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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis
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Giorgio Piola's F1 technical analysis

F1 tech review: How Williams sank to the very bottom

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F1 tech review: How Williams sank to the very bottom
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Co-author: Matthew Somerfield
Dec 20, 2018, 7:11 PM

Back in 2014, Williams stood on the precipice of a revival, delivering a car that on a given day could outperform some of its closest rivals. It’s something that’s made for uncomfortable viewing since, as it descended to the very bottom of the field in 2018, struggling to create a chassis that can exploit the potency of the Mercedes power unit that had masked some of its aerodynamic and mechanical deficiencies at the start of the hybrid era.

Hopes were high for the rules reset in 2017, as the team came off the back of a 2016 campaign that saw it in a dogfight with Force India for fourth place, a position that it almost willingly gave up by switching focus for the regulatory rebirth. Unfortunately the FW40 did not maximise the scope of the new rules package, and it slid down the pecking order.

Even that could not prepare us for depths that the team would sink to with FW41 this year, as Williams struggled to get any performance from an ever-more complex and unwieldy machine…

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Williams FW41 layout

Williams FW41 layout
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This overview of the FW41 shows some of the design decisions taken by the team for 2018, smart moves you’d assume, taking some of the more interesting developments used by Mercedes and Ferrari during 2017. The team took both the nose ‘cape’ and extremely complex bargeboard footplate designs used by Mercedes, while seeking to gain performance from a less than elegant version of Ferrari’s low-slung side impact support spar positioning to improve the sidepod design.

Williams FW41 cooling comparison: Hungarian & Mexican GPs

Williams FW41 cooling comparison: Hungarian & Mexican GPs
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The cooling demands of the FW41 seemed excessive when compared to their other Mercedes-powered kin. This often led to the team having to use a very large outlet at the rear of the car, as seen here in Hungary and even more so in Mexico.

Williams FW41 steering wheel

Williams FW41 steering wheel
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Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

Williams remains the only team not to have their LCD screen mounted within the steering wheel, opting for a butterfly-shaped wheel instead.

Williams FW41 steering wheel

Williams FW41 steering wheel
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A look at the rear of the steering wheel and its various paddles for gearshift and clutch control.

Williams FW41 detail

Williams FW41 detail
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Additional cooling was required for the Bahrain GP and so the team used this more expansive panel on the side of the cockpit.

Williams FW41 front detail

Williams FW41 front detail
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

Without the front wing installed, we can see the kiel probe array that the team mounted in and around the front wheels in order to evaluate the vortex shed from the neutral and flapped section of the front wing.

Williams FW41 sensor detail

 Williams FW41 sensor detail
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team used this shoulder kiel probe array mounted on the side of the airbox/engine cover to collect data at the Spanish GP.

Williams FW41 rear wing, Canadian GP

Williams FW41 rear wing, Canadian GP
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A fantastic illustration of the FW41’s spoon-shaped rear wing as used at the Canadian GP.

Williams FW41 bargeboard detail

Williams FW41 bargeboard detail
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

In perfect light, Giorgio gets a great close-up snap of the bargeboard region on the FW41 at the Canadian GP.

Williams FW41 front brake

Williams FW41 front brake
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A close up of the front right brake assembly, at the Austrian GP, including the brake duct which featured numerous outlets to help transmit the heat generated under braking into the core of the tyre.

Williams FW41 front wing comparsion

Williams FW41 front wing comparsion
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It introduced a new front wing at the German GP, which featured a revised mainplane both at the connecting point with the neutral section (blue arrow) and the arched section (red arrow). The outer flapped section of the wing also saw its shape changed (highlighted in yellow), whilst the ‘r’ cascade had its upper surface twisted.

Lance Stroll, Williams FW41

Lance Stroll, Williams FW41
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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The team sprayed green flo-viz paint on the new wing to make sure it was performing as expected.

Lance Stroll, Williams FW41

Lance Stroll, Williams FW41
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Photo by: Andrew Hone / Motorsport Images

Williams followed this up with another, more expansive flo-viz test, with paint sprayed on not only the front wing but also the suspension, bargeboards, sidepods and floor.

Williams FW41 Rear Wing, T-Wing and Cooling, Hungarian GP

Williams FW41 Rear Wing, T-Wing and Cooling, Hungarian GP
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

It utilised a large cooling outlet (red arrow) and double element T-wing, rather than the single element version (blue arrow). It also went back to a conventionally shaped rear wing, rather than the spoon-shaped one used in the opening phase of the season (green arrow), but retained the use of the open-end style louvres, albeit with five slots rather than three.

Oliver Rowland, Williams FW41

Oliver Rowland, Williams FW41
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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The team mounted a large kiel probe array behind the front wheel to gather data on the revised wake it generates with the 2019-style front wing.

Robert Kubica, Williams FW41

Robert Kubica, Williams FW41
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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Williams used a huge amount of flo-viz paint at the Hungarian GP as they studied the effect a 2019 style front wing would have on the flow field.

Robert Kubica, Williams FW41

Robert Kubica, Williams FW41
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Photo by: Mark Sutton

Different colour flo-viz was used on different parts of the car in order that team could work out the separate flow structures were affected.

Williams FW41 front detail

Williams FW41 front detail
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The team placed additional sensors on their ‘cape’ solution in Belgium as it hoped to capture more data.

Williams FW41 rear wing

Williams FW41 rear wing
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Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Williams used a large, double element T-wing when it required the most downforce, as in Singapore.

Williams FW41 bargeboard

Williams FW41 bargeboard
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A side view of the bargeboard, with their serrated footplates and the Ferrari-esque sidepod deflectors. Also note the boomerang winglet above the bargeboards which has to have multiple slots in them that coincide with those below.

Williams FW41 nose and front wings

Williams FW41 nose and front wings
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Photo by: Mark Sutton

Both front wing options were available for the Russian GP, the upper of which is the newer specification, with a revised mainplane shape, flaps and ‘r’ cascade.

Williams FW41 bargeboards

Williams FW41 bargeboards
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Photo by: Giorgio Piola

A fantastic top-down view of the FW41’s bargeboard region, with its complex footplates and slotted splitter extension, as taken at the Japanese GP.

Williams FW41 front wing detail

Williams FW41 front wing detail
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Photo by: Rubio / Motorsport Images

An overview of the FW41’s front wing at the Japanese GP, also note the slot in the nose pillars in the background.

Sergey Sirotkin, Williams FW41

Sergey Sirotkin, Williams FW41
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Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

In search of answers, it slathered the rear end of the car in flo-viz during Free Practice at the Brazilian GP.

Williams FW41 nose and front wing detail

Williams FW41 nose and front wing detail
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Photo by: Mark Sutton

A top-down overview of the 2019-style front wing trialled at the post race test in Hungary. Also note the chequered stickers placed on the endplate which in combination with a high-speed camera mounted on the side of the nose shows the team how much deflection takes place out on track.

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About this article

Series Formula 1
Teams Williams
Author Giorgio Piola