Rejuvenated Williams targeting brighter 2012 season 18 Jan 2012
Theres no doubting the 2011 season was a bitter pill for Williams to swallow. Ninth in the standings after scoring five points was their worst-ever campaign. But rather than going to ground, the British team are intent on making amends to their steadfast fans and fighting their way back up the order.
As a result, changes have been afoot at their Oxfordshire base for some time, with a new engine courtesy of Renault, a revised technical team and - most recently - a new driver in Bruno Senna just some of the alterations underway. And chief operations engineer Mark Gillan is hopeful they will make a difference and that the team could be back fighting for top-ten race results in 2012.
Obviously it will be quite a significant improvement in performance but that is our goal and I am reasonably confident looking forward that we will achieve that goal, he said. We want to be consistently in points and in the top ten. We want to be through to Q3 and scoring points at the end of the race. I am confident that we can achieve that goal.
The overall development of the car is going well and is on plan. We are scheduled for first testing at the beginning of February. The car build has just started and the process has dramatically changed from last season to make sure we capture any faults along the way as quickly as possible and not have as many issues as we had last season.
We passed all the various crash tests before Christmas. General performance trends look very encouraging and again the processes in terms of development and on the design side have dramatically changed. So its looking very encouraging. Going forwards, Id say we are on target.
One reason for Gillans optimism is the FIAs clampdown on engine mapping and exhaust positioning. Some teams in 2011 gained a huge aerodynamic advantage by using the cars exhaust gases, but new regulations prevent such activity. The British engineer is hopeful the change could see a much smaller variation in performance across the field, although he doesnt rule out the possibility of new, must-have innovations taking its place.
One of the big differentiators last year was the exhaust blowing but the FIA have curtailed its use by both the geometric change to the exhausts, which now have to be rearward facing and youre not allowed to re-ingest exhaust gas back into the bodywork, and also they have changed the engine mapping, he explained.
There were teams that could utilise that and teams that couldnt, and that is effectively neutered for this season so that will take a few teams back and bring everything closer. With the KERS and DRS it obviously opens up the overtaking opportunities and the racing should be closer than it has been. But then theres always the next f-duct, trick floor, blown exhaust for this year but its just a question of what that will be.
One stumbling block for Williams could be the relative inexperience of their driver roster. With Senna replacing veteran Rubens Barrichello alongside Pastor Maldonado and reserve Valtteri Bottas, it means the team has a line-up which boasts just 45 Grand Prix starts and 19 test days of experience. Gillan, however, is relishing the challenge and is confident the move will pay off.
It obviously puts added pressure on the operations side, but to me it is an opportunity, he concluded. We have three reasonably inexperienced drivers, but three with great potential and it is up to us as a team - and the drivers - to effectively unlock that potential through the season and maximise the performance. So I see it as an opportunity.
Although Williams are yet to announce when they will launch the FW34, the team are expected in attendance at the opening pre-season test at the Spanish circuit of Jerez from February 7-10.
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