Williams: Peaky downforce trait of F1 car was not intended

Williams say the peaky downforce characteristics of its Formula 1 car wasn’t a route it planned to take, and is instead a consequence of new aero rules.

George Russell, Williams FW43B

The Grove-based team’s current challenger shows good form in certain conditions, but its downforce levels and balance can be impacted quite heavily by the wind or turbulence from other cars.

While a number of F1 outfits have over recent years moved away from chasing theoretical peaks of downforce for cars that are more consistent in all conditions, Williams has ended up going the other way.

Speaking ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Williams team principal Simon Roberts explained that the shift wasn’t actually deliberate – but was instead something the squad ended up with it as it recovered lost downforce triggered by 2021’s new aero rules.

“That wasn’t the strategic approach,” he said. “Our approach was simple: there were changes to the regulations and we were going to lose downforce and the team worked as hard as they could to recover that downforce. And I think we’re not the only team.

“Look up and down the pitlane under certain conditions and all the cars are more sensitive than they used to be last year. Our car may or may not be worse than others but it’s a consequence of the regulations and what we could within the homologated parts and the time available.

“It wasn’t a plan. It wouldn’t have been a great thing to do.”

The Williams is very competitive in qualifying, which was shown last weekend in Portugal when George Russell just missed out on making it through to Q3.

However, both Russell and Nicholas Latifi have struggled more in the races.

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43B, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing C41

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43B, Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing C41

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Last weekend in Portugal, Russell slumped down the order as the Williams did not have the long run pace to compete with a number of cars that it had outqualified.

Reflecting on what happened, Roberts said: “It wasn’t such a surprise. We were, I guess, over-optimistic, having had such fantastic qualifying but the true pace of the car never really changed.

“We had a good start - George had a good start. And if it hadn’t had been for the red flag [safety car] – who knows? That was kind of the race pace, those conditions on that day.

“It was quite unique conditions in Portugal and you saw in Imola, two weeks before, it was the same car but it was much more competitive. I think we were disappointed because we were so optimistic but the reality is, when you look at the data, it was less of a surprise.”

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Roberts said the team was doing all it could to try to make the car less sensitive, but it was hard to make much progress amid the current homologation restrictions.

“We’re doing everything we can,” he said. “The challenge with these cars, with the combination of a lot of homologated components and then some mandated changes to the floor and rear brake ducts, the first thing we did which the guys at the factory and the girls at the factory, was recover as much performance as we could to try and make our car competitive.

“The data shows we have done that. The car is a better car than it was last year. The down side is that it’s more sensitive, so occasionally that gets exposed, other times it doesn’t. It’s a combination of circumstances really.”

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