After their disastrous 2006 season many people (me included) said, that this year will be the make or break one for the Williams team. The danger of taking the Jordan route after Honda deserted them was definitelly real. They however managed to turn the things around. Toyota power replacing the Cosworth engine was an important step. Not that Cosworth V8 was a bad engine, but financial side of the deal with Toyota was definitelly much sweeter for Williams than buying engines off Cosworth… On top of that the team secured the title sponsor AT&T, without even giving them the most lucrative place on the car. That went to another major new sponsor – Lenovo. Mark Webber left and Alex Wurz was promoted from testing duties to a race seat alongside Nico Rosberg. Their winter testing form was promising, things did not look too bad for Williams ahead of 2007 season.
Nico Rosberg impressed right away in Australia. Starting from 12th he finished 7th and brought home the first points for the team. Alex Wurz was lucky to survive his long awaited return to racing. Innocently looking crash with Coulthard almost decapitated him …
Malaysia started waht was to become a pettern – excellent qualifying performances by Nico Rosberg. Sixth on the grid and great race until his retirement. Alex Wurz also started to show his pattern for the season – unable to master the flying lap he struggled in qualifying booking himself starting positions way down the grid. He however had a decent race and finished 9th, just outside the points. No points from Malaysia for the team, but lots of promise from Nico Rosberg.
Bahrain was not their best race of the season. They finished where they qualified – 10th for Rosberg and 11th for Wurz. But … they were pretty much on the same pace as both Renaults…
Spanish GP saw return to points for the team. Wurz crashed out on lap one, but Nico Rosberg climbed from 11th to 6th. Three more points for the team.
In Monaco Nico Rosberg qualified in excellent 5th but the race did not go his way, he was not exactly happy with 12th. However this time around Alex Wurz stepped in, 7th place and 2 more points for Williams.
Canadian GP saw return to the podium for Williams. And surprisingly it was Alex Wurz who made it. The chaotic race resulted in his big jump from 19th on the grid all the way to 3rd. Nico Rosberg was on the loosing side, and after another great qualifying (7th) he finished the race in 10th. Still another point scoring race for Williams. The US race did not go Williams way, Nico Rosberg retired few laps from the end when he had looked set for 6th place finish, Alex Wurz finished 10th.
In France Rosberg again qualified in the top ten, but did not make it to the points, finishing 9th on a rare day when Honda scored points. Silverstone and another rare occasion – Alex Wurz outqualified Rosberg (13th to 17th) . Rosberg did manage to make up some places, but 12th and 13th was the best the Williams drivers could do.
They were both matched pretty well in qualifying for the European GP, 11th Rosberg,12th Wurz. Rosberg however felt victim to the mayhem after the start and spun off in the heavy rain. Wurz however made the best out of all the chaos and finished 4th. He was even close to 3rd after Webber made a mistake in the final corners but 4th it was for him in the end.
Nico Rosberg qualified excellent 5th in Hungary and after penalty to Alonso he even moved up to the second row on the grid. Solid race meant 7th at the chequered flag and more points in the bag. In Turkey he repeated the 7th place after another great qualifying (8th). Alex Wurz did not have bad races, but in normal conditions, he could not get nowhere near Rosberg.
In Italy Rosberg again made it to the Q3 and qualified 8th. He did even better in the race and finished 3rd. This was 3rd point scoring race for him in the row, he became top 8th regular. Alex Wurz qualified and finished 13th, showing further how big gap there is between 2 Williams drivers. This was further confirmed in Belgium, where Rosberg qualified 5th and Wurz 15th. Rosberg went on to finish 6th, extending his point scoring streak to 4 races. Alex Wurz had mechanical problems and retired from the race.
Japan was the race to forget for Williams. Poor qualifying (16th, 18th) and 2 retirements. This was the first time in the season both Williams cars failed to finish. Then came another disapointing race in China. The cars qualified low – 15th and 19th on the grid and then the race itself did not go their way. This time Wurz finished ahead of Rosberg, but way down the field at 12th, Rosberg at 16th. Williams introduced Kazuki Nakajima into their car for the Friday practice in China. The reasons became clear after the race when Wurz announced his immediate retirement from Formula 1. Nakajima was to race in the final Grand Prix of the season in Brazil.
In Brazil all the eyes were on the title fight but there were few people wondering how Nakajima would perform. With 2008 vacancies in both Williams and Toyota a good performance could do him some good … He was visibly improving during the course of the weekend. Qualifying did not really work out well for him but excellent race saw him climbing from 19th to 10th of the grid. He sure made his mark. And the team mechanics will for sure remember him for long after he ran few of them over during his pit stop. Brazil was also the best race of the year for Nico Rosberg – 4th place ! Yes, Wurz did finish 3rd and 4th in chaotic Canada and Nurburgring races, but this 4th place was purely on merit. It however still can be taken away from him, pending the appeal from McLaren over the fuel temperature issues.
Williams and especially Rosberg were for me one the highlights of the 2007 season. The sheer fact that as a neat privateer operation they outscored their Toyota engine supplier works Toyota team by 20 points says something about the capabilties and efficiency of the Williams operation. They definitelly have bounced back. Both the drivers who finished the 2007 season with Williams have been confirmed for 2008 already.
Red Bull went through several changes before the 2007 season. The Ferrari engine supply contract was shifted to Toro Rosso to make room for Renault power. The vacancy created by departure (or dismissal) of Christian Klien was filled with Mark Webber. The car, RB03, was the first Red Bull car built by Adrian Newey.
Their start to the season was spectacular, by only because of the way David Coulthard crashed out the Australian GP almost taking head of Alex Wurz with him. The car did show some potential with Webber qualifying at 7th, but the race was a different story – lap down and 13th.
Next race, Malaysia – Webber qualified in 10th, another decent qualifying effort from him. He finished the race at the same position. Coulthard retired from the race, the break failure was the first of many relaibilty issues to follow. Webber had qualified well again in Bahrain, but none of the Red Bull finished the race.
Spanish GP worked out better for Coulthard. He finally outqualified his team mate and went on to score some points for respectable 5th place. Webber’s car only lasted for 7 laps… Monaco returned to the usual pattern. Webber’s great qualifying (6th) followed by retirement from the race. Coulthard did finish the race before his car broke down. He had to flag down the safety car to get a lift to the pits.
The chaos in Canada created chance for glory for the midfield teams. Red Bulls wasted it. Webber did not capitalize on 6th place on the grid and just missed out on points. Coulthard did not finish the race… Both the Red Bulls qualified well in the US (Webber 9th, Coulthard 11th). Coulthard crashed out after on lap one. Webber however returned Red Bull to the points again with 7th place finish.
Return to Europe did not improve Red Bull’s fortunes. Lowly qualifying followed by mediocre race, but at least both cars finally finished the race – no Red Bull DNF in France, bingo ! Both car had decent qualifying in Silverstone (11th, 12th) but the reliabilty struck again in the race. DNF for Webber. Coulthard did finish the race (11th). Not much to be proud off. Webber’s 2006 Williams nightmares must have been coming back…
But then came European GP. Excellent qualifying for Webber (6th), horrible for Coulthard (20th). But this time around Red Bulls were determined to make the most out of the rain induced chaos. Webber finished 3rd, returning Red Bull to the podium for the first time since Monaco 2006. Coulthard jumped from 20th on the grid to 5th. The best race for Red Bull in their short history and 10 more points in constructors table !
In Hungary both Red Bulls qualified in the top 10 (9th, 10th), but did not make up any places in the race and finished out of points (9th, 11th). The race in Turkey saw only one retirement, Mark Webber… Yet again Red Bull car pulled off the track. In Italy it was Coulthard’s turn … Poor qualifying meant he had to start from 20th. Things can easyly go wrong that deep down the grid, he crashed out on lap 1. Mark Webber had a decent race, finishing 9th.
Spa saw return to points for the team. Webber turned the usual good qualifying into 7th place finish. However David Coulthard retired from the race with hydraulics failure…
Japanese GP 2007 will haunt Mark Webber and Red Bull for long time. He was driving 2nd and seemingly in better shape than the race leader Lewis Hamilton. The freak accident and collision with Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) behind the safety car robbed Webber of at least a podium finish and possibly the first race win for him and the team. Coulthard had a good race and finished 4th.
Chinese GP saw the best qualifying performance from Red Bull. Coulthard 5th and Webber 7th place were a sign that the Red Bull package can be fast. Unfortunatelly they did not manage the wet dry race as well as some others and left China with only 1 point (Coulthard 8th). It was however one of few races that both Red Bull cars finished.
Red Bull went into the final race with a hope to jump ahead of Williams in the constructors table. They did not do it. They left Brazil with zero points after 9th place for Coulthard and yet another retirement for Webber.
The 2007 season confirmed that Mark Webber is excellent in qualifying. He was a regular in the Q3 and outqualified David Coulthard 15 : 2. The car has shown its potential and was very competitive, while it lasted. The car seemed to be on the limit most of the season and with brand new car it often results in some sort of failure. Both Mark Webber and David Coulthard have 7 DNFs to their names… The team has an experienced drivers line up that looks to remain untouched for 2008 (bar some Alonso related re-shuffle). They have one of the best F1 car designers in Adrian Newey. But to make the step forward they have to build car that is not only fast, but that lasts the race as well.