So – now we get a real look at a 2014 F1 car and more specifically that nose and, like Cyrano turning to face Roxanne for the first time, it’s hard not to be shocked. That is one hell of a conk. Don’t blame the design team at Williams, they are only responding to the rule changes and it’s expected that by next Tuesday — by which time we will have seen all but one of the new cars — the F1 paddock will resemble a colony of proboscis monkeys.
The nose of the Williams-Mercedes FW36, which will be raced by Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas this year, is a response to a rule that simultaneously obliges the lower edge of the front bulkhead (the front of the monocoque) and the tip of the nose to be lowered — the tip by over 360mm.
The aero team, however, still demands as much air as possible goes under the car, hence what designers call ‘a finger’. Caterham’s Cyril Abiteboul said yesterday: “It does remind me of Alien…with something coming out of the mouth and whatever. It’s not very nice. Kids should be dreaming when they see a Formula One car. I don’t know what sort of dream or nightmare you will get when you look at those cars. It is going to be ugly.”
But back to the new Williams, the successor to last year’s terrible FW35 and the first to use Mercedes power now Williams have split from Renault. They were two years which only very occasionally evoked memories of the partnership’s success in the eighties and nineties. Now under the technical direction of Pat Symonds, the FW36 is Williams’ first turbo-powered car since the Mansell era, and Symonds is candid on the challenges packaging the heavier V6 turbo and its two energy recovery systems: “The build has gone remarkably smoothly, but it’s been a challenge to get the car down to the [690kg] weight limit,” he has said.
The computer generated image of the Williams-Mercedes FW26, along with yesterday’s image of the Force India-Mercedes VJM07, do give us the beginnings of a feel for F1’s new turbo-hybrids. This morning’s shot especially shows us the lengths aerodynamicists will need to go to now the extreme left and right of the front wing has been moved inwards (by 75mm each side) and effectively inboard of the front wheel. The trick will be to turn the airflow inside the front wheel and not just for aerodynamic reasons — those massive sidepod intakes are the first look we’ve had at all the extra cooling the turbo-hybrids require.
Tomorrow at noon we see the McLaren MP4-29, and let’s hope McLaren gives us a look at the back. There are big changes both to the exhaust (which can no longer blow the rear diffuser) and to the rear wing itself, which can no longer sport the lower beam wing. Together the changes mean a lot less drag but also a lot less downforce. Which is just what you need for a powertrain that promises to deliver great lumps of torque…