By: Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent - Motorsport.com
Williams launches new livery via the Internet
Today Williams launched its new 2011 livery during an online media event aired from the Williams' UK Formula One Conference Center. The 2011 car itself, the FW33, could already be seen during the pre-season test days in Spain with an interim livery. Williams opted for the familiar dark blue and white livery which looks very similar to the Williams cars of the 1990s when they were sponsored by a tobacco manufacturer. Williams' new big sponsor, the Venezuelan national energy company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) is prominently present on the car. Williams attracted this new title sponsor after Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado joined the Grove-based team earlier this year.
Technical Director Sam Michael was present to answer questions about the technical aspects of the FW33. About new tyre supplier Pirelli Michaels was clear, "They have done a fantastic job, because they are competing with someone who has been in the sport for so many years [Bridgestone], who set such a high benchmark." About the development of the tyres he said: "The tyres were having a lot of wear and a lot of degradation, but even during the last three tests you can already see they are improving."
Michaels also admitted Rubens Barrichello's input -- he's the most experienced driver on the 2011 grid -- was important to get a better understanding of the new Pirellis. "It's great when you got someone like Rubens in the car to identify these differences because Rubens has raced on so many different tyres over the course of his career." Michaels also expects more tyre stops this year, "I'm quite sure during the first few races we will have multi-stop strategies. I think there will be a minimum of two stops, and maybe three stops in some of the other races."
About new Williams diver 25-year old Maldonado Michael was very positive, "Pastor has come along as a rookie, but I must say the job he has done during testing we have had so far has been very good. He is definitely naturally talented. On his few couple of days at Valencia we looked at his data compared to Rubens, we could see he has a natural talent." And added, "Pastor is a rookie, he will make a few mistakes and he will have a few crashes, every rookie does. But he has a level of maturity that is higher [compared to other rookies] and that is quite encouraging."
The FW33 attracted the attention during the pre-season testing days in Spain with its compact rear end and extreme angled rear drive shafts. Another innovation is the very compact gearbox, the smallest one ever produced by Williams, which is mounted very low compared to other cars. "With gearbox usage increasing from four to five races this year, reliability is vital. But I'm not expecting it [the reliability] to be a problem because the new gearbox has the same stiffness characteristics as the old one," Michaels said.
Asked whether the extreme angle of the drive shafts could become a problem for instance with the high curbs they have in Monza, Michaels replied: "Until Monza we won't know, but Monza was one of our simulations we used on the dyno, we used two dynos, so we have done many thousands of kilometres around Monza already. In the tests we have done we haven't seen any problems at all."
The KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) is mounted under the survival cell, a concept we have seen in other car designs as well this year. "We have packaged our KERS system entirely inside the car's survival cell, below the fuel tank, because we didn't want to compromise any of the side pod area for aerodynamics. The car is longer than last year as a result, but the advantages of doing that outweigh the negatives," said Michaels earlier about the Williams KERS system.
Michaels is however is bit pessimistic about the adjustable rear wing and its ability to improve overtaking. "I don't think the advantage gained by the rear wing is going to change overtaking dramatically because there isn't going to be a big enough drag reduction," said Michaels. "You only get help from the wing when you're one second from the car in front, which might not be until halfway down a straight, depending on where the FIA places the timing loop that activates it. That will take a few races to fine tune."
Williams has put a lot of research in the FW33, with which they hope to compete with the top teams this year. "We know it's not easy but we hope that this car will take us a step closer to where the leaders are. As a team we are more ambitious than we have ever been, there's bits and pieces on the car that we know are good but we also realise that it's a difficult task out there," Michaels said to Reuters just before the launch. The last time the Williams squad won a race was in 2004, when Juan-Pablo Montoya won the last race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Asked about who has the fastest car Michaels was not cautious, "There's lot of speculation about where everyone is and within Formula One teams we have enormous amounts of data, lots of lap times. We know how the aero platform is, and we take photos of the cars, and we have no idea where everybody is. So the journalists don't have any chance to predict it."
He also thinks the fastest car during testing might not be the fastest car on track when the season kicks off at Melbourne on March 29. "If you've got someone who looks strong today it may not be in Melbourne, or Malaysia or Shanghai because the rate of progression is very big," said Michaels.
But Michaels remains upbeat about Williams' chances this season, "I think with all the testing we have been doing, we have shown we have a very competitive car, and as long as we develop it quickly -- which we are doing -- I think we will have a good year I would say."