2006 Team Review - Williams 09 Nov 2006
Freed from an increasingly troubled six-year partnership with BMW, Williams viewed the 2006 season as a fresh start. With new Bridgestone tyres, newly-signed GP2 champion Nico Rosberg and Cosworths high-revving V8 engine all performing well during winter testing, Williams were optimistic.
From the outset, it looked as though the new package would be worthy of the teams ambitions. Qualifying ace Mark Webber put the Williams seventh on the grid in Bahrain and finished the race sixth, whilst rookie Rosberg qualified 12th and then improved to come home seventh. A double points-scoring finish in the first race was a dream start, and Rosbergs fastest lap (the only one of the season not set by Ferrari, Renault or McLaren) was more evidence of the FW28s potential.
But the following round in Malaysia brought the first indication of the problems which would plague the team for the rest of the season. Third for Rosberg and fourth for Webber in qualifying was largely overshadowed by a double retirement in the race. Caused by hydraulic and engines troubles, it would be the first of five twin DNFs for the team.
Despite the poor reliability there were occasional glimpses of brilliance. A storming drive by Rosberg at the Nurburgring saw him move up from 22nd to take seventh place at the flag, whilst in Indianapolis he almost repeated his European success, driving from 22nd to take ninth. However, the German youngster also had his fair share of accidents, perhaps most notably at the final round in Brazil where he managed to take out team mate Webber.
It seemed that when everything worked, the FW28 had the pace, but all too often it didnt - as Webber found to his cost in Monaco. After clinching second on the grid, the Australian enjoyed much of the afternoon in third place, before exhaust problems on lap 48 ended his race and ruined his - and Williams - best chance of a podium all year. Webbers sixth places in Bahrain and San Marino ultimately proved to be his best results.
As the season progressed even the indefatigable Frank Williams was despairing at his teams performance - the former champions worst for many years. Over the campaign, the team clocked just 1331 race laps - over 120 less than Super Aguri. The troubles prompted Webber to call time on his career with Williams and in August he announced he would drive for Red Bull in 2007.
To understand Formula One racings cyclical nature you need look no further than Williams 2006 season. But with promising talent Nico Rosberg staying on, Alexander Wurz making a return to racing, and with budget-boosting sponsorship and a new, long-term Toyota engine deal in place, the Williams upswing might just kick in for 2007.
More 2006 team reviews - Renault, Ferrari, McLaren, Honda, BMW Sauber, Toyota, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Spyker MF1 and Super Aguri.