Williams haven’t really launched their 2010 challenger this year, instead opting to roll the new machine out of the garage for the first group test in Valencia and in true no-nonsense style that is synonymous with the Grove-based outfit, got on with driving it. Rookie pilot Nico Hulkenberg first shook the car down at Silverstone a couple of days earlier, where according to Autosport, the FW32 was only fired up for the first time just hours before.
The car is actually quite different to its predecessor, and although it sports the familiar traits that many other teams are adopting – the higher nose, smaller sidepods, longer wheelbase – the car is apparently a clean-sheet design, and therefore quite a departure from the FW31 that we saw in 2009.
Whenever a car is said to be a clean-sheet design, I always worry. I think this stems from when Ferrari gave Michael Schumacher a radical new car for his maiden season with the team back in 1996. I can remember Schumacher, while testing the 1995 car, saying that he was surprised it didn’t win the championship. Of course, the clean-sheet F310 that followed was a disaster.
The livery hasn’t changed at the moment, still covered in the dark blue and white that makes Williams’s cars look simply beautiful. Also of note is the inclusion of sponsor’s logos, the team having not been dragged through the mud in 2009 and seemingly coping well with the financial crisis that has hit so many other competitors.
The only possible cat among the pigeons at Williams is an all-new driver line-up for the squad. Although admittedly, Rubens Barrichello will surely be an asset to the team, bringing with him many years of experience. Barrichello may be the most experienced driver on the grid (in terms of race starts), but with the return of his old adversary Michael Schumacher, is no longer the oldest.
Partnering Rubens is a young talent who is hotly tipped for great success in Formula One. Nico Hulkenberg joined Williams last year in a testing role, and following the departure of fellow countryman Nico Rosberg to Mercedes, and also the departure of Toyota meaning a farewell to Kazuki Nakajima, the German pilot has been given a promotion. And the timing works well, as Hulkenberg took the GP2 title in 2009, winning with a comfortable margin of 25 points over Vitaly Petrov, who himself is driving a Formula One car this year with Renault.
The driver pairing seems strong then, with the old master teaching the young pretender how it’s all done. The car has been running well in pre-season testing and a move back to Cosworth for the engine supply brings memories of former glories for the team.
Williams’s car designation system refers to the initials of the team’s founder and co-owner, Frank Williams, and an incremental numbering system that for 2010, has reached 32. Hence, FW32.