The Williams Renault FW35 will be launched at the second test in Barcelona on 19 February, the team announced this morning. Williams are thus far the only team to delay the launch of their car until after the first test in Jerez.
With only 12 days of pre-season testing available, it makes sense to get the new car on the track right from the start. Williams are not doing that, which is surprising, but it means there is a good reason to delay the introduction of the new car. It is possible that the team could be working on technical innovations that require more time in the factory. It is also plausible that the team has come up with a technical solution that will provide a significant advantage, and they do not want the other teams to see it early and have time to copy it onto their cars.
The latter strategy was adopted by Red Bull in 2011 when they introduced their revolutionary exhaust system very late in testing. The exhaust turned out to be the team’s great strength in that season, and they strolled to the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.
Another possible explanation for the delay is the need to do comparative testing using a known chassis. The team has a great deal of data relating to the performance of last year’s FW34, which makes it a good test bed for new parts. The team has confirmed that it will be running a number of development parts on the car in Jerez, in anticipation of the launch of the FW35.
For the first test in Jerez, starting on 5 February, Williams will run the FW34 but using the 2013 livery. The FW35 will be presented at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona early in the morning of 19 February before taking to the track the same day.
The Williams team has announced today that Pastor Maldonado will be partnered by Valtteri Bottas in 2013. It has long been speculated that Bottas would replace Bruno Senna, and today’s announcement confirms that Senna is without a drive for next season.
Bottas has been the Williams team’s test driver since 2010, and in 2012 participated in 15 Friday practice sessions as part of his development. The 23 year old Finnish driver has been successful in Formula Renault, Formula 3 and GP3 on his path to Formula One, winning the GP3 title at his first attempt in 2011. In 2012, Bottas focused solely on his role as Williams test driver, and after impressing the team during Friday practice has been promoted to a full-time race seat from 2013.
Bruno Senna is now without a drive for 2013. His Formula One career has been unsettled, with stints at three different teams – HRT, Renault (now Lotus) and Williams. Unfortunately for the nephew of Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna, he has been comfortably out-driven by team-mate Maldonado in 2012, which has surely contributed to his exit from Williams.
Senna’s options for remaining in Formula One are dwindling as teams continue to announce their driver line-ups. Seats are still available at Lotus (where Romain Grosjean is expected to be retained), Force India, Caterham, Marussia and HRT, although HRT are currently not expected to make the 2013 grid. Senna does have the advantage of bringing sponsorship to his team, which will make him an attractive option for the teams with smaller budgets. Speculation has linked him with a possible move to Caterham, although nothing has yet been confirmed.
Williams have retained Pastor Maldonado for a third season. The Venezuelan had a very mixed 2012, with a dominant win in Spain and the unfortunate record of being the season’s most penalised driver. While he has been accused of driving recklessly, there is no doubting Maldonado’s speed, and if he can tame his aggression he could turn into a very successful driver.
Bottas and Maldonado will be on track as team-mates for the first time when pre-season testing begins on 5 February 2013.
Williams have announced their driver schedule for the two tests in Barcelona. The second pre-season test runs from 21 to 24 February and the third test takes place from 1-4 March.
Williams test and reserve driver Valtteri Bottas will haves his first taste of the FW34 on Wednesday. The rest of the testing will be completed by regular race drivers Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado.
The Williams schedule is as follows:
Pre-season test 2 – Barcelona – 21-24 February 2012:
Tuesday 21 February: Bruno Senna
Wednesday 22 February: Valtteri Bottas
Thursday 23 February: Pastor Maldonado
Friday 24 February: Pastor Maldonado
Pre-season test 3 – Barcelona – 1-4 March 2012:
Thursday 1 March: Pastor Maldonado
Friday 2 March: Bruno Senna / Pastor Maldonado
Saturday 3 March: Pastor Maldonado / Bruno Senna
Sunday 4 March: Bruno Senna