2013 has undoubtedly been a year of grim viewing for Williams fans. The prestigious team have suffered one of the worst seasons in their history – a campaign of a similar ilk to 2011. After a promising winter, the team suffered a fundamental design flaw in their chassis which could not be resolved in the form of upgrades, meaning that masking the problem was the only option. Valtteri Bottas’ breakthrough result in the US Grand Prix spared the team the blushes of only scoring one solitary point. 2013 was quite frankly a write off for an unfortunate Williams team.
2013 was somewhat doomed even before Melbourne. The team appeared to have an excellent package during pre-season testing, with their FW35 possessing a similar coanda exhaust to that of the Red Bull. However, the crucial mistake by the team came in their radical chassis design – while most teams opted to fine-tune their 2012 packages which were tried and tested, Williams claimed that 80% of their new car was unique from its predecessor. Upon arrival at Melbourne, it was discovered that Technical Director Mike Coughlan was wrong to take such a revolutionary approach.
The unorthodox front wing design was one area to be improved, however, this was a simple enough task to solve. The big issue came in the chassis department as it soon emerged that the team had built an aerodynamically inefficient shell, which was ruining the air flow and negating the effects of the coanda exhaust, diffuser and rear wing. This fundamental design flaw could not be fixed, meaning that the team could only work around the problem. Understanding and inventing contingency plans took the majority of the season and it was not until they removed the useless coanda exhaust that they began to see improvements. These gains were emphasised by the lack of development that their rivals were investing into their 2013 packages, yet improvements were made nonetheless. The team benefited from their hard work, as Valtteri Bottas claimed a well deserved P8 in Austin – the first points of his career.
Despite avoiding the humiliation of failing to score any points, personnel had to pay a price for the calamitous mistakes made in the winter. Technical Director, Mike Coughlan excepted responsibility for the mistakes and left his post in July before being immediately replaced by Pat Symonds. This personnel reshuffle at Williams was crucial – Claire Williams’ public perception was heightened as she gave the impression of a strong willed Deputy Team Principal who is not afraid to make key changes in the light of austerity. A characteristic that was likely installed by her father.
While 2013 was full of disappointment for Williams, there were brief reminders of happier times. Valtteri Bottas showed glimpses of the driver who is billed to be the next World Champion, with a sublime P3 in a wet Qualifying session in Canada. It was a magnificent result which came very much out of the blue. While P14 was the best Valtteri could achieve on Sunday, the weekend did give the team some hope.
The Finn’s most impressive weekend came in the aforementioned US Grand Prix. Bottas made it through to Q3 for the second time, threatening to challenge at the head of the field, however, Q3 failed to live up to the billing for Bottas but P9 was still a superb attempt, especially considering that Pastor Maldonado could only manage P17. The race was even better for Valtteri, as he climbed to P8 during a consistent afternoon, where he challenged the likes of Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg. A magnificent overtake on Esteban Gutierrez into Turn three was one of the season highlights. Bottas could have a bright future and if he can learn from incoming teammate Felipe Massa, then he will be well equipped to challenge for a race winning seat in the coming years.
Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado’s season was far less interesting. The Venezuelan suffered a dismal start, suffering retirements in the first two races of the year. However, Pastor did manage to score the team’s first point of the season with a rather fortunate P10 in Hungary, gifted to him by Nico Rosberg’s late engine fire. Aside from this performance, Pastor’s 2013 was nothing short of uneventful. Once the Venezuelan confirmed that he would be leaving Grove at the end of the year, apathy reigned and Maldonado complained relentlessly, blaming his poor US Grand Prix Qualifying on sabotage within the team. This ruined relationship meant that Maldonado failed to capitalise on the improved package, which was displayed by his rookie teammate. Lotus will hope that a reformed Maldonado is inbound.
Williams failed to build on their impressive 2012 in 2013 yet that was inevitable from Australia onwards. The team coped relatively well with the defects of the FW35 making the best of a bad situation. Changes were implemented and the future is looking much brighter with Felipe Massa inbound to mould the young Bottas into a future race winner.