team successfully introduced a blown-rear diffuser to the British Grand Prix, something that McLaren tried and failed to do. The FW32 also sported other upgrades, including a new rear wing which, according to technical director Sam Michael ‘worked as expected’, improving the cars downforce.
In qualifying, Barrichello qualified eighth, but his teammate Nico Hulkenberg could qualify only thirteenth. In the race, Barrichello followed the strategy of the leaders, with a single early tyre stop, whilst Hulkenberg stayed out on the option tyre past the half race distance.
Sam Michael explains that the softer Bridgestone compound held out well over the 27 lap first stint. “[Hulkenberg] could perhaps have stayed out even longer, but his lap times were starting to level off,” he said. “Combined with the debris on the Hangar Straight threatening the release of the safety car, we decided to pit. It was the correct decision because the safety car was released just one lap later.”
It was the first Grand Prix at Silverstone which used the new arena section. Michael had mixed thoughts about the layout. “[It] was very bumpy,” he said. “That improved as rubber was laid during the race, but it's something that needs to be addressed for 2011. On a positive note, I was impressed by how the new layout seemed to promote overtaking during the race.”
For Barrichello, his fifth place finish came two weeks after he finished fourth in Valencia. Michael was quick to praise the most experienced F1 driver of all time. “Rubens is doing a great job driving our development programme as well as delivering strong qualifying performances and race results,” said the Williams technical director. “We are very satisfied with his contribution to the team as a whole and specifically with the role he is playing when it comes to which direction we take with the car.”
However, the Brazilian’s good results in recent races mask a poorer-than-expected first half of the 2010 season for the team. They sit seventh in the constructor’s championship, behind the likes of Force India and Renault, with whom they would hope to be challenging. Barrichello and Hulkenberg sit eleventh and seventeenth in the drivers standings.
“We aren't happy with our first half performance, it hasn't been good enough,” said Michael. “We’re playing development catch-up with the whole car package. That work does seem to be paying off now, but there’s still a lot more work to do.”
However, looking to the second half of the season, which begins with the German Grand Prix a week on Sunday, Michael is optimistic for a good result: “Based on the results we've achieved at recent races where the tracks have all been fairly disparate, Hockenheim should go well.”