Sunday, 2 September 2012

#F1: Williams' fortunes

Instead of looking at the results from today's Belgian Grand Prix, and talking through what happened, I am going to write about a more peripheral, but more personal, issue instead.

I have been saddened, and more than a little hurt, by some of the recent comments about the performance of the Williams F1 team.  In the BBC's preamble to today's show, Eddie Jordan claimed that "the reemergence of Williams into the winners' circle capped it all" - a remark which stung a little, for someone who is, and has always been, a big fan of Rubens Barrichello.

Barrichello was dropped by Williams at the end of last season - their worst ever, in terms of points scored.  I believed at the time, and I still do, that this was a very poor decision.  I hoped (perhaps churlishly) that Williams' results would not see a significant improvement in 2012, as I feared that their decision to axe Barrichello would appear vindicated by such dramatic reversal of fortunes.

The team's results have improved, and they have already scored over ten times the amount of points they amassed over the whole of 2011.  I firmly believe, however, that this is down to improved car design, and not down to the drivers they have this year - the breathtakingly unremarkable Bruno Senna, and the utterly bewildering Pastor Maldonado.

Whilst I've nothing against Bruno Senna, it seems clear to me that the team's decision to replace Barrichello with him was not a good one; he's not a bad driver, but his results so far (16, 6, 7, 22, DNF, 10, 17, 10, 9, 17, 7, 12 - accruing a total of 24 points so far this season) are nothing to write home about especially.  I believe that the hugely experienced Barrichello could've achieved much more with this vastly improved Williams car.

Pastor Maldonado, however, clearly has a screw loose.  He has finished in the points only twice this season, of which one was his much-talked-about victory at the Spanish Grand Prix (the other was an 8th place, giving a total of 29 points so far this year) but aside from this one (fluky) 1st-place finish, Maldonado has done very little to show that he deserved to keep his place at Williams after last year's debacle.

Apart from his shock win, Maldonado has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  From his overly-aggressive tactics in Monaco to this weekend's crash with Timo Glock, the number of times he has been called to Stewards' inquiries must be some kind of record (could someone check that for me?) and I know I'm not the only one who has called into question some of his driving over the past few months.  His racing style is a particularly volatile combination of arrogance and clumsiness - David Coulthard has pointed out occasions of Maldonado "using his car as a weapon" - and he appears to have very little respect either for the rules of the sport, or for its other participants.

Last year, Williams scored an astonishingly meagre 4 points across a whole season.  Of these 4 points, Maldonado contributed 1 (that's 25%) with Barrichello scoring the other 3 (75%).  3 points is an awful total for the year, and a driver of Barrichello's calibre should've done better - but it's still three times what Maldonado managed!

If Williams wanted to bring Bruno Senna in to have someone different in the team, that's perfectly understandable - but for me, he should've replaced Maldonado.  As a huge fan of Barrichello, you could say I'm a little biased, but I have a feeling that this post will resonate with other F1 fans, who may not necessarily be as fond of Barrichello as I am.

I don't see Williams' 2012 season as the stunning ascent to their former glory that some people seem so keen say that it is.  They are currently 8th in the Constructors' Championship (last-but-one of the teams to have scored points this year) and their inconsistent drivers bring in dribs and drabs of points here and there, when they're not too busy retiring from races, or taking other drivers out in the closing stages of races - but is that really enough?

If Williams really want to become one of the "big teams" again, they need a driver who can consistently deliver podiums, and points finishes.  Of course, I can't guarantee that Barrichello would be that driver - but he'd certainly have had a better chance than the mediocre Senna, or the headcase Maldonado, and I am still quite upset that the team never saw fit to give him that chance.

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