Williams endured a few tough years after its last win, back at the tail end of 2004, but in 2009 it returned to the fight at the front of the field. Having built on the lessons it learned last season, and keen to finally deliver hard results, the team has high hopes that its new FW32 will get it back onto the top step of the podium.
And, although the Cosworth-powered machine did not set any headline-grabbing times in testing at Valencia last week, technical director Sam Michael told AUTOSPORT that he remains bullish about the team's prospects.
Q. The headline times for Williams weren't that spectacular from the first Valencia test. What is your verdict on what happened?
Sam Michael: Most of the test that we had set out for us was really getting used to the Cosworth engine, running our new gearbox and all of the hydraulic systems and fuel systems. Everything is brand new, so it was all about making sure we got through that all right. To do 1,300km without any major problems was good and we're looking forward to Jerez. On the installation, you are always going to have small things on the car and we've got solutions for them for this week's Jerez test.
There are a few areas on the gearbox and engine systems where we need to change some designs, but they are nothing major. We'll have all of those bits on the car at Jerez – they are reliability rather than performance items. It was much better than I thought it could have possibly been, because sometimes with so many changes it can get away from you.
Q. Do you think we will get a clear indication of performance from this week's Jerez test?
SM: There was a sort of order starting to form in Valencia in terms of who looked quick, and Ferrari definitely looked the strongest. But Valencia is a really specific track and Jerez is much more representative of the tracks that we go to. It has more high-speed corners, so it's a much harder track on the aerodynamics of the car and also it will be interesting to see what happens with the tires. There were a lot of people changing setup – weight distribution, aero balance, cambers – to get the best out of the tires and everyone is waiting to see if that trend continues in Jerez.
The front tire was made narrower, but the rear casing was also changed. So, because of that, you are starting from nothing, which makes the job very interesting. In terms of the pecking order, it'll take until the last test or even into the season to find that out, because people will bring upgrades. You won't see the proper order until it settles down.
Q. The objective for Williams this year is to get into the mix for race wins. With the first test you've had is that still an achievable target?
SM: Absolutely. Our target is to be right up there, but it will be at the first race that we see how close we are to that.
Q. Do you think we will we see more attention-grabbing headline times from Williams at Jerez, as people are quick to jump to conclusions based on time sheets?
SM: That's not really our focus at the moment. Our focus is to concentrate on race setup and make sure that everything works, particularly the car balance but also tire wear and brakes and fuel consumption. We are working hard on that at the moment. As things develop, it will all come out in the wash.
Q. Are you happy with your first impressions of your new drivers?
SM: The first couple of days with Rubens [Barrichello] were really good. He's got a really great way of working, which is particularly valuable when you are making changes on the tires in particular – when you need someone who is very open-minded and lateral-thinking.
He did a very good job on getting the setup right after a couple of days work and then, when Nico [Rosberg] jumped in, he did a very solid job. He didn't make any mistakes and was very fit in the car, as he's worked a lot on that over the winter. I'm happy with both drivers.
Q. Will the car be much the same at Jerez or will we see anything different?
SM: The next couple of tests will be much the same and then we will bring our first race package to the Barcelona test. You'll start to see the form there. There will be some bits that go straight to Bahrain, but most will get to Barcelona.