After scoring its first points in the 2010 season in Bahrain, AT&T Williams F1 is looking to do better. The expectations were high for everyone this year but Williams started with a clean sheet of paper and a brand new engine supplier leaving serious questions as to how they would fare in the constructors and drivers championship for 2010.
As I watched testing times and laps, I was impressed with Williams and their penchant for placing serious mileage on the new Cosworth engine. A partnership that last saw the duo face a miserable year in 2006. With interest, all of us at F1B were encouraged by the productive nature of this venerable team and it showed pace comparatively. Imagine our surprise when the pace seemed to fail them in Bahrain. As with many discussions, the Bahrain race has been relegated to track issues and the dynamics of the first race jitters so perhaps we can assuage our fear for a few more Grands Prix until really feeling concerned.
The Australian Grand Prix is this weekend and while Williams heads into the event with points on the board, there is little doubt the team expect to do better and prove two things to the world. The team have a good car in which to compete and secondly, the engine is a good marriage of chassis and reliable shove.
There is every indication that the teams expect the race in Melbourne to be a departure from the Bahrain circuit as Sam Michael, Technical Director, explains:
Albert Park is a low grip street circuit, and youâ€™re normally on the limit when it comes to tyre graining. As a result, careful management of car set-up throughout the weekend is a pre-requisite. We will have some improvements for the FW32 in Australia that we will roll out during Fridayâ€™s practice sessions.
It’s going to be a really interesting weekend in terms of seeing how the teams perform on such a different track in comparison to Sakhir. In terms of strategy, Bahrain gave a good indication as to what will be the most likely pit strategy for Melbourne.
Having scored the teams first point of the season, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello is looking forward to the race and circuit:
Melbourne is a great place for a Grand Prix. The racing is always competitive so itâ€™s a good track from a fan perspective; itâ€™s also a very social city so itâ€™s nice to hang out there. I like Albert Park a lot. It doesnâ€™t really feel like a street circuit, itâ€™s very challenging and has some interesting corners to negotiate. We had some minor problems in Bahrain but we have resolved them now for Australia. Iâ€™m positive we will have a stronger race this weekend.
Nico HÃ¼lkenberg is a rookie to the F1 series and a man who didn’t fare too well at Bahrain but the challenge for this young German will be getting familiar with the circuit as he has never raced there before:
As a circuit, I don’t know Albert Park at all as I havenâ€™t raced there yet. I spent a few days in the factory last week going through practice runs on the simulator and running through data with my engineers which was really helpful but nothing beats having time on the track itself. Bahrain wasn’t the best race for me, but there were some positives to be taken from it because it highlighted where we need to do some more work. Iâ€™m hoping that we will have a more successful weekend in Australia as a result of what I learnt in Bahrain, and what the team have worked on since we came home. I’m flying out to Sydney on Saturday morning for a driver day with RBS on Tuesday. I then have an appearance for Randstad on Wednesday in Melbourne before heading to the circuit.
I’m expecting a better race for AT&T Williams F1 because I think this team has the right mix of drivers, talent, engineering prowess and F1 acumen to succeed. My pre-season prediction was that they would not only be the best Cosworth team on the grid but also fighting for the 5th team spot or best of the rest.
Williams is there to win, make no mistake, but I suggest a humble lurch forward to the 5th spot is a milestone given last years difficulties ending in a 7th place finish in the constructors title. Their main opposition will be Renault and should Sauber find the missing ingredient, they too could place Williams on notice. This year should be different for Williams and I hope it starts right here in Oz.