Alex Albon’s fantastic drive to P8 at Silverstone proved that the changes made to the FW45, introduced in Canada, have been successful.
Williams has always been recognised for their impressive straight-line speed, but they are gradually enhancing the car’s cornering performance, too.
Let’s delve into all the technical details that the team has introduced throughout this season, undoubtedly aiding their fight for points.
Williams low drag philosophy
The FW45 can be considered an enhanced upgrade of last year’s car. While the fundamental elements and philosophy remain the same, there have been certain changes in the details.
What characterises the Williams car, both in the previous season and now, is its impressive top speed on the straights. Over the past few seasons, it has been evident that Williams is attempting to compensate for the limited budget, which inevitably impacts the car’s performance.
#Williams in the top 3 in the dry!? What year is it? It may only be practice, but P3 for #Albon and P5 for #Sargeant are impressive. #Ferrari was fastest on the straights but Williams was able to stay in touch. #Redbull remains the strongest in the slow corners.#f1 #BritishGP pic.twitter.com/Qas9ddgqip
— ProjectF1 (@_ProjectF1) July 8, 2023
In Friday’s free practice session at Silverstone, Williams showcased impressive speed. Although it was only practice, notable results were achieved, with Albon securing P3 and Logan Sargeant P5. The picture above displays the track map from this session, with different colours indicating the fastest driver on various parts of the track.
The white colour, representing Albon, commonly occurs on straights when their top speed comes into play. Another interesting detail is the blue colour, indicating Verstappen’s performance, primarily observed in slower and medium-speed corners. However, it is important to acknowledge that Red Bull make a significant difference in these areas compared to other cars, granting them an advantage in setting the fastest lap times.
The engineers have meticulously optimised the car’s aerodynamics to minimise drag and maximise speed on the straights. However, the drawback of such a design is the reduced downforce, which led to lower speeds in corners.
This particular weakness is the main focus of Williams, and they aimed to address it through several upgrades introduced in recent races.
Canadian GP upgrades
The race in Canada marked the introduction of the most significant design changes to the Williams car this season. According to Dave Robson, the Head of Car Performance, the primary upgrade was made to the car’s floor. Although the new floor is not visible, Robson explained that its redesigned form enhances aerodynamic efficiency, providing the much-needed increase in downforce for Williams.
Among the noticeable visible changes, the new sidepods stand out as the most significant, particularly in the rear section where the sidepod lines have been altered.
The previous aggressive line of the so-called “water slide,” which directs clean air to crucial aerodynamic elements at the rear, has been adjusted to a more smoother curvature.
This modification enables better performance in achieving higher levels of downforce for the car. In addition, what is also important is that the new sidepods provide more sustainable functionality, reducing the chances of flow separation in different conditions on the track.
Nuevos pontones, suelo y suspensión trasera para Williams. Gran evolucion. Solo Albon
New sidepods, floor and rear suapension for Williams. Big upgrade. Only Albon. pic.twitter.com/iysqmtC7sq
— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) June 16, 2023
Additionally, there have been some visible changes to the mirrors and their supports. These alterations aim to ensure better integration with the new sidepods and effectively direct airflow to the areas where it is most beneficial.
During the race in Canada, only Albon had the opportunity to test these upgrades, and his impressive seventh-place finish serves as compelling evidence that these changes are indeed effective.
Williams’ “cheaper” solutions
The beam wing on the Williams car is a very interesting element. Positioned just above the end of the diffuser at the rear of the car, it plays a crucial role in generating downforce. It also helps the air flow from the car’s floor to stay attached to the diffuser as best as possible.
Williams adopts a different beam wing design for each race, primarily adjusting the angle at which it is positioned. As Dave Robson mentioned, this approach provides a cost-effective means of adapting to specific track configurations.
In contrast, teams like Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Alpine and Aston Martin have the financial resources to modify the entire rear wing’s appearance before a particular race.
This allows them to fine-tune its functionality and extract the maximum performance from their cars. Unfortunately, Williams, being a lower ranked team, faces limitations due to a lack of sponsors and financial resources, which is currently their most significant challenge in competing with the top teams on the grid.
Williams’ real problem
Williams Racing, having finished last in the previous year’s Constructors’ standings, enjoys an advantage in terms of dedicating more time to the development of their car’s aerodynamics compared to other teams.
When comparing their resources to a team like Red Bull, for instance, Williams has more than double the amount of time available in the wind tunnel and utilising computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, which are the primary tools for designing aerodynamics. However, despite their efforts, it is evident that Red Bull and other teams remain beyond the reach of the British team.
Consequently, the engineers at Williams do not solely attribute their struggles to aerodynamics. They recognise that the disparity lies in more significant factors. The team leader openly acknowledges the substantial discrepancy between Williams and other teams, particularly when comparing their respective factories and the conditions within them.
He emphasises that this difference in resources is worth hundreds of millions and cannot be easily bridged. Additional funds would enable Williams to access more advanced technology, machinery, and other essential assets within their factory.
Nonetheless, it is encouraging to witness the positive impact of the new technical details on the Williams car, resulting in notable achievements.
Alex Albon’s eighth-place finish at Silverstone is an excellent result that brings crucial points to the team. Although the next race in Hungary may not suit their car the best, hopefully they will find the speed and continue their fight for points.