Williams F1 boss Sir Frank Williams has stated that he was concerned about losing his ace driver Nico Rosberg to McLaren for the 2009 season. The team is celebrating their 30th year in Formula One and are campaigning six special designs over the...
Williams F1 boss Sir Frank Williams has stated that he was concerned about losing his ace driver Nico Rosberg to McLaren for the 2009 season. The team is celebrating their 30th year in Formula One and are campaigning six special designs over the Winter testing, prior to showcasing the FW30's 2008 livery in the opening race in Australia.
While the team had a contract with Rosberg for this coming season, he had the option to move on next year. Williams F1, however, managed to secure the talents of the young driver for the 2009 season, signing a new contract extension at the end of last year.
With nine constructors' championships and seven drivers' world titles, it is not often one could surprise the team founder. Yet, Rosberg did, and after the final test in Barcelona, Williams admitted his thoughts.
Williams said: "I was a little surprised that he was happy to sign to stay. I feared he would go to McLaren, and I was a bit surprised he didn't!
"He could not have gone there this year, he had a fixed contract, but 2009 was going to be the worry. We had an option for 2009 but it was very tough terms, based on the constructors' championship. It was by no means guaranteed we would achieve it."
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had suggested that Rosberg was one of the candidates in the frame to fill the second seat at McLaren after the loss of Fernando Alonso for this year, and Williams confirmed that approaches were made: "It was never a thought we entertained.
"We had an offer from you-know-who, of majestic proportions, but it was never ever discussed," Williams continued. "Why would we give away the crown jewels? Why bother improving the car by one second if we then give away half a second with the driver?"
Patrick Head, the co-owner of Williams F1, also spoke of Rosberg's decision to stay at Williams F1. "If we go through the next year and a half and show no signs of being able to get ourselves seriously up to the front, then I am sure his long term interests will go elsewhere," he explained.
"He is definitely capable of winning races and definitely capable of winning championships, as he showed in GP2. But he is doing everything he can to help us get back into a competitive position."
At the time of the announcement in 2007, the 22 year-old driver spoke to the newspaper Bild, telling them: "Williams have made me an attractive, far better offer with a new contract up to 2009 and I decided to accept it."
Rosberg added, "I could imagine myself (at McLaren) just like I could see myself at Ferrari in 2008. Every young driver wants a car that can bring you the title. I'm no different. I race for success. But I feel I have to be patient, like most people.
"There are only a few exceptions like Lewis [Hamilton] who can have immediate success. Mika Hakkinen had to wait six years for a first win."
Somewhat ironically, Head also spoke of the missed opportunity of acquiring Hamilton to drive at Williams F1.
Back in 2004 Hamilton, who had been supported by McLaren for more than a decade, had a disagreement over what series he should compete in for 2005. McLaren were keen for the young Hamilton to stay in the F3 Euroseries while he was keen to move up, and the disagreement led to the young Brit being potentially out of contract.
Head told reporters that Hamilton and his father had even visited the Williams factory. "They rang up and said 'can we come and see you? "And they came in and said 'Ron Dennis has dropped us'."
Williams were racing with the support of BMW at that time and the motorsport director at the time, Mario Theissen, was not so keen. Head stated, "I think Mario said they weren't prepared to provide any support and we weren't in a position financially where we could finance his racing.
"Much to Frank's annoyance .. he could have had Lewis in a Williams!"
Although Hamilton had one of the most spectacular rookie seasons ever and is now regarded as one of the hottest properties in F1, Head was philosophical: "There is no point in regretting. We've had various times where we could have had people in there but it's just water under the bridge."
Rosberg has not only reconfirmed his commitment to the Williams F1 team for 2009, but has also expressed a desire to stay longer.
Along with rookie Kazuki Nakajima, the Grove, England-based squad are looking to make another step forward in 2008. The FW30 car will continue to use the powerful Toyota engines; the aim is to take the fight to Renault and BMW this year.