Team Review – Williams/Patrick Head

2000 CHAMPIONSHIP: 3rd, 36pts (Ralf Schumacher 24pts, Jenson Button 12pts)

Team Review – Williams/Patrick Head

3rd (Schumacher, three times) 3rd (Button at Spa)
Ralf getting BMW's first podium at Melbourne, Jenson's qualifying performance in Belgium.
Ralf's Monaco crash while heading for second, and the double retirement at Indianapolis.
The BMWWilliams package can only get better, but Michelin is the key to the team's performance next year. The arrival of Juan Pablo Montoya will be fascinating to watch.

After two difficult years with customer Supertec power everyone assumed that Williams would struggle through a transition year with BMW, but the engine manufacturer came in at a higher level of performance and reliability than anyone expected. A strong chassis package and two eager young drivers ensured that Williams was the main challenger to the Ferrari/McLaren stranglehold, although actually closing the gap is another story. The decision to hire Jenson Button was inspired, and he more than repaid the faith placed in him by Frank Williams and Patrick Head. Towards the end of the season he really gave Ralf Schumacher a hard time. The ongoing saga of whether Button was going to stay was finally resolved when the team confirmed that Juan Pablo Montoya would be joining, while the Englishman is out on loan for a couple of years. The team finds itself with an embarrassment of riches in terms of available driver talent, and it seems that the only way is up. Adam Cooper spoke to Technical Director Patrick Head.

"The answer is obviously yes, although I don't tend to pre-judge the season too much. People said you were giving such a gloomy picture, were you trying to mislead everybody? I don't think we gave a gloomy picture, we just said it was going to be a very tough, hard year, and we didn't expect to be particularly reliable early on. But one's got to remember that a lot of these comments were made in the light of December/January testing, and we were blowing up engines very regularly. And the difficulty was that BMW weren't blowing up engines on the dyno, they were only failing in the car. It took us a little bit of time to find out exactly why, and like everything, after you find out why everybody kicks themselves and realises how much time we've wasted in December and January. So we weren't deliberately giving a gloomy picture, because at that time it did look a bit flaky. But once the season started we got an incredible bonus at the first race - first to finish and secondly to finish on the podium. OK, that was a slightly unrealistic representation of our capability at that time, but it at least gave a warning that our capability might be better than either we expected or anybody else expected."

"It takes an open mind really to understand that everybody works in different ways. You're working with different personalities, and very often you're working with people who haven't had the experience of the 10 years that we had with Renault. Therefore one's got to understand that when they come out and say something that we might think rather naïve, instead of jumping down their throats and thinking that they're very wet behind the ears, one has to be very positive. I think we've worked through a period with BMW getting to know us, and us getting to know them. I don't think it was the easiest time for BMW, and that caused them a lot of difficulties. You've got to remember that the foundation of this engine was built by Paul Rosche in the environment that he had generated at BMW Motorsport. The building that they are in now and the dyno installation were all really his baby, and he was a foundation stone in their decision to come back into F1. Then obviously fairly understandably there had to be a new regime coming in. It was a difficult transfer and a difficult transfer for the people within BMW Motorsport who'd all looked towards Paul, in terms of everything comes from Paul Rosche. Then all of a sudden somebody else comes in, and they're saying do we look to Paul, do we look to these people? It took them quite a bit of time to adjust to it, and we had to stand back at a distance while this all sorted itself out. It wasn't the easiest time for them, and it certainly made it somewhat difficult for us as well."

"Obviously they did. Paul said right from the word go that he thought they'd get the engine down to 115kgs. I think they got within 3kgs of that. But he was determined to make sure that it was structurally sound, that it was going to do its job adequately in terms of it playing its part as part of the chassis, and to be a sound engine performance wise. Everyone thinks, including ourselves, that for their first year in F1 they've done a pretty remarkable job."

"We've certainly made a lot of progress with it. When you say the chassis, it obviously encompasses all aspects of the car. I think last year's chassis was obviously a perfectly good chassis, and a lot of this year's car was based on last year's chassis. It think the aerodynamic side has made quite a big improvement, not just in terms of its absolute figures, but in terms of its driveability."

"I think they're pretty well blooded, yes..."

"I was very much of the view that we would be running Bruno Junqueira in the second car. I was down in Brazil at a beach house when Frank rang through and said 'I'd like to give this chap Jenson Button a run.' I said, 'Come on Frank, we really ought to just put mileage under Bruno. We've got far bigger problems than who the second driver is going to be, technically.' But Frank said: 'I'd like to give him a run, and if it doesn't look as if he's a possible then OK, no problem, I'll back down on it.' I wasn't going to say no, so we gave him a run at Jerez, and it went on from there."

"Very much so. Jenson has been an absolute pleasure to have in the team, and to see somebody new come in and handle himself on the track and off the track in the way he has done has been a great pleasure for everybody involved - certainly for myself, but also for the guys in the team, and on the BMW side. Ralf is obviously the established driver in the team. He's got twice as many points as Jenson, so he certainly held his end up and put in some remarkable drives. Equally, like every team, we've been in a position to get very good points. We were lying second at Monaco when Ralf made a bit of a mistake when Hakkinen came out of the pits - he went up to Ste Devote further over to the left than he would have been normally. It's a driver error, he got on the marbles and hit the barrier. He was not in a fully justified second place, but he would have finished there had he kept going. It took one or two people to go out for him to be there, but he was in second place. At Indianapolis, almost on merit, apart from Mika's engine failure, he was lying second, and we had an air leak on the engine pneumatics that caused us to go out. And Jenson was right behind Ralf and doing quicker lap times than Ralf at Indianapolis, and he would certainly have finished third or maybe second. Just like every single team, particularly Jordan, who have qualified on the front row a couple of times, we've had a few races where it could have looked a lot better than it actually has. But that's the story of what could have been. We've got to turn that into reality next year."

"I think Jenson carries his talent and his ability very easily out of the car. They've got to think competitively towards each other, but they got on perfectly well and had a good respect for each other's ability. I'd say that's quite a healthy thing to have in the team. Juan Pablo is a little bit different... he's a Spanish extraction Colombian. I certainly hope that Ralf and Juan Pablo develop an effective working relationship next year, but I get the impression in terms of the type of character and personality they are that they won't get on as well as Jenson and Ralf have. But Frank is not very tolerant about drivers allowing their personalities and their likes and dislikes of other people to affect things. His view is that on the track if one guy is quicker than the other guy, then the other guy's got to deal with it either by working out how to make himself quicker or just by saying, OK, he's quicker than me. I would say Frank is not too bothered whether the drivers want to put an arm round each other and have a cosy chat!"

"We're very happy with the work that's been done, and we've covered well over 10,000 miles of testing so far. As expected Bridgestone made quite a lot of progress in the last few races. I'm sure they've had this progress available and I'm sure it's been part of their testing programme with McLaren and Ferrari for quite some time. But as we've seen on the tyres that were made available to us for Indianapolis, Suzuka and Malaysia they've certainly raised the performance level, and I'm certain in 2001 will raise it even further. For Michelin it's going to be quite a steep wall that they are going to have to climb to get on to the same sort of level. But Michelin are a very capable company and have a very successful record in racing and rallying, and I'm sure they have all the capabilities to produce a competitive tyre. Whether there is some damage that we might have done to our potential 2001 programme... I think inevitably you'd have to say there is going to be more chance that Michelin will get the tyre compound for a particular track and a particular condition wrong more times next year than Bridgestone will. So you might have the view that we have slightly hindered ourselves for next year, but we had to take the view for the long term."

"If one can be handed a tyre advantage by one's tyre company, then great. If Michelin can do that for us, we'll grab it with both hands."

"I certainly haven't lost any base enthusiasm for racing. As always, the engineering side of it is more interesting to me than the actual motor racing itself, but ultimately the final measure of how you are doing is on the race track during the races. I certainly can advise and assist in areas of the car design and in areas of the development and operation of the car. But we have a new chief designer, beyond Adrian. I would say that when Adrian was with us he looked after the major aspects of the car layout and the aerodynamics, in that the two really go together, and I looked after the gearbox, the uprights, hubs, bearings, all of the mechanical engineering systems. All the stuff that's important to being there at end of the race. I'm less the initiator than I was, but I've still got a lot of experience, and can assist the next generation, hopefully in not too an onerous and restrictive a manner. And there will come a time when you'll suddenly think, 'Bloody hell, I haven't seen Patrick for six months.' The passing of Patrick Head will be as significant as that in terms of when I stop coming to the races! I'll probably still be back at the factory doing various things - life goes on."

"It's always more interesting when you think you're on an upward slope. But equally, as Jordan found, that slope doesn't necessarily stay going upwards. The gap between the front two teams and the next lot is huge, not just in their ability to design a car, but in their ability to develop it while they're racing it, to design next year's car and understand what their problems are and sort them out, and to make sure that their car is properly attuned to every different circuit that you go to, with all their different characteristics. The gap is big. But Williams has been a big front-running team. That doesn't mean that if we reproduce ourselves identically as we were in 1996 and '97 that we'd be running at the front, because it's a moving show. But we'll be back."

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