Frank Williams celebrated his 69th birthday over the Chinese grand prix weekend.

I suppose I should say ‘reached’ rather than ‘celebrated’ because Frank is not a self-indulgent or obviously sentimental soul. 

But at least the passing of that anniversary might have taken his mind off the abjectly disappointing performances of his FW33s at Shanghai where Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado trailed home off the pace in 13th and 18th positions respectively.

It’s something I hate to see; the once-mighty British super team which ranked toe-to-toe with McLaren and Ferrari reduced to fighting over scraps from the front-running table.

Think mid-1990s and four world championships in seven seasons for Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. A winning force which refused to be dimmed and one which, seemingly, had the matchless capability to bounce back from transient setbacks to the delight of its huge fan base.

Embarrassingly the first two races of the 2011 season yielded nothing but four retirements, the team’s worst start since 1978 when the team was reinvented as Williams Grand Prix Engineering. At least in China they got to the finish.

All that their loyal legion of supporters can do is keep their fingers firmly crossed.