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When will it go right for Williams?

July 23, 2004 10:19 IST

Frank Williams had to admit that his 'tusked' FW26 car was not a particularly pretty sight when it was revealed to the world back in January.

But, as he pointed out, even ugly Formula One cars look beautiful enough when they win. Williams was confident that would happen as his team mounted a real challenge for the championship.

The months have flown by but the Ugly Duckling is showing no signs of turning into a swan. Maybe it never will.

Sunday's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, the 12th race of the season, marks a full year since Williams last took the chequered flag.

For a team that started the year tipped for the constructors' title after finishing 2003 as championship runners-up to Ferrari, 2004 seems unlikely to have a fairy-tale ending.

"I think in the last couple of races things have turned a little bit our way," Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, last year's runaway winner in Germany, ventured on his return to the Hockenheim circuit on Thursday.

"There are a couple of things coming on the car and it is nice to see that. But I think that there is still a long way to go to really be fully competitive."

If they are not careful, Williams could soon be fifth in the standings with McLaren charging back up after a truly nightmarish start to the year. The team have 41 points to McLaren's 32.

Five points from four races is Williams' dismal tally.


So where did it all go wrong?

"I think in the first six months we just fell back so much that it really cost us," said Montoya, who is leaving for McLaren at the end of the year.

Having two drivers who know they are joining other teams next year does not help any more than the uncertainty about who may be arriving.

"To have two drivers driving for you who have already agreed to leave is not a very good basic," said former champion, ex-team boss and television commentator Niki Lauda.

"And if one guy is emotional like Montoya it is much worse," added the Austrian, who also suggested that the Anglo-German dynamic with Williams in England and engine partners BMW in Munich also created friction.

"The whole package is not a well organised package in a way. There are two groups fighting each other and the car simply is not quick enough. I think the combination of the whole lot gives you this kind of result."

Having to draft in replacements for Toyota-bound Ralf Schumacher, sidelined by a major accident at Indianapolis last month, has been a further setback.

While the car remains problematic, Williams have also restructured as a team.

Australian Sam Michael took over from co-owner Patrick Head as technical director in June but has had a baptism of fire in his new job.

Both cars were disqualified in Canada for illegal brake ducts, a basic mistake, before Ralf crashed and Montoya was again disqualified in Indianapolis for switching to the spare car too late.

In France the Colombian scored one point, while Spanish stand-in Marc Gene drew the first of two blanks.


Montoya's best result so far this season was second place in Malaysia in March and that plus a third place at Imola in April remain the team's only podiums.

While Ferrari's Michael Schumacher remains favourite to claim a record-equalling 11th win in 12 races on Sunday, Montoya remained hopeful of Williams fighting back to form.

"Last year was a very good race here for the tyres and we were miles quicker than everybody else," he said.

"And there is quite a bit of hope still in the car that we could do well here.

"I am hoping that we will do good. It would be great if we could get a podium. It would be awesome if we could get a win. It has been a year since the team has won a race so it would be really nice to see the car performing well here."

Alan Baldwin
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