- A Frank assessment
Sir Frank Williams reviews the 2010 season
With nine constructors' championships, seven drivers' championships and 113 race victories, Williams is a team synonymous with winning. Names such as Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Damon Hill will forever be linked to one of the best-loved constructors' in the sport.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that for a perfectionist such as team owner Sir Frank Williams, prising sixth in the constructors' standings from Force India is simply not good enough. Speaking openly and frankly about the 2010 season from his base in Grove, Sir Frank gave his thoughts on the season and his aspirations for the future.
"I wouldn't say I'm satisfied [with sixth] and that's not where we want to be," Williams told ESPNF1. "We didn't provide ourselves with a competitive enough racing car and when you do that, you pay the price. Most drivers get the maximum out of the car, almost without exception, and if your car's not up the field it usually means it's not good enough to a certain extent.
"The reason for this lies mainly with the chassis because we're all on the same tyres. We have a very competitive Cosworth engine that is capable of mixing it with the best. The chassis was a step forward from the previous year's car and better in one or two smallish areas but not sufficiently quicker."
It was not all doom and gloom for Williams in 2010, however. Strong drives by the team's wise old head Rubens Barrichello at the Nurburgring and Silverstone kick-started a string of points-scoring finishes towards the end of the season that saw Williams pip Force India to sixth in the constructors' standings. And Nico Hulkenberg's impressive qualifying effort for the Brazilian Grand Prix gave the team its first pole position for five barren years.
"We had good races at the Nurburgring, Silverstone and Singapore with Rubens and Nico drove well in Hungary and Italy. I wasn't there for Brazil but Nico's pole was a quite astonishing achievement. I was pleased that most of the other drivers were fulsome in their praise and none of them said it was down to luck."
Despite his best efforts towards the end of the season, Williams saw Hulkenberg as surplus to requirements. Although refusing to be drawn on the widely perceived reasons for the young German's exodus from the team, Williams said he was not unhappy either of his drivers' performances in 2010.
"As far as Nico is concerned, he did a great job in his rookie year and drove several strong races. A lot of the time it was not his fault because the car was not good enough. I am sure he has a strong career ahead of him. Rubens Barrichello is a very charming man, very mature and super quick, especially in the wet. We are delighted with him."
Williams has seen no fewer than seven drivers walk through his doors and leave the team a world champion. So just how highly does he rate the current crop of the F1 elite, including newly-crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel?
"I'm not saying it just because he's the world champion but I've always rated Vettel very highly indeed. He could win many titles and I think him, Lewis Hamilton and perhaps Robert Kubica in the right car might surprise everybody. But I know from experience that Red Bull have a genius working for them in Adrian Newey and he's made a big difference to them this season. I'm not really a big fan of Fernando Alonso. He often looks a bit sullen, rarely acknowledges anybody and seems very uncommunicative. He's brilliant at racing cars but seems to have no animation about him. Perhaps it's his own way of going about his business on a race weekend.
"You can't say Mark Webber has lost his big chance of winning the title because he could come back even stronger but it's probable that he has had his best chance. But all these racing drivers are remarkable individuals and you should never underestimate them. It depends how competitive his car is next year too."
Despite what has been another frustrating season for Williams and the loss of major sponsor RBS, there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel. The team recently opened a technology centre in Qatar and the team's financial outlook appears rosy.
"I'm very pleased with that [technology centre]. It's up and running although not fully equipped yet. Primarily we're using that area for development of our flywheel which is a kinetic energy R&D project. And there's absolutely no problem with the budget at all for next season so we're happy about that.
"It's nice that a lot of people to say that they'd love to see us back at the front of the Formula One field and of course we'd like to be in the top three or four of the constructors' championship. Of course it's the goal but one step at a time!"