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Archive for the ‘Williams’ Category

As predicted here the protests against the diffusers of the Brawn, Williams and Toyota cars have been thrown out by the Melbourne stewards. But this does not mean that the matter is closed. The plaintiff teams have appealed and that means that the three teams whose diffusers were questioned will race under appeal on Sunday.

As it’s unlikely that an appeal can be heard before the Malaysian GP next Sunday, I imagine that the story will roll on there as well so the results of the first two races will be subject to appeal.

It’s a bit of a mess, but it’s something the sport has to go through as there is no mechanism for getting a definitive answer on something like this until the cars get to a race weekend and stewards can judge.

The perception given to the outside world watching, coming after last week’s u turn over the winner takes all points systems, is that the things are a bit all over the place in F1 at the moment and the teams are at each other’s throats. I think the teams would like the matter cleared up as quickly as possible so they can all get on with racing each other knowing what the rules are.

There’s a great book for parents of young boys, called “Raising Boys’ by a Steve Biddulph. As a parent of two boys I have read it closely.

One of the key premises in the book is that boys, unlike girls, are quite straight forward. They will behave themselves and fall into line as long as three key elements are clear to them

1. Who’s in charge?
2. What are the rules?
3. Will those rules be fairly applied?

I actually think that things don’t change much when boys become men and a lot of what happens in the world’s trouble spots reflects the fact that something has broken down in this schematic, usually when boys/men perceive that there is some kind of vacuum or uncertainty.

Undoubtedly it is true in F1.

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Just had a very enjoyable day at Williams HQ in Grove where a few of us were treated to a series of briefings by the team. The drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima were there, we had a talk around the car by technical director Sam Michael and then a briefing on the team’s health, FOTA and other general F1 matters from Sir Frank Williams and team CEO Adam Parr.

They even threw in some lunch, all very trendy, with small tapas-sized portions and lots of them. Being Williams though it was roast beef and fish and chips in the tiny bowls rather than some continental nonsense. Rhubarb crumble and crème brulee for pudding. Hardly anyone drank any wine except a few of the older generation journos…

Williams is a no-nonsense team which has been living beyond its means for the last couple of seasons in an effort to keep up and which is therefore grateful to the credit crunch for forcing its main rivals finally to agree cost saving measures. I actually think that Williams could have been in serious trouble if FOTA had not happened and with it the agreement to slash costs. Now Williams will be able to compete more fairly and will be able to pay off their debt. Despite losing RBS, Baugar and Petrobras as sponsors, they are more diversified than some other teams, a point CEO Adam Parr made. It was interesting to see Sir Frank together with Adam. He defers to him more and more and you could see that he has great trust in his number two. Could be another handover soon a la Ron Dennis…

The drivers spoke with optimism about the season ahead. The headline quote of the day was Nico Rosberg saying that he wants to be in a top car by 2010 and although he hopes it can be with Williams, that is his clear priority. He looked fantastic, no I mean even more fantastic than he normally looks. He’s slimmed down, like many drivers, because the KERS system has added weight to the cars and that means weight has to come off the drivers. Nico also said that he was relishing the challenge of the new rules with all the buttons to press and front wings to adjust. He feels that F1 is moving even more towards the intelligent drivers and he’s keen to position himself as a driver with a great interest in and feel for, the technology.

Frank said that he thinks the Honda team will be on the grid in Melbourne in some guise or other, Adam added that the fact that they are still making things for the car, planning a shakedown test next week ahead of an appearance at Barcelona test the week after, shows that Honda are serious about the proposals in front of them.
Looking at the opposition, Frank said that he thought Red Bull look particularly strong. Sam Michael pointed out that the RBR car was more developed at launch than other cars, but that other teams had major upgrades planned before Mclbourne, so you could really only judge at the first race.

Everyone agreed that it’s very close with no more than 3-4/10ths of a second separating the cars which have tested so far. That’s mind blowing if you think about it. Sam also said that Williams are not ready with the KERS system and hope to bring it to the car soon. He reckons BMW and McLaren are the two teams who are most bullish about their KERS systems and are most likely to use them in Australia.

One interesting undercurrent I picked up was that there is some muttering about the Renault engine. They were down on power last season and were allowed by the other teams to bring their motor up to speed with the others. This was done on trust through a FOTA agreement, whereby each manufacturer presented its power curve and they all agreed what Renault should be allowed to increase by. The implication is that perhaps the power curve they demonstrated at the start was a little lower than the reality….and so they may actually be a little ahead of the others now! This would also help Red Bull as they use the Renault motor.

Sam said that the adjustable front wing was going to make a bigger difference to overtaking than he and others had anticipated, Apparently the drivers can get really close to a car in front through a fast corner onto a straight and that makes passing very possible,. It will be circuit dependent of course and Shanghai for example, with the long fast corner onto the long straight will see a lot more passing. Same with Bahrain.

The boost from the KERS button adds 5mph to a car’s straight line speed so the cars which start the season with KERS will be able to take even more advantage of the adjustable front wing for passing.

Final note, Frank was very unhappy about the BBC News coverage of the RBS pulls out of F1 in 2010 story yesterday. He felt it was far too doom and gloom and also not accurate in its depiction of the facts of the story. I didn’t see it, so I cannot comment, I was engrossed in Liverpool vs Real Madrid football match, which had a good outcome as far as I’m concerned.

To sum up, Williams seem quietly confident about the season ahead, the car seems to be going quite well in testing and the key for them is going to be to take their chances when they arise this year on the tracks they always go well on, the street tracks for example.

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Williams CEO Adam Parr has just done a conference call with the media on the news that RBS is to pull out of F1 at the end of 2010.

“It isn’t good news for the sport for a sponsor like RBS to announce it’s withdrawing. We’ve suspected for some time that there wasn’t much chance of the sponsorship continuing beyond its term, ” he said.

“In the latter part of last year we lost two or three significant partners, Lenovo, Baugar and Petrobras. But we also had 10 of our partners renew and four of the partners who renewed were major upgrades, meaning they at least doubled. The FOM revenues are stronger this year than last year and there are some significant cost savings from the cut in testing.”

“Overall we have a solid budget for next year, but we are also in advanced negotiations with other partners. For 2010 we have 90% of the sponsorship for this year confirmed for next year and we will have further significant cost savings. “

On Toyota he said that the manufacturers have committed for at least the next three years and he thinks that Toyota will stay beyond that if costs are brought under control.

Asked how hard it would be to replace RBS, Parr said,
“I’m confident that for 2011 we will have a strong sponsorship roster. No individual sponsor is make or break for us. It’s incredibly difficult to bring new sponsors in, but the return on investment is compelling.

“Last year RBS accounted for 10% of our revenue. They are one of our two senior sponsors”

Parr also said that the figure of £20 million on the BBC was “too high”. He was not specific, but the figure is likely to be more like £12 million per season.

Parr admitted that in the last three years the team had ‘spent beyond our means’ and that it would be paying off its debts this year and next. He reiterated that the cost savings FOTA and the FIA envisaged would make Williams’ budgets more closely aligned to the other teams in F1.

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Williams has just announced that RBS will stay with the team this season and next, but that the sponsorship will finish at the end of 2010.

RBS is conducting a review of all its sponsorships in light of the critical situation in the banking sector and the huge corporate losses shortly to be announced.

The partnership with Williams began in 2005 and was renewed in 2007 for three seasons.

RBS points out that sponsorship costs have been reduced by 25% for this year and 50% in 2010 while hospitality has been cut by 90%. RBS has made further cuts by slashing trackside advertising for 2010.

RBS noted that Williams “have been very supportive in finding ways to reduce costs over the remainder of our contract. THis early announcement allows Sir Frank and his team to plan ahead financially.”

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I’ve seen a fair bit of negativity around Williams lately in the media. I guess you can see why on one level, when you look at some of their sponsors; Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 70% owned by the British government, Baugar the Icelandic investment vehicle which was hammered by the credit crunch and Phillips, which recently announced thousands of redundancies.

They also burned through a fair bit of cash in the last few years trying to keep up with the front-runners. So on the face of it, they seem to be a target, a team which must be under threat.

But Williams is actually quite well placed to weather the F1 recession. Because of the deal it did with Bernie Ecclestone and its long history in the sport, it’s share of the commercial revenues is fairly high and as budgets come down, forcing the front running teams to learn how to do it with less, Williams has a head start in the area of running a tight ship. But they need to rediscover the art of building fast cars.

The team is quite dismayed by the impression being given at the moment that they are in trouble. I’m told that four of their partners have upgraded with sponsorship deals, with Phillips leading the way.

And 2010 sponsorship is already at 90% of the 2009 level, which is more than Renault can boast at the moment, following the news that title sponsor ING is pulling out. So if there is such as thing as an ‘at risk’ list in F1 at the moment, I think Williams is some way down it. What you have to admire is that the team refuse to accept playing in the second division, they still have top team ambitions even if they cannot afford to back them up with cash at the moment.

ING’s deal is a great example to companies of how you can use F1 make a huge difference to your worldwide brand recognition. It’s been a very well managed sponsorship, which is coming to an end because of the crisis in the banking sector.

What will be very interesting in the next few seasons will be what the teams tell the sponsors when they ask for a discount because the team’s budgets have been slashed by up to 50%. The value of a sponsorship is based, not on a team’s budget but on the return on investment they get from the media value of their on-screen time. That figure won’t change in the coming seasons, even if the budgets come down. So teams argue that the sponsorship fee should remain as high as ever. It’s a lot cheaper than advertising, basically.

This particular point is one of the main reasons why McLaren are always cool on talk of budget cuts, because they don’t want their blue-chip sponsors asking them for half their money back..!

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Williams picked up their first winners’ trophy in a while on Sunday, emerging victorious in the annual F1 mechanics’ football tournament at Milton Keynes. The event is organised by Grant Mundy, who is number one mechanic on David Coulthard’s car at Red Bull.

A full compliment of sixteen teams representing most of the grid, took part in the event. Grant’s RBR team has been the one to beat in recent times, but this year the final featured two great F1 institutions, Williams and McLaren in a head to head. The weather was atrocious by the time the final kicked off, so the game was a cagey 0-0 affair, which went to penalties.

The event is backed by the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust, of which I am a trustee along with Martin Brundle, Patrick Head, David Ryan of McLaren, Jo Ramirez, Prof Watkins and Norbert Haug among others.

Sir Jackie Stewart, the founder and chairman of the GPMCT came along to watch the action. The Trust is there to help current and former mechanics in times of trouble and hardship. It has helped a lot of people with issues like eyesight loss, hip replacements and other financial problems. The Trust also provides retraining advice for mechanics who have reached the end of their time ‘on the road’.

If you would like to find out more about the Trust’s work and even make a contribution, you can visit their website.

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