Williams unveils new car hoping to confound sceptics

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Having lost BMW as an engine partner, switched to the unfashionable Bridgestone tyres and the customer Cosworth engine, on paper the portents do not appear promising, but Williams is quietly optimistic. So is his business partner Patrick Head.

"We expect to win races," Head said. "The V8 engine is about the most expensive way I can think of to bring horsepower down from 950 to 750bhp, but everyone is starting over.

"I think the Cosworth V8 and the Bridgestone tyres will be competitive so it is just down to how competitive the whole package that we create will be, and we have done a lot more aerodynamic development in both of our wind tunnels. I'm not talking up our position, but we have hardly set out to design a car to finish third. We have designed our new FW28 to win."

Williams have not managed this since the final race, in Brazil, in 2004. Since then they have also lost proven winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Mark Webber, who had a troubled season with them in 2005, is now joined by Nico Rosberg, the 20-year-old son of Williams' 1982 world champion Keke. Austrian Alexander Wurz will be the Friday test driver, and Williams said yesterday that he will be assisted by India's Narain Karthikeyan.

Sceptics believe the team are on the slippery slope to also-ran status after losing the support of BMW, and Williams conceded: "It is a disadvantage not to work with a manufacturer. With one you get more done, more quickly. But I do not believe that teams lose their soul quickly and I don't spend too much time thinking whether or not we are still a top team. It's more productive creating a competitive car."

Both Williams and Head expect 2006 to be a "very, very tough" season. Webber agreed, but he added: "We must wait and see where we are in Bahrain in March. I'd love to win, otherwise I'll be called Tim Henman. I can say we are not being conservative in our ambitions."