So, then. The new Williams is basically a continuation of the team’s post-BMW identity (with the layout of the nose section in particular deviating little from the 2010 version), but infused with a deliberate nod back to a certain era in the team’s past. Although, blimey, it’s a weird day when “mid-90s” can be straight-facedly referred to as “retro”.
For a kickoff, there’s something fairly clever about the way the car’s been presented, at the launch itself and in these shots. Because, from the lighting, and at an initial glance, the second trim colour on the car, along with the red, appears to be gold – successfully calling to mind the Rothmans livery of the 1990s that the car is intended to evoke. But in fact, when you look closer up – and I’m sure this will become more apparent when we get either a studio launch, or some shots of the car on track – those stripes aren’t gold. They’re silver.
So in other words, should someone in authority accuse the team of advertising cigarettes, they can turn around and say “No, we’ve just put red and silver on the car in honour of our new sponsor PDVSA, I don’t know where you’ve got the fag packet idea from”.
Anyway. Just in case you don’t know what this car is supposed to remind you of, it’s one of these – or see here for a pic of your beloved site author with one. Rothmans sponsored Williams between 1994 and 1997 (before switching to their Winfield brand for 98-99), and the car was hence associated with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve’s back-to-back titles, although also with the disappointment/defeats/tragedy of ’94-’95 (as it happens, I actually think the paint job looked best on the ’94 car, but more on that when we get to the Williams Livery History article in a short while). It’s still a slightly odd choice, mind – it’s a memorable design, but perhaps not as quintessentially “Williamsish” as, say, the Canon/Camel cars of the late ’80s/early ’90s.
The line of thinking here is clearly that, as red is being added to the car anyway in the form of PDVSA’s logo, the team might as well use its introduction to go back to a fondly-remembered colour scheme – but it’s still slightly odd, as unlike Ferrari they’re not covertly advertising cigarettes (unless a deal has gone on in secret, Rothmans – now owned by British American Tobacco – have nothing to do with the team), and unlike Renaultus they’re not trying to convince people they have anything to do with a classic team (they are the classic team the livery calls to mind).
As for the success of the application of it – well, it’s mixed, I’d say. The nose section doesn’t work for me at all – I wasn’t hugely convinced by the way the white bordering worked on the 2010 car (I’d prefer either the same colour on the top as on the sides without borders, or two contrasting colours – but not the same colour with a white line sandwiched between), so I don’t really like it here, and the way the coloured lines tail off just makes it feel confused. I think they’d have been better served having white run to about halfway down the nose, then have the rest be solid blue.
But from the cockpit rearwards, it significantly improves. The profile view looks great – even though the way it’s a bit like the Rothmans livery but in a different stripe configuration calls to mind what Sauber have done with the old BMW design – and I especially like the way “randstad” occupies the space that would have been “Rothmans” (that is, on the 1997 car – which swapped the patterns of blue and white on the engine cover from the way they’d been for the previous three years). Viewed from behind through the rear wing, too, the effect is really good. Some of the white space, though – especially on the airbox – could really do with another sponsor.
As a Williams fan, it’s nice to see a bit of discussion/excitement about the team’s livery – and after testing there seems to be a good level of optimism about their chances in 2011 (although “this could be the year we get back towards the top” is the mantra of the Williams fan). But it has to be said that the livery isn’t that different from those of previous years, and after making such a big deal of launching the livery when the car itself had already been seen in testing, we might have felt entitled to expect something a bit more radical and different. And I simply can’t get over the idea that, for reasons apparently based in nothing other than nostalgia, we now have three cars on the grid that look like they have tobacco advertising on them. Something about that just doesn’t feel right.
Oh, and now that we have all the new cars: yes, I’ll be doing my customary run-down of what I think about each in comparison to one-another. Look out for that before the season starts, along with – yes, and I know I promise this every year and never get around to it, but this time I absolutely will – a look at each of the drivers’ helmet designs!