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Last Updated: Monday, 5 February 2007, 11:07 GMT
Williams seek way out of slump
By Sarah Holt
At Grove, Oxfordshire

Nico Rosberg in the new Williams-Toyota FW29
Williams have invested much hope in the new FW29 car
A decade ago, Williams were revelling as Jacques Villeneuve was crowned world champion and the independent team proudly claimed a ninth constructors' title.

Just 10 years on and once-dominant Williams are reflecting on their worst season since 1978, finishing eighth in the constructors' championship amid claims that their best days were behind them.

Former glories were off the agenda, however, at the unveiling of the new FW29 car and driver line-up - 2006 had been a wake-up call for Williams.

The team say they are now more determined than ever to return to the front - a place that it once seemed was theirs by right.

"It isn't our nature to weigh on our history," team co-owner Patrick Head told BBC Sport.

We cannot blame the drivers - we have to provide the equipment to give them a chance

Patrick Head
Williams director of engineering
"Who cares what we did 10 or 20 years ago? What we are interested in is what we can do now and what we can do in 2007."

Neither Head, his partner and team founder Frank Williams nor drivers Nico Rosberg and Alexander Wurz were willing to make predictions for the new season.

Rosberg and Wurz talked obliquely about "personal targets" while Head warned: "There is no point in sabre rattling."

In typically British fashion, Williams were keeping it low-key but, despite the caution, the team believe they have every reason to be optimistic.

First of all, Williams have wasted little time making significant changes to the structure of their technical team - for the second time in little more than a year.

Ed Wood became new chief designer, Jon Tomlinson the head of aerodynamics and Fernando Alonso's former race engineer, Rod Nelson, will join in March from Renault to become chief operations engineer.

"We decided very quickly at the end of 2006 that we had to make some structural changes," said Head.

Mark Webber pushes his broken Williams at Monaco in 2006
Williams were afflicted by poor reliability last season
"What I am most pleased and confident about is the fact that we can go forward under a good structure and with the right people."

The team are certain this redefinition of roles has already had a positive impact on the continued development of the FW29.

Last season, Williams were consistently undone by a lack of reliability - five times Rosberg and team-mate Mark Webber both failed to finish races.

Technical director Sam Michael says the target for 2007 must be "100% reliability".

"From a mechanical and aerodynamic point of view everything is definitely going in the right direction," Michael said.

"We feel much better than in 2006. If we get into trouble we have a plan and a programme in place throughout the year to make sure we can deliver performance from the car."

Williams' decision to switch from Cosworth to Toyota engines in a three-year deal also represents another new start for the team.

Alexander Wurz, test driver Narain Karthikeyan, Nico Rosberg, team owner Frank Williams, technical director Sam Michael and director of engineering Patrick Head pose with the new Williams-Toyota FW29
Williams believe the worst is over as they put 2006 behind them
Some within the Williams camp were cautious about suggesting the Toyota engine will automatically inject the team with extra pace and power.

That is not surprising considering the Cosworth was rated by some as the best engine of last year.

But Michael believes the deal has already inadvertently boosted the car's performance by giving his team the freedom to focus work on improvements elsewhere.

"Now we have engine stability with Toyota we have been able to refine other areas," said Michael.

"For example, because we started talks with Toyota early we were able to start designing our new gearbox last February which makes a lot of difference."

If Head and Michael have done enough to ensure the team's ambitions are not undone again by reliability issues, their drivers will now be expected to deliver.

Head absolved rookie Rosberg, who finished 17th in the drivers' race, and 14th-placed Webber, from responsibility for a dismal 2006.

Williams drivers Alexander Wurz and Nico Rosberg
Both Wurz and Rosberg have points to prove with Williams in 2007
"We cannot blame the drivers," he said. "We have to provide the equipment to give them a chance."

Webber has since left Williams under a cloud of frustration to join Red Bull and Rosberg is now partnered by former McLaren test driver Wurz.

While the partnership does not look likely to strike fear into many of their title rivals, both drivers have points to prove in 2007 - and are determined to do so.

Rosberg, son of Williams' 1982 world champion Keke, is ambitious and showed his potential last year by finishing seventh on his debut in Bahrain.

The 21-year-old is fuelled by a desire to lead the next generation of F1 stars, which includes his opponents from teenage racing days, Britain's Lewis Hamilton, now at McLaren, and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica.

"There is a lot of personal pride and rivalry around the young drivers," said Rosberg. "We all want to be the best.

There is a certain amount of pressure on me, but that only raises my expectations

Alexander Wurz
"I am a very competitive person and so my targets are very high. I didn't satisfy them last season. "But you take more out of the bad years and I intend to push hard and turn it around this season."

Wurz, who is praised by the team for his technical knowledge and sense of humour, has been given his first race drive since leaving Benetton in 2000 and the 32-year-old is determined to make the most of his chance after six years as a test driver.

"There is a certain amount of pressure on me, but that only raises my expectations," said Wurz.

"Sometimes you only get once chance and I intend to pay the team back with points and results. There is a feeling at Williams that electrifies me and I feel very proud."

Before the launch at Williams HQ in Oxfordshire, the assembled guests watched a presentation on the pure racing ethos that has driven Williams on, despite the gap in resources that now exists between them and their manufacturer-funded rivals.

If Williams are to begin building to future glory days in 2007 then it is that unique team spirit that just might get them there.



SEE ALSO
'Ashamed' Williams plot recovery
02 Feb 07 |  Formula One
F1 review 2006
22 Oct 06 |  Formula One


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