Report F1: The nightmare of Williams: tires, downforce and slow corners

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Pat Symonds recognized in the presentation of the Williams FW38 that the team had concentrated on minimizing the weaknesses of its predecessor. According to the Technical Director of the team, “the FW37 was a car with enough cash, so we concentrate on understanding the areas where we could improve. It is no secret that the low speed performance of the FW37 are not matching the performance that I had in the fast curves”.

But the team has not been able to improve that and other aspects that have traditionally hampered Williams -and that is a problem that is very typical of the majority of the computers on the grill: the insufficient generation of downforce.

The tip speed tends to mask a problem

it Is common to see how two teams of the grill tend to be, almost permanently, in the first positions of the table top-end speed in each circuit: Manor and Williams.

Both have the propellant Mercedes and, obviously, that is a main aspect. The other is that their respective aerodynamic package generates very little drag and, therefore, the top speed are excellent. But, as a counterpart, the car does not generate enough downforce to balance the balance and both teams suffer in the circuit slow-or high downforce configuration.

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Focusing on the case of Williams, we can see that the team from Grove has been increasingly losing potential circuits, which, a priori, should be good for their features. The reason are the tires. Especially in the case of Felipe Massa -although not exclusively-, the difficulties to build temperature in the tires have been hampered greatly by computer in the circuit a priori favourable as Hockenheim or Spa-Francorchamps. Circuits in which the high top speed allowed them to get some more downforce via the spoilers, something that the teams powered by Renault and Honda could not afford to do.

tires: the first piece of the domino

The problem is that if the tires do not have enough grip, the extra burden that should help in the curves of medium and low speed is neutralized. And, in the curves of low speed, in which the mechanical grip -mainly provided by the tyres – is everything, Bottas and Massa are also lost. “Definitely, we have not been among the top four in terms of the compression of the tyres and, if we want that position at the end of the championship, we have to be good in all areas, especially with the tyres. Other teams have done better, and to us it has cost us a lot of points this year, but we know what happens and we’re working on it”, admitted Valtteri Bottas after the Singapore Grand Prix, in which he and his companion finished out of the points: something that in a team that aspires to be fourth at the end of the season, makes it clear its weak points at high downforce circuits and predominance of the mechanical grip.

“The tires had cost us many points this year”

Although it is not the answer to all problems, the low generation of downforce of the chassis contributes to boosting the two main problems that the FW38 have this year: insufficient speed in slow corners, and the inability to maximize what the tires can deliver, especially on the front axle. “Even in some of the races that we felt that the cars were very similar in terms of rhythm or even that we were a little bit better, they somehow managed a better result in the race”, said Bottas.

Williams signed recently to a specialist in the field of tires Ferrari: Antonio Inglese. We’ll see if it has impact in the last few races of the season and the team can contain at Force India and, especially, if face-to-2017, Williams improves their management of the new Pirelli.