Sir Frank Williams: Our chance to capitalize in 2014

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Count 2013 as a bit of a lost year for Williams, which scored a total of 5 points from only two Grands Prix (Pastor Maldonado in Hungary, and Valtteri Bottas in Austin).

So for 2014, with a host of new commercial partners including Martini, Genworth and Petrobras, Felipe Massa replacing Maldonado alongside Bottas, a host of technical staff additions, and Mercedes set to power the FW36, hopes are high for a big bounce back season.

Sir Frank Williams said Thursday after the team’s Martini reveal that regular points finishes must be the goal, and the team must take advantage of the relative clean slate provided by the change in regulations for 2014.

“A team like Williams Martini Racing, with our history, facilities, and personnel, should be mixing it up at the sharp end of the grid. 2014’s regulation changes have reset the field to some extent and we need to capitalize on this opportunity,” he said.

“I’m under no illusion that it will take time for our new technical team to make their mark, but I will be looking for us to make a strong improvement from last year and regularly finish in the points at a wide range of circuits.”

Williams can take comfort in the fact they had a very solid preseason testing program, both in terms of mileage completed and reliability. Their ultimate pace relative to the rest of the field remains unknown, but Sir Frank said they did what they could at Bahrain and even Jerez to an extent.

“What I do know is that despite a few inevitable teething problems, the FW36 has performed reliably and clocked up a good number of laps,” he said. “The regulation changes have forced the teams to take a step in to the unknown this year. Reliability will be paramount in the first few races of the season and we are looking strong in that regard.”

There’s been a lot of talk about “throwbacks” in IndyCar this year, with several familiar faces returning to the scene there who raced in the 1990s.

Williams seems F1’s best “throwback” candidate at the moment. The legendary independent team last won a Grand Prix in 2012 with Pastor Maldonado at the Spanish Grand Prix. Prior to that, it was in 2004, with Juan Pablo Montoya in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. It last won a World Championship in 1997, with Jacques Villeneuve in the FW19-Renault.

Based on the preseason testing and some of the other comments made – notably from Jenson Button – this could be Williams’ chance to shine once again.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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