After the misery of 2013, the long-awaited renaissance is now well under way…
Jason Somerville, Williams’ head of aero, took plenty of ak after 2013, but such is the quality of the guy that he kept his head down, backed himself and produced the FW36 – a gem of a Mercedes-powered racing car that seems to have very few aerodynamic vices.
Its pillarless rear wing could well be a game-changer, although rival teams have been anxious to insist that it produces no fundamental advantages. But as with all F1 components, nothing is clear. A pillarless, non-beam-mounted wing may produce an obvious advantage in terms of ow around the rear of the car, but who could have foreseen its effectiveness in the Silverstone crosswinds?
Unlike Mercedes and Force India, Williams and McLaren are running their own transmission systems, which means they still have the old-style gearboxes with integral casings. This compromises suspension architecture and aerodynamics: Mercedes, for example, with their carbon outer gearbox case, are able to fare-in their driveshafts with the top wishbone arm; Williams are not. Williams’ ultra-slim gearbox may complement the pillarless rear wing, but it restricts the car in terms of rear geometry.
The most obvious Williams characteristic so far has been their gear ratio. In this rst season of xed ratios, Williams have gone shorter than Mercedes, Force India and McLaren. They did so because the torque of the 2014 engines more than compensates for any ‘in between’ moments that may arise and because the majority of the F1 circuits these days are slow, not quick.
Again, there was an unforeseen result: the greater number of gear changes per lap led to greater rear tyre degradation. This was nullied when the compound choice was conservative (Silverstone), or when degradation was high (Austria) but obvious at circuits like Bahrain. Williams must spend time and money converting to longer ratios in the second half of 2014.
“Felipe Massa remains miscast. He would have been excellent in the support role at Ferrari”
Valtteri Bottas, as predicted, has emerged as a world-class driver who is very capable not only of winning races but also world championships. Felipe Massa, I think, remains miscast. He would have been excellent in the support role at Ferrari again this year; alongside the brilliant Bottas, and with 2015 looking like a very strong year for Williams, it would have been nice to have seen an up-and-coming youngster in the Bottas support role. But for all that, let’s hope that Felipe wins a race for Williams at some point in 2014. He deserves it after such a long and often painful career.