Williams Technical Director would rather conduct all pre-season testing in Barcelona
Grove team considered missing Jerez test altogether
By Mike Wise in Barcelona. Last Updated: 19/02/13 3:04pm
Williams Technical Director Mike Coughlan has revealed the team would have launched their new car a fortnight ago had the first pre-season test been held at Barcelona and not Jerez.
The Grove outfit became the last of the eleven teams to launch their 2013 car at the Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday morning. Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas ran last year's car at Jerez, albeit carrying many parts that are running on the new FW35.
Williams were unique in holding back, concentrating instead on maximising development time. Coughlan explained the decision was made easier given Jerez's unique characteristics - including a tendency to cause tyre wear. He also said that they had considered missing the first test entirely.
"A lot of the early testing is system checking," he said. "If you believe that track testing is the way you're going to get your car reliable, then what do you do for the rest of the year?
"Jerez is a very unique circuit, very aggressive on the tyre, very cold weather. So we said 'We won't learn a great deal there with our new car. Let's ensure our new car rolls out here and is on the pace right away'.
"If it had been Barcelona, we would have gone. Jerez is very unique, very high degradation, really aggressive, very rear limited. We don't even go to a track that's similar type and weather conditions. So you have to say, 'Did we learn a lot?'
"I think we're happy with Barcelona. We all have lots of simulations of the Barcelona track. I think Barcelona's fine: it's easy to get to, cheap flights, good hotels; it's a nice city. I'm happy with that. I'd like to see three [tests] in Barcelona."
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Williams headed to southern Spain after all because it gave them the chance to evaluate Pirelli's new tyre range. Coughlan explained that changes to suspension set-ups are time-consuming and something teams can struggle to perfect given current testing restrictions.
"To begin with, we didn't plan to do Jerez at all. We only did Jerez because Pirelli were bringing their new tyres and we felt it would even be better with the old car, so that we had a known platform," he said.
"We came away with a very good understanding of the tyres, changing pressures and cambers. With the current breed of rear suspension, it's very difficult to do damper changes, bar changes and spring changes.
"These are things you can't do in sessions as it takes too long."
When asked to sum up Williams' objective for the coming season, Coughlan stated: "To deliver on our potential, which we didn't do last year."
Although Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, and Williams were very quick on occasion elsewhere, their speed was tempered by woeful inconsistency. In the end, they could only finish eighth in the Constructors' Championship.
"You might argue that we ended the year faster than Mercedes. We had many races where we were faster than Lotus," Coughlan asserted. "We try and avoid predictions because there's a lot of things we have to try and understand.
"Last year, we had several opportunities we didn't close out, I think ultimately as a team. Including the drivers, what we need to do is focus on maximising our performance and delivering on it when we can."