While all eyes are focused on Ferrari as they begin their re-organization of the team after the departure of Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn, Williams are quietly undergoing a revolution too. With new financial backing from AT&T, the communications giant, and new employees pouring into the factory, the possibility of a Williams revival presents itself.
That is the thing with Williams: you just cannot write them off. They have proved too often in the past that they can compete at the highest level and their dissatisfaction with their results this year, plainly spoken of by Sir Frank and Patrick Head, has increased their determination to make a come-back. Add everything together and you have a team with enormous potential: good finance, fresh blood, Toyota engines and long experience.
The traditional Williams weaknesses remain, however, the most obvious one being their attitude to drivers. Sir Frank has always regarded the driver as just another component to be slotted in and out at will and his replacement of Mark Webber with the much cheaper Alex Wurz is just another example of this. Had the AT&T deal come along sooner, the team might have retained Webber; as it is, their driver line-up for next year looks a little frail.
Yes, Nico Rosberg seems quick, honest and professional. But he is still young and prone to occasional mistakes. So the experience will have to be supplied by Alex and he’s had plenty of it. He is competent and sometimes quick but somehow that extra spark of determination is lacking. What the team needs for next year is a star and I don’t think they have one.
Perhaps the most important part of the equation is the Toyota engine deal. As I have said previously, this may be the first step in a process that results in a Toyota/Williams merger in the future. Toyota is hungry for success and isn’t getting it; Williams miss past glories and want them back. If the two teams can combine their talents, they might both achieve their ambitions.
Looking into my crystal ball, I see 2007 as an important year for Williams. Never mind the championships, constructor’s or driver’s; their aim must be to beat the Toyotas. If they can do that, their future is assured.