Friday, 22 February 2013

Slow and Steady Wins The Race: Williams Tardy Launch of FW35

Compared with their nadir season in 2011, 2012 delivered more success for Williams as they enjoyed a masterful victory in Barcelona courtesy of Pastor Maldonado, and finished one place higher in the Constructors Championship in eighth.  However, it was still not a season that is synonymous of the Historic Grand Prix team.  Suffering setbacks in relation to the loss of influential figures Toto Wolff and Mark Gillan, a realistic aim for 2013 will be ascendancy up the midfield with Toro Rosso, Sauber, and Force India in their sights.  These are teams who, at this point in time, appear to be ahead in the development race.  Hare like, they sprinted away launching their 2013 challengers prior to the first winter test in Jerez.  In contrast, Williams have taken a more leisured, tortoise like approach to the launch of the FW35. 

Williams FW34  Photo:

2012’s FW34 benefited from a return to a Renault engine, replacing the Cosworth featured on the FW33 in 2011. The different engine facilitated the use of a svelter engine cover resulting in more possibilities aerodynamically.  The car sported a relatively small gearbox and a complex front wing.  Attempts during the year to introduce a Coanda style exhaust system proved fruitless as no more efficiency was recorded.  Therefore the Non Coanda system stayed in place providing the team with a chance to develop the rear brake ducts. 

At the first winter test in Jerez, Williams used the 2012 spec car as a vehicle for the testing of new parts for the FW35.  A Coanda exhaust layout was present, an indication of another attempt at making it work more effectively in terms of performance gain.  Cosmetically, some changes were visually apparent including rhinoplasty by way of a vanity panel and slight modifications in livery. 

Already looking sleeker, the FW34 with 'new bits' Photo:

Suffering a clutch installation problem on Day Two of the first test, the resulting loss of time pencilled in for aero evaluations meant that only tyre analysis was achieved.  A far from ideal situation considering the abrasive nature of the track at Jerez prevents a true picture of tyre behaviour being obtained. 

Day three proved to be more productive as Valtteri Bottas completed 86 laps, some of which were higher fuel runs.  Tyre work was forfeited in favour of aero analysis due to the lack of reliable data caused by the inclement track surface.   At the close of day four, Mike Coughlan reported on the Williams website, 

“We have gone through a complete programme testing various parts that will be used on the FW35.  This compliments our current philosophy of using rigs to pass off systems before running them on the car.” 

When asked whether he thought the teams relatively slow rate of development in comparison with the other teams had impacted negatively during testing Bottas replied,

“We got some positive results and the whole test was basically positive for us.”  He also explained that one of these positives was the chance to test new parts on the old car. 
There was certainly no indication from anyone at the team that their steady tortoise avenue into the 2013 season put them at a disadvantage, however combined times after the four days reveal both drivers to be around two seconds of the pace, set by Felipe Massa, with only Caterham and Marussia drivers lying below them.  

Unveiled in the pit lane prior to the start of day one of testing in Barcelona, the FW35 was greeted with heightened interest due to its tardy birth.  With livery and nose as flaunted on the FW34 at Jerez on first glance your eyes are drawn to the rapacious undercut of the sidepods.  Mike Coughlan explained that there are 80% of the parts are new.
"Use of the DRS is more restricted this year, so we'll take some resource away from that and focus on other areas."

These other areas include:  new rear suspension, new radiators, new floor, new bodywork, a new nose, with perhaps the most significant change being their choice to switch to a Coanda exhaust layout after dabbling with it on the FW34.

Having a car sporting 80% new parts means that Williams have undergone a higher level of evolution than the other teams, it seems the extra time engineered for themselves by running the 2012 car at Jerez has been used efficiently.  Maybe slow and steady will win the race.

FW35.  Photo: Briony Dixon

There was nothing slow and steady about the 2013 challenger as the honour of giving the FW35 it’s highly awaited track debut was bestowed on experienced Williams driver, Pastor Maldonado.  In his hands he swept it speedily around the track for 86 laps and achieved the fifth fastest time of the day.

FW35 on track at Barcelona.  Photo: Briony Dixon

So who will win the race, the tortoise or the hare?  Will those who attacked the development race with impatient vigour triumph, or will the more dilatory approach prevail?

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