In the wake of the recently-confirmed shake-up of the technical hierarchy at Williams F1, Rubens Barrichello has admitted that what the team is in desperate need of right now is some 'focus' and 'a leader' – and he has vowed to do his utmost to help in the acquisition of one.
It was announced just under a fortnight ago that Williams technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson are to depart the scene come the end of the F1 2011 campaign – with, somewhat controversially, former 'Spygate' protagonist Mike Coughlan coming on-board as chief engineer [see separate story – click here
The softly-spoken and well-regarded Michael has been painted as a 'scapegoat' in the whole upheaval even by team insiders, and Barrichello has confessed that he will be sad to see his good friend go, arguing that it is not that the Australian was the wrong man for the job – just that he was overburdened with having to carry out too many tasks all at once, an affliction that he claims is all-too-much in evidence inside the Grove-based outfit [see separate story – click here
It has been six full seasons now since Williams last tasted victory champagne – and Singapore, 2008 marked the Oxfordshire concern's most recent podium. Despite having hinted that he will be prepared to walk away should that situation not begin to turn around, the Brazilian veteran has pledged to pitch in and do everything he can in an effort to stem the gradual but indisputable tide of decline and get his employers back on-track.
“I can recruit new people, looking in other teams,” mused the most experienced driver in F1 history, speaking to Agencia Estado
. “I can do that. I am one of the ten faces who has been in the paddock the longest. I know some people and am talking to them.
“There is still something missing. Sam will give 100 per cent to the end of the year, but we need a leader. At the moment, it's like we have too many but not enough. Many people are trying to say something, but that's not the point in the end. They need to focus on what they are doing.”
Williams ostensibly made a subtle improvement in qualifying form in last weekend's Turkish Grand Prix, but whilst Barrichello and rookie team-mate Pastor Maldonado lined up respectively eleventh and 14th on the grid in Istanbul, a lack of race pace and significant tyre degradation the following day resulted in just 15th and 17th positions at the chequered flag – meaning the team's quest for its first points of F1 2011 continues.
“We struggled quite a bit with straight-line speed, and at various points during the race I couldn't use KERS,” reported Barrichello. “That made it difficult to defend, and I also struggled with it locking-up under braking. We had a better qualifying session, but we need to make some changes to the car to ensure the rear tyres can get to the end of the race in good shape. It is up to us to improve our pace.”
“It was difficult from the beginning of the race,” echoed Maldonado. “It was difficult to maintain a consistent pace in the first two stints because I had a lot of oversteer. We had much better pace towards the end of the race when on 'Primes', but I made a mistake by speeding in the pit-lane, which cost me a drive-through penalty.”
Michael, meanwhile, acknowledged that the Cosworth-powered FW33 is still lacking in outright speed in relation to its immediate rivals, but is hopeful that updates – including a new exhaust-blown diffuser – will prove to be the catalyst for a discernible step forward in the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix.
“I think our performance in Istanbul was better than at previous races, particularly in qualifying,” the 40-year-old underlined. “We brought both cars to the finish again, but we just weren't fast enough [in the race]. In the first stint, we showed some decent pace against a number of cars that finished in the points. However, from the second stint onwards, we couldn't match the lap times of those same cars.
“Small changes in the car balance can have a large effect on tyre degradation and wear, and the degradation of the tyres was higher than we have seen previously – and definitely worse than we expected to see in Turkey. We thought [three stops] would work out faster than doing the extra stop required for a four-stop strategy. However, we are harder on our rear tyres than some of the other teams, so in hindsight, we may have been better to follow the likes of Renault and gone with a four-stop strategy.
“There were also some issues with cooling the KERS during the race, and although we had some new parts, we only raced the new front wing and rear brake ducts. We had some separation issues with the new rear wing we had developed, so we decided not to race it. It dramatically improved our straight-line speed and is quite a big step – worth about three tenths in qualifying – but it was too risky to take into the race weekend, so we are investigating that and hope to have it fixed to get it on the car for Barcelona.
“We are in that area of the midfield where a couple of tenths can make a big difference to finishing position, so we need to keep pushing to improve even further. Over the next three or four races, we've got a lot of upgrades coming – [including] a new front wing for Monaco – and our focus is now on the upgrades that we have for Barcelona that will give the car a decent boost in performance.”