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Eight facts from the Williams launch

  1. Thirty minutes with Pat Symonds, Williams’ Chief Technical Officer, is like having your own private Gary Anderson: suddenly it all makes sense.

    Once the models and the Michelin-starred food had been put away at the Martini Williams launch yesterday, TopGear.com had a chance to catch up with the racing teams’ racing team. Here’s what we learnt.

  2. 1. There's a whole lot more useable torque this year

    “The torque curve on an old F1 engine was horrible,” says Symonds. With the new units, it’s short and steep and predictable. And monumental.

    “Last year’s cars had around 315NM [232lb ft] of torque, this year’s is closer to 500NM [338lb ft]. So it’s more like a diesel really. We certainly don’t need eight-speed gearboxes.”

  3. 2. An accelerator is no longer an accelerator

    “Don’t think of it as throttle or an accelerator, think of it as a torque demand controller. We’ll remap the engine for every race to match that delivery to the circuit,” says Symonds.

    Valtteri Bottas (who drinks triple espressos, by the way) concurs. “The cars are very torquey. Very. Lots of wheelspin,” he says without smiling.

  4. 3. The MGU-H is a very clever piece of kit

    The technology that converts heat energy from behind the turbo is almost unique to F1. (“I think they have them on Caterpillars,” says Symonds).

    It’s crucial to the car, which simply could not complete a race on 100 litres of fuel without it. While some of the energy it recovers goes in to the reserve, and some to spool up the turbo (“there is absolutely no lag”), much of it is constantly powering the car through the MGU-K.

    How much power? “I can’t say,” says Symonds. A percentage? “No, Mercedes does not want to go in to it. It’s substantial.”

  5. 4. This year's testing times might be more representative of race pace than in previous years

    “Teams will always look for ways to mask outright performance.,” says Symonds. “In the past that’s meant putting in as much as 30kg of extra fuel. This year I think it’s more likely that if teams were running heavier than needed in long runs it was no more the 20kgs of fuel. That’s about 0.6secs around Bahrain.”

  6. 5. Drivers this year will never have to take their hands from the wheel

    Now the cars have brake-by-wire, the balance adjust levers are gone, replaced by buttons on the steering wheel.

    Doesn’t this make the steering wheel even more impossibly complex to operate, Valtteri? “No. Not really.” There you go, then.

  7. 6. Valterri Bottas clearly isn't actually Finnish: he doesn't care about rallying

    “Everyone starts in karting and then you decide which way you will go. I never had any interest in rallying,” the Finn tells us.

    That said, when asked to nominate his favourite Martini car, he didn’t hesitate to pick the Lancia Delta S4. Good man.

  8. 7. Martini is strictly not ruling out further racing sponsorship

    We know this because TopGear asked about Porsche’s currently unsponsored 919 Le Mans car. And received a carefully worded stock response.

    So we asked again, and another PR lady came along to give us the same line in stereo. It’s not a ‘yes’, but it’s categorically not a ‘no’.

  9. 8. Williams is in a great place right now

    The FW36 is fast and is reliable, and the driving line-up, while maybe not at the Piquet-Mansell-Prost-Senna level, is strong.

    This could be the team’s comeback and we could not be more happy for Frank Williams, who remains one the world’s more extraordinary men.

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