Williams 2007 season review Summary In a season dominated by some of the closest on-track competition seen in recent years, the AT&T Williams team concluded the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship with a rewarding fourth place in the ...
Williams 2007 season review
In a season dominated by some of the closest on-track competition seen in recent years, the AT&T Williams team concluded the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship with a rewarding fourth place in the Constructors' standings. The season saw the team dramatically improve its performance in every area, from the scoreboard to the drawing office, since 2006. The performance incremental is most keenly demonstrated by the tripling of its World Championship points, from 11 in 2006 to 33 this year, but also by a 60% uplift in reliability as well as by a demonstrable improvement in race pace by the end of the season.
AT&T Williams enjoyed a considerable upturn in on-track performance this year, highlighted by a leap from eighth to fourth in the Constructors' table, having tripled its overall points by season end. Running approximately 1.5 seconds behind the leaders in terms of fastest lap times in Melbourne, the FW29 closed the season just 0.8 seconds behind the quickest cars in Brazil, the result of a considered development programme delivering upgrades to the car throughout the year.
In only his second season in Formula One, Nico Rosberg improved his average qualifying position by five grid places from 14th in 2006 to 9th in 2007. From only three entries into the final round of qualifying last season, Nico made it into the top ten knockout round no less than 11 times this year. Although a subsequent engine penalty dropped him ten places on the grid, Nico's qualifying in Fuji was the best of his year, his fuel corrected time just three tenths slower than pole position time.
In terms of race results, Nico suffered three of the team's mechanical failures but had just one accident, in the rain at the Nurburgring. Out of the 13 races he finished, Nico gained 24 positions and averaged 8th place, a step up from 10th in his rookie season. A measured drive to a career best fourth place at the final race in Brazil concluded a successful season for Nico. All of this saw Nico improve from 17th to 9th in the Drivers' standings.
In his first year back in a race seat, Alex Wurz showed his maturity and experience in a number of difficult races. Despite an average qualifying position of 14th, Alex managed to translate no top ten starts into five top ten finishes, make up 60 positions in race conditions and secure the team's only podium of the season in Montreal. Seven finishes outside of the top ten and just four DNFs gave Alex a 10th place finishing average and 11th place in the Drivers' table in his last season of active racing.
Kazuki Nakajima made his Formula One debut as a test driver for the team this year while also contesting the GP2 series. In the appearances he made in free practice sessions, Kazuki clearly demonstrated his capabilities in the cockpit, providing intelligent feedback to assist with qualifying and race set-up options. His positive disposition and raw pace was rewarded with a race seat for the final round of the Championship following Alex's retirement as an F1 race driver.
The GP2 Rookie of the Year re-paid the team's faith with a measured drive in which he set the fifth fastest lap, overtook several more experienced rivals and came home in 10th place. Demonstrating considerable composure following an incident during his pitstop only highlighted his potential for a promising future in the sport.
Ranked eighth in the 2006 Championship, a key concern for 2007 was an improvement in reliability. An unprecedented 20 DNFs from the previous season (11 car, nine driver) was dramatically reduced to just eight this year, only four of which were the result of mechanical failures, and put the team in fourth place in the reliability standings.
The recovery of reliability has been the result of improved fault identification and management processes at Grove implemented over the winter months. A restructured Design Office and the recruitment of a number of high profile personnel have all assisted in the significant improvements of car reliability as well as driveability, which have contributed to the elusive variable of driver confidence. The earlier roll-out of the FW29 certainly helped, as did a steady car development programme over the ensuing months.
Calls from the pit wall, both scheduled and ad hoc, have been a hallmark of improved performances this season. Alex Wurz's blistering drive to a podium in Montreal from 19th on the grid was aided by a strong, pre-determined race strategy which saw the team elect a one stop strategy on the grounds that nine times out of ten the Canadian Grand Prix throws up a safety car period. Combined with Alex being the first to pit for tyres, the team's strategy proved to be the most intelligent option and delivered the first podium for two seasons.
Alex's four stop strategy at an intermittently drenched Nurburgring yielded fourth place from 12th after a long middle stint. Similarly, Nico's long second stint in Brazil propelled him up the field from 10th on the grid after the team fuelled him 11 to 12 laps longer than his immediate competition, enabling him to leave them behind and target the BMWs. With a strong car beneath him, Nico was able to catch and pass the BMWs of both Kubica and Heidfeld towards the end of the race which promoted him to fourth place and which consolidated fourth place for the team in the Constructors' title.
The early deployment of the 2007 transmission with the Toyota engine on the dyno in Cologne in June last year, coupled with the related electronics, paid dividends this year and made a significant contribution to both performance and reliability. From the early stages, the relationship with Toyota has been one based on open channels of communication. A mutually supportive operations network between Grove and Cologne is well established, and will assist in the team's progression going into 2008.
The partnership with Bridgestone is now entering its third year. Although a tyre "war" no longer exists, how teams use their tyres is a fundamental performance driver. Joining forces with the Japanese tyre supplier in 2006, a year ahead of the switch to a sole tyre supplier and indeed ahead of the majority of teams, afforded AT&T Williams a level of advantage this season.
The team welcomed another successful new partnership this year, with Rays Wheels. The Japanese wheel manufacturer enjoyed a positive opening season, providing the team with 100% reliability and a strong performance point to take into the long term with the team.
Target For 2008
A leading ambition for 2008 will be to aim for 100% reliability to maximise points-scoring opportunities. With the FW29-B interim car already on the test track and an early launch of the FW30 planned, steps to achieve the objective are already in place. In addition to the normal performance steps required to move forward, during the winter the team will further concentrate on improving qualifying performance while not losing race strength.
In terms of overall performance, narrowing the margin to the front runners, having concluded the season an average of eight tenths of a second behind the leading team, will be vital to the principal goal of elevating the team up the Constructors' ladder.