JUNE 28, 2004
Why one has to watch Williams
This time last year Williams was on a high. The start of the year had been difficult but development of the car and the tyres had turned the team into the dominant force in Formula 1 and that wuld remain the case until the closing races of the year when Ferrari responded with new ideas and more horsepower.
This year Williams went into the season as the favourites (a position which the team hates) and found out that Ferrari had made a bigger step over the winter and that the latest Ferrari had an aerodynamic advantage of around four-tenths of a second per lap. This was a blow to Williams but there was no panic at Grove. In such circumstances the team knows that the best way forward is to keep its head down and work, chipping away to improve the performance of the cars and see if the gap can be closed. There was talk in the ever-volatile F1 press that there might be a new version of the car but unlike other teams, Williams did not go down this route. The season has not been helped by the fact that Ralf Schumacher has not seemed to be his usual self but Juan Pablo Montoya has done a relatively sound job and the team's test drivers have worked hard to pinpoint the problems and find solutions. Those solutions are now beginning to filter through the system. There is to be a new aerodynamic package at Magny-Cours, which the team hopes will be a significant step forward. In addition a new traction-control system is under development and BMW is looking for more horsepower from its V10 engine. Tyre development is constant.
In the last three races the team has not had an easy time with a collision at the Nurburgring and no points in either Canada or the United States. But although the results have not been there there have been clear signs that Williams will once again become a force to be reckoned with.
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