The race might have yielded a 'bittersweet' ending with Pastor Maldonado's luckless retirement barely a handful of laps from home, but last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix nonetheless confirmed that Williams is 'heading in the right direction' in F1 2011, asserts outgoing technical director Sam Michael.
Courtesy of Rubens Barrichello, Williams tallied its first points of a thus far desperately disappointing campaign in the glamorous Principality on Sunday, with the tenacious Brazilian veteran ultimately taking the chequered flag ninth.
Whilst that was undeniably cause for cheer inside the Grove-based outfit, in truth, it masked what could have – and should have – been an even more impressive outcome, as Barrichello could arguably have laid claim to a top five spot but for finding himself compromised by the first safety car period that put him a lap down.
Even more significantly, after shining weekend-long and securing a second consecutive top ten qualifying berth in 2011 around a circuit that he loves, young rookie team-mate Pastor Maldonado had been on-course for sixth place and the first points of his own F1 career until he was unceremoniously removed from the reckoning by an over-ambitious Lewis Hamilton in what Michael diplomatically describes as 'a racing incident' almost in sight of the chequered flag. Still, progress is progress, muses the softly-spoken Australian.
“It was great for everyone involved to get some points on the board,” he reflected, “and we must thank Rubens for bringing home our first of the season. It was, however, somewhat bittersweet because Pastor was looking good for a big points haul. His performance was nothing short of excellent. His two engineers Xevi Pujolar and Andrew Murdoch also did a great job. Their efforts really helped us make the right tyre and strategy decisions, and Pastor pushed hard in the race when it mattered.
“Rubens, as well, was perhaps looking good for an even better result, but the first safety car came out and damaged his position significantly; you can see this from the number of cars that were running behind him that ended up in the top five after the safety car. Monaco is normally a lottery in that respect, so to come away with some points is a good result for the whole team.
“The FW33 was performing well. In the race, I was particularly impressed at the speed we had on the same age of tyres as the top cars. The wear life wasn't as strong as we had predicted from practice, but it was still good. It would have been marginal for a one-stop without the safety cars, so it looks like a two stop strategy was optimum.”
With the hitherto underperforming Cosworth-powered FW33 proving to be both respectably fast and reliable throughout, Michael acknowledged that now is the time to build upon the step forward ostensibly taken in Monte Carlo – beginning with next weekend's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, where he expects the DRS (Drag Reduction System) to play a particularly effective role.
“I think the way the FIA are controlling the DRS is perfect,” the 40-year-old opined. “[FIA race director] Charlie Whiting is evaluating it race-by-race and adjusting it to suit each circuit. Every circuit has been different this year, but with the improvements we have coming to the FW33 next weekend, we should be competitive. For sure there is still a lot of work to do, but we are heading in the right direction.”