You would be forgiven for having high expectations for the Williams F1 team in 2013. Coming off the back of a win from Pastor Maldonado in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, as well as some outstanding qualifying performances, the team, and the rest of the sport, was preparing for more of the same this year.
All signs during pre season testing pointed towards a much improved car, as well, so the shock from the team’s performance in the season’s opening race in Australia must have been intense. With both cars at the very back of the mid-field runners, Williams knew this season would be far from the success of 2012.
The only substantive reason for the lack of results in the season’s first half, however, is relative performance. The car itself is faster than last year’s, but their gains relative to the rest of the field are much less pronounced. This makes each and every race weekend much less fruitful than races from last season.
Williams’ driver lineup, like its competitiveness, saw change; this time, though, it was arguably for the better. Valtteri Bottas of Finland took the seat vacated by Bruno Senna, while Maldonado stayed on for another season thanks to his winning performance in 2012 and the millions brought in by his sponsors. All eyes have been on Bottas, however. Anyone with any knowledge of who has a future in the sport knows that Bottas is as real as the real deal gets. After winning the 2011 GP3 title, Bottas spent all of 2012 on the sidelines as Williams’ Friday driver. Over the course of that season, he drove in 12 free-practice sessions, all the while proving to the team and everyone else watching that he was someone one to keep an eye on.
Despite all the hype and talent, however, Bottas has failed to score. He does boast a strong 11th-place finish in the season’s second race in Malaysia, proving almost all the pieces are there for points. But that final step into the top-10 has failed to materialize. Williams’ solitary point this season comes from Maldonado in the Hungarian Grand Prix, courtesy of a late-race retirement from Nico Rosberg. This means that while the team won’t go the rest of the season pointless, it has been one of the worst starts to a season in the team’s long history.
One could argue, though, that the revised Pirelli tires introduced in Hungary helped Williams. Both Bottas and Maldonado narrowly missed out on a spot in Q3 (something they would have been proud of in the first few races of the season), though were quietly confident for the race. If they can understand the tires better than the rest of the field, then a lack of outright pace won’t hurt them nearly as much.
Even if by default, that single point in Hungary is something to remember as the F1 circus resumes this weekend.