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The Williams is quick

THE new Williams-Renault FW18 - which ran for the first time last Monday but was officially launched on Friday - was immediately on the pace at Estoril with Damon Hill setting quick times right from the word go.

"I am very pleased with the car so far," commented Hill. "It's been very good during testing. It's a very good sign if the car is workable and competitive straight away."

The car is a development of the successful FW17B - which dominated the end of last season. "It was sensible to take the root of that car and develop it, rather than come up with a completely new car," said designer Adrian Newey.

The aerodynamics have been tidied up and extra mini-wings added to try and win back some of the downforce lost by the reduction in the size of the rear wing. The cockpit has had to be changed to allow for the new side impact regulations. The Renault RS8 V10 engine is new, but is mated to a semi-automatic six-speed transverse gearbox, derived from the FW17B. This was tested recently at Estoril by Jacques Villeneuve. There have been changes to the hydraulic system which caused the team some reliability problems last year.

The FW18 is unusual in that it has been produced while the team was moving from its old factory in Didcot to a new facility at Grove, a few miles away. As a result much of the aerodynamic work was carried out at the Swift windtunnel in California, as Williams's own windtunnel was out of action.

Williams has announced that Rothmans has extended its sponsorship with the team until the end of 1997, and while coffee company Segafredo has gone, the team has new backing from German car wax company Sonax. There is further support from Automotive Products.

Hill tested for the whole week in Portugal - except for Friday when he and Villeneuve spent the day doing satellite TV interviews. On Saturday night a second car arrived at Estoril for Villeneuve. The third car will be running next Monday at Silverstone before all three are packed up and sent off to Australia.

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