11 July 2011
Williams likely to retain drivers for 2012
Fallen F1 giant Williams looks set to retain its current line-up when renewing its partnership with Renault next season.
Despite team owner Sir Frank Williams suggesting that it may take some time to formalise his line-up for next season's F1 world championship, it would appear that the current pairing of Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado could remain at Grove.
Although not asked to comment on F1 rookie Maldonado's performances this season, Williams admitted that, while Barrichello provided a vital source of experience, it was unlikely that a decision on his position would be made in the short term. The Brazilian joined Williams two years ago but, after a promising 2010 campaign in which he finished in a share of tenth place overall, 2011 has proved to be something of a struggle for the entire team. A best of ninth, achieved in successive races in Monaco and Canada, leaves 39-year old Barrichello 16th in the drivers standings, while Williams languishes in ninth spot - and last of the established teams - in the constructors' table.
"I can't say anything about our drivers until we have made up our own minds," Williams told a media conference over the Silverstone weekend, "But Rubens is very highly regarded - truly a treasure trove of information and experience and something that will not be thrown away lightly. I think he has [done all that was expected of him this season] and I think, if we had given him a better car, he would have been very close to the front, if not at the front. He is a superb driver."
Just 48 hours after Williams brushed aside the question of his 2012 line-up, however, the team's chairman, Adam Parr, expressed the view that it would go with an unchanged line-up.
"I think that's vastly the most likely outcome," he told Reuters reporters at the British Grand Prix, noting that South America - and Brazil in particular - was a key market for returning engine partner Renault.
"When Rubens is tweeting 'we're back with Renault, this is fantastic news' - bang! A million people, who've opted to follow him, get an endorsement of Renault which is not commercially driven. It's what he generally feels about their company and brand, and how do you quantify what that is worth? How many TV adverts of a Clio is that worth?"
Maldonado has yet to open his F1 points account, but has appeared on course to do so on several occasions, most notably in Monaco where he was punted out by Lewis Hamilton, and has impressed Parr with his performances this season.
"I always believed, and people derided us or me for saying it, but I think he's a very, very talented driver," he said of the mercurial Venezuelan, "His record in GP2 certainly earned him a place in F1 and you could see the speed. What I think he's begun to show is a degree of consistency and maturity that perhaps people didn't expect as well."
The biggest challenge for the team, according to Parr, is finding the results that will again make it attractive to sponsors, although the deal with Renault could help rekindle memories of success.
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