After the positive comments about their new FW33 over the winter, the start of 2011 has been difficult for Williams, with neither Rubens Barrichello or Pastor Maldonado seeing the checkered flag in either of the first two races.
In Malaysia last weekend, Maldonado completed just eight laps on the race, and Barrichello fared only marginally better, getting to Lap 22 before hydraulics problems ended his afternoon.
Chairman Adam Parr acknowledges that the team have drastically failed to live up to their pre-season promise.
“Like everyone at Williams, I am both surprised and frustrated with our start,” he said. “In spite of having an ambitious concept for the FW33, the benefit of continuity with our engine, and moving into our second season with Rubens, we have come up short. It is particularly bad in view of our relative strength in pre-season testing and the exceptional amount of work that everyone across Williams has put into this car.”
Parr is expecting things to improve though, as F1 heads to Shanghai this weekend. “We have to understand where we are strong and where we are weak,” he explained. “We have had some notable areas of success with the FW33 and we can build on these. We also have some promising improvements coming through for Shanghai and Istanbul and we need to see how these perform. We also need to get on top of the reliability issues because these not only affect immediate performance, they also absorb resources that should be focused on improvement.
“We will move forward, but that does not alter the fact that we have started too far behind.
“Therefore, we will be looking not only at how to address the short-term issues – we will be working together to strengthen the team for 2012 and beyond. Every aspect will be reviewed, nothing is sacred, but we will do this methodically and not in a reactive way.”
Williams technical director Sam Michael also acknowledges that the Malaysian Grand Prix result – not just the retirements but the disappointing grid positions (Barrichello was fifteenth in qualifying and Maldonado eighteenth) – was disappointing for the team.
“Our performance was well below expectations in many areas in Sepang,” said Michael. “This is not acceptable for us and we'll be thoroughly reviewing all aspects of our lack of performance before Shanghai. Ultimately the performance and reliability of the car is down to the engineering group and we'll respond accordingly.”
“Rubens retired [from the race] with a differential seal leak, caused by excessive slip on the differential during the lap when he had a puncture,” he added. “Pastor retired with a misfire from the engine. The most likely cause of this was a faulty ignition coil, but Cosworth are still investigating this.”
Looking ahead to the next race in China, Michael reveals that Williams will be making some changes to the car. “We have a new exhaust system for Rubens' car that we will test on Friday,” he explained. “It would have been great to have it on the car earlier, however having a single system will enable us to evaluate the performance and temperatures properly while managing the risk.”
“We are aiming for a top ten qualifying performance,” said Michael, laying out the team’s targets, “and to get some points on the board in the race.”