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2012's one-hit wonders? Williams' mid-season report 23 Aug 2012

Race winner Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 9 June 2012 Frank Williams (GBR) Williams Team Owner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 8 June 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 6 July 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012

After the disappointment of 2011 when they scored just five points, Williams have bounced back with a vengeance this season. After winning their first Grand Prix since 2004 the British team look set for a better and brighter future, but it hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing. A management structure in flux and an inexperienced driver line-up has meant they haven’t always made the most of a competitive car. Last year they were let down by the FW33’s weaknesses. This year they aren’t quite maximizing the FW34’s strengths. That must be their target over the coming months…

Season in numbers
Constructors’ standings:
7th, 53 points
Drivers’ standings: Pastor Maldonado (11th, 29 points), Bruno Senna (15th, 24 points)
Highest 2012 qualifying: 1st (Maldonado, Spain)
Highest 2012 finish: 1st (Maldonado, Spain)

Following a solid winter of work which saw the team complete more mileage than any other, and with a Renault engine once again strapped to its back, the FW34 is one of Williams’ best cars in years. The product of a new technical leadership, guided by incoming technical director Mike Coughlan, the car has punched well above its weight. Competitive and relatively consistent, the team continue to push its development.

Change has been in the air for much of 2012 at Williams. Even before the season got underway engineering stalwart Patrick Head retired and his young sidekick Sam Michael left for McLaren. Mark Gillan and Coughlan, meanwhile, took over the technical reins. There were plans for Sir Frank Williams to pass the running of the company to chairman Adam Parr, but Parr’s surprise exit not long into the season saw Williams step back into the role, aided by shareholder and executive director Toto Wolff. Despite the lack of continuity, Williams bounced back admirably from the garage fire which marred their celebrations after Maldonado’s Spanish victory.

After swapping the hard-bitten experience of Rubens Barrichello for the relatively untested talent of younger countryman Senna to complement Maldonado in his second year, Williams found themselves with one of the greenest driver line-ups on the grid. Although it helped fill the team’s coffers, it was a gamble and one that hasn’t entirely paid off. Despite a strong showing in Hungary, question marks over Senna’s ability to get the best from the FW34 persist, especially in qualifying, where he has fallen far short of Maldonado’s performances. As a result Williams have got both cars into the top-ten shootout just once this season. Then again Maldonado hasn’t exactly excelled. Aside from his elegant and flawless drive to victory in Spain, the Venezuelan has troubled the stewards’ room more than the podium, with his collisions with Sergio Perez at Silverstone and Lewis Hamilton in Valencia coming in for criticism. More tellingly, he hasn’t scored a single point since his burst of brilliance in Barcelona.

What they say: “We expect to be strong in all of the forthcoming races and look forward to the tightly packed remaining nine races.” Mark Gillan, chief operations engineer

What we say: Williams needed the FW34 to be good. And it is. Now the drivers must consistently take advantage and produce some more tangible results.

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