Williams have revealed their 2018 car, the FW41, that has been described by senior management as “significantly different” to the car the team were running last year.
The FW41 is the first car to be designed from scratch under chief technical officer Paddy Lowe, and head of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer after they both moved to Grove at the start of 2017. According to Lowe, under his command, the FW41 has had a “number of radical changes to the car’s packaging to incorporate further developments.”
“All Formula 1 cars are an evolution of what has gone before to some extent, but the FW41 does involve a number of departures from the directions that have been pursued in the past,” said Lowe when questioned about the FW41. “The car has many new features, most of which are not all that obvious, but externally the team has pursued a very different aerodynamic concept which has allowed us some significant progress in aerodynamic performance.”
In terms of the livery the car has not changed much at all. The car has kept the same basic white livery with the blue and red Martini stripes of the last few years, with the notable exception being the white Halo that has now become standard on all cars in 2018. The team will still be running Mercedes engines for the 2018 season.
Williams finished fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2017 but with fewer than half the points of fourth-placed Force India. The team who once dominated the sport, leading to nine Constructors’ Championship wins, have been going through a long period of rebuilding since the regulations changed in 2014. Their victory in the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix remains the team’s only win in F1 in the 2010’s. They are however the only other team outside of F1’s ‘Big Three’ to claim a podium in every season of the current engine rules that came in for the 2014 season.
The FW41 will be driven by the youngest driver line up on the grid, Lance Stroll, and former F2 driver and rookie Sergey Sirotkin. The team announced Sirotkin in January they appointed the Russian to replace Felipe Massa following the Brazilian’s retirement. The line up has received a lot of mixed reviews and comments. With many feeling Williams have taken a big gamble taking in two young drivers with such little experience in F1 cars.
Another big talking point has been reputed sponsorship Sirotkin will bring to the team, with many feeling it could be as much as $15m. This rumour has prompted many to label Sirotkin as a the latest in a long line of “pay drivers” who have gotten drives in the sport.
When asked about the suggestion Sirotkin was simply a “pay driver” Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams was quick to defend her decision to appoint the young Russian to a full time race seat.
“This is a dangerous business and we’re not just going to have them in the car because they come with money. Our decision is so much more complex than just deciding to put a driver in a racing car because they have some cash. We’re an independent team and, yes, sponsorship is really important these days for every team out there, so clearly if a driver has some financial backing that’s an added bonus – but it’s not the foundation for a decision-making process at Williams.
Williams added that she felt it was unfair to describe Sirotkin as a “pay driver”.
“The terminology is wrong, it’s inappropriate and it puts a negativity around the driver that we just shouldn’t be doing in this sport anymore,” she said.
The team are not without an experienced driver though, as they will have Robert Kubica as their reserve and development driver for the season. The Polish driver who is set to make a much hyped return to Formula 1 following a horrific rallying accident is scheduled to appear in three practice sessions throughout the season as well as pre-season testing.
The next car to be released will be Red Bull on the 19th of February.
2018 car unveilings and launch dates
Haas: February 14: VF-18
Williams: February 15: FW41
Red Bull: February 19: Online
Renault: February 20: Online
Sauber: February 20: Online
Mercedes: February 22: Silverstone
Ferrari: February 22: Online
McLaren: February 23: TBC
Toro Rosso: February 26: Barcelona
Force India: To be confirmed