Williams-BMW’s efforts to win the constructors' title fizzled when hydraulic failure put Juan-Pablo Montoya, out of the Japanese GP. Did the Grove-based team ultimately pay the price for the FW25’s lack of pace at the start of the season – or were they just unlucky?
Williams-BMW’s efforts to win the constructors' title fizzled when hydraulic failure put Juan-Pablo Montoya, who was leading the Japanese Grand Prix, out of the race. Did the Grove-based team ultimately pay the price for the FW25’s lack of pace at the start of the season – or were they just unlucky?
Montoya took the lead from eventual race winner Rubens Barrichello of Ferrari with a stunning move at the Spoon Curve on the first lap. "I was coming out of the hairpin really slowly and I think Rubens was trying to protect his line and touched the white line, going slightly sideways and had to lift off the throttle a little, so I went for it. I had to, and it worked."
But a few laps later, Montoya cruised to the pits with hydraulic failure. "It's a true shame because our car has been very reliable this year," the Colombian added. "I felt a loss of some of the controls and that was it. With hindsight, I'm not that displeased because I was no longer in the battle for the drivers' championship, because retiring at the last race, in this way, would have been much harder."
Montoya’s team-mate, Ralf Schumacher, finished out of the points after starting the race from the back of the grid. The German had an early spin at the chicane and then collided first with Sauber’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen and later his brother Michael, causing him to pit for a new front wing.
Team boss Sir Frank Williams said: “It was a disappointing end to a brilliant F1 season, but there remains much encouragement for us for the next year”.
To this Williams-BMW technical director Patrick Head said: “We fought very hard all year but we started too weakly and that put a lot of pressure on us at the end, which I don’t think was really the problem but ultimately the results in our last few races of the year have been very poor, although the car speed has been very good. We will be going home now and analysing what has happened and we’ll try to make sure we do much better next year.”
In contrast, BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen was philosophical about the team’s finish to the season: “This last race reflected the whole season for our team, it was just like a rollercoaster. After a weak start to the season we had the Constructor’s Championship within reach but in the last few races we have to acknowledge that our team is still not quite strong enough. There were too many mistakes and this includes today’s race. It is a small comfort to us that the P83 engine did not experience any failures in all of the 16 races.
“With hindsight, we can still say that it is clear that this year we made a big jump forward. With four victories, including two one-two finishes, this was our strongest season so far. We managed to keep the constructor’s title undecided until the last race. Congratulations to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari for having won both titles. They have been a little too strong for us, this time,” the German added.