Not since 1997 have Williams won a drivers championship, the last race victory happening 2004 courtesy of Juan Pablo Montoya. In the time that has passed, Williams have declined in performance, failing to keep up with the big-budgeted monsters of Ferrari and McLaren. However, innovation, determination and passion keep Williams at the race tracks, and while 2008 wasn’t exactly a successful campaign, there were positives to take away from the year’s racing.
It all started so well with Nico Rosberg taking a podium in Melbourne with an encouraging third place. From seventh on the grid the Williams FW30 looked pretty nimble without traction control and in the maturing hands of Rosberg, pundits up and down the pitlane took note of the new car’s performance. The following weekend though, the team had perhaps shown the truer pace, with Rosberg barely getting into Q2 and team mate Kazuki Nakajima failing to get out of Q1, qualifying in sixteenth before having a ten grid-slot penalty applied, sending the rookie to the very back.
Bahrain went better though, and Nico managed eighth on the grid and race, while Kazuki continued to lap a few tenths back. Despite claiming one point from the race and one fourteenth place, the reliability of the FW30 had been flawless, with six finishes from the six individual performances. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last and at Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix, Rosberg chalked up the team’s first non-finish of the campaign. The consolation prize though was a confidence-boosting seventh for Nakajima.
In Turkey, the roles were reversed and Nakajima suffered a non-finish while Rosberg collected a point for the team. And in Monaco, once again the fortunes of the team mates swapped as Rosberg had a fairly sizeable impact with the barrier during a saturated grand prix. To his credit though, Nakjaima raced well in the tricky conditions and the Japanese driver brought his car home in seventh, repeating his efforts from Spain the month previous.
So the start of the season for Williams was very up and down. The car, it seemed, had pace and could finish in the lower end of the points fairly regularly. Nico Rosberg was driving quite well and Kazuki Nakajima was surprisingly mature at times when it really mattered. Everything looked good for a decent year of racing from the privateer squad – morale was high in the Grove camp.
Williams had scored 15 points from the first six races, visited the podium once and got one car through to Q3 on three times. It wasn’t to last though, and soon it became clear that the difference between the well funded Toyota team and their customer became all too clear. In 2007, Williams embarrassed their engine supplier by finishing ahead of them in the championship, 33 points to a measly 13. By the end of the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix, Williams had 15 to Toyota’s 10. It was about to unravel itself though…
In Canada, Rosberg put in his best qualifying effort of all season, landing fifth place on the grid for the race. His race started well and Rosberg was looking pretty mighty. With desperately unfortunate luck though, the German pilot followed Lewis Hamilton into the pile-up that ensued at the end of the pitlane during a safety car period. The incident ended Hamilton’s and innocent victim Kimi Raikkonen’s race, but Rosberg was able to keep his car running, although with a damaged front wing. An extra stop the following lap to have the damaged part replaced, Rosberg was no longer in any kind contention for points, and team mate Nakajima suffered a similar fate after clouting the back of a Honda.
The French Grand Prix was a disaster, the British event better. In fact, the British Grand Prix went so well for the team it was their second best result of the year, their third overall. And eighth and ninth place finish signalled a slight improvement, but the weather almost certainly played a small part in this result.
Rosberg managed a point around the Valencia port, and despite showing great speed in the tricky conditions experienced at Monaco and Silverstone, the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix were raced with little result. Rosberg equalled his best qualifying effort of the campaign in Italy, but could only claim fourteenth by the time the chequered flag fell.
In Singapore, Rosberg demonstrated his maturity and for the final time this season the German driver stepped onto the podium. This time Rosberg was celebrating second, and Nakajima with an eighth place finish. Not only was it a good result on the Sunday, but for the first time this year, both drivers had managed to get into the third qualifying phase.
After that great result though, Williams just blended into the background, Rosberg taking 11th, 15th and 12th in the final trio of races, Nakajima fairing no better with 15th, 12th, 17th. By the end of the final race, Williams had collected just 10 points since the Monaco race.
A total haul of 26 points for the team puts them down on their 2007 tally (33), but the improved competitiveness of the field meant it was harder for all the teams to score massive points. Ferrari won the constructors title again, but they were 32 points down on their ’07 total.
Rosberg’s two podiums were great, and to see Nakajima develop as the season progressed was fantastic to witness. On the whole, both drivers did well this year, and at times you could see the frustration of having a car simply not capable of challenging those ahead of them. Part of the problem for the FW30 was the fact that Williams have concentrated their efforts on 2009 very early, thus slowing development of the ’08 car.
Having both drivers continue to next season though will be good for Frank and Patrick’s squad, and they really are ahead on developing many vital parts for next season, then hopefully they will be able to maintain development throughout the season and enjoy podium visits on a more regular basis.
| Kazuki Nakajima
|Australian Grand Prix Albert Park||(7) 3||(14) 6|
|Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang||(16) 14||(22) 17|
|Bahrain Grand Prix Sakhir||(8) 8||(16) 14|
|Spanish Grand Prix Circuit de Catalunya||(15) RET||(12) 7|
|Turkish Grand Prix Istanbul Park||(11) 8||(16) RET|
|Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlo||(6) RET||(14) 7|
|Canadian Grand Prix Circuit Gilles Villeneuve||(5) 10||(12) RET|
|French Grand Prix Magny Cours||(20) 16||(15) 15|
|British Grand Prix Silverstone||(18) 9||(15) 8|
|German Grand Prix Hockenheim||(13) 10||(16) 14|
|Hungarian Grand Prix Hungaroring||(14) 14||(16) 13|
|European Grand Prix Valencia||(9) 8||(11) 15|
|Belgian Grand Prix Spa Francorchamps||(15) 12||(19) 14|
|Italian Grand Prix Monza||(5) 14||(18) 12|
|Singapore Grand Prix Singapore||(8) 2||(10) 8|
|Japanese Grand Prix Fuji Speedway||(15) 11||(14) 15|
|Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai||(14) 15||(17) 12|
|Brazilian Grand Prix Interlagos||(18) 12||(16) 17|
|Driver’s Championship Position||(17pts) 13th||(9pts) 15th|
|Constructor’s Championship Position||(26pts) 8th|