2007 Team Review - Williams 26 Nov 2007
In 2006, things could not have got much worse for Williams. The team, struggling to adjust to the departure of engine partner BMW, suffered 20 retirements and scored just 11 points all season. Before the last race had been run, team principal Frank Williams had already lamented his annus horribilis and pressed on with plans for a resurgence in 2007.
This renewed sense of purpose breathed fresh life into the British squad and within months changes were afoot. A new engine deal with Toyota was signed, extra sponsors were brought on board and a pre-season management reshuffle was carried out.
Promising young talent Nico Rosberg was also staying for a second year and though the team had lost the very capable Mark Webber, long term tester Alexander Wurz was called up to fill the Australians race seat. Williams hoped this combination of youth and experience would help the squad regain their footing in 2007.
And it did, although it was clear from the outset that there was still a lot more work to do to if the FW29 was to punch above midfield weight. Rosberg scored in the season-opener in Melbourne, but Wurz only qualified in 15th and retired early from the race after an accident. Mixed results yes, but at least a recovery of sorts looked possible.
Gradually there were more and more reasons to be cheerful. Though neither driver came away from Malaysia with points, their pace showed real promise and neither the Renaults nor the Toyotas could match the FW29. Bit by bit the team began producing more tangible results, including a podium finish courtesy of Wurz in Montreal.
By August Williams had already doubled their 2006 score and were fifth in the standings, eight points ahead of the Toyota works team. What was working particularly well for Williams was Rosbergs natural qualifying talent, which ensured the team made the top-ten on the grid 10 times out of 17 - which really helped in getting the better of some of the other closely-matched mid-fielders during races.
Wurz, on the other hand, struggled in qualifying and speculation abounded about the Austrians apparent inability to get the most out of the FW29. For much of the season he had at least come out on top in terms of points to his younger team mate, but Rosbergs surge in the closing stages put Wurz firmly in the shadows.
With one race left, the veteran called it quits and retired from Formula One racing. The Austrians early exit heralded the arrival of bright new hope Kazuki Nakajima, who had done a sterling job combining his GP2 drive with his Williams test role. Although he grabbed the headlines more for knocking over some of his mechanics during a pit stop than for his drive in Brazil, he did look promising.
Williams certainly thought so and subsequently confirmed that Nakajima will partner Rosberg for 2008. With 13 less retirements and three times more points than in 2006, the 2007 season was certainly a significant step towards a Williams revival. Now they just need to take another one next year.