FEBRUARY 3, 1997

Technical analysis: Williams-Renault FW19

THE Rothmans Williams Renault team unveiled its 1997 car at its old factory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, on January 31.

THE Rothmans Williams Renault team unveiled its 1997 car at its old factory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, on January 31. The Williams-Renault FW19 will be raced this year by Canadian Jacques Villeneuve and the team's new signing German Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

It will be the last Williams-Renault of this era, as Renault has announced that it is pulling out of F1 at the end of this year after what will be nine seasons with Williams. The relationship has produced four Constructors' and three Drivers' World titles and both Williams and Renault are hoping to add another of each this year.

The FW19 is, logically, a development of the highly-successful FW18 which won 12 of the 16 races in 1996. Evolution has always been the design philosophy of Williams's technical director Patrick Head although with the FW19 his design team have had to make a lot of changes because of Renault Sport's decision to produce an all-new engine for its final season in Grand Prix racing.

The RS9 is a completely different power unit to last year's RS8 - and, in fact, to all Renault V10 engines since BernardÊDudot's team built its prototype V10 in 1988. The two banks of cylinders on the new engine are angled at 71-degrees rather than the 67-degrees which Renault has always used. The wider v-angle has meant that the Renault Sport design office was able to create an engine which was 27mm lower than the RS8 with the center of gravity dropping 14mm. The change has also meant that 11kgs has been saved in weight on the engine alone - an 8% saving from last year. In F1 terms these are dramatic figures. The new engine has proved to be very reliable in testing and seems to be more powerful than previously. According to Dudot the power curve is also a lot smoother, which gives the drivers more power to work with.

The design of the FW19 was begun in June last year with a design group under the direction of Adrian Newey, the team's chief designer since he joined the team from Leyton House March in the summer of 1990. Newey oversaw the design of the FW14 and all the subsequent Williams-Renaults which have dominated Grand Prix racing since then but the FW19 will almost certainly be his last car for Williams as he is currently involved in a legal dispute with the team. He has a contract until the end of 1999 but does not want to stay. He is rumored to have received a huge offer to join McLaren.

Williams traditionally has an extremely loyal staff. Patrick Head's philosophy has always been to invest heavily in recruiting good people and ensuring that they are able to explore their particular areas of interest, rather than poaching established engineers from other F1 teams. In the last 12 months, however, Williams has lost both Newey and bright young aerodynamicist Egbahl Hamidy - who left the team to join the new Stewart Grand Prix operation early in 1996. This is a setback but the team has remarkable strength in depth in its engineering departments with a lot of highly-qualified - but largely unknown - engineers who can take over from one another if the team loses one of its members.

Since Newey stopped working on the project in November - at which point the concept of the car was largely completed - Head has been in charge of the design group with Geoff Willis acting as chief aerodynamicist and Gavin Fisher as senior designer. As usual composite design has been overseen by former Northrop aerospace engineer Brian O'Rourke, who has been with Williams since 1984, while Dave Lang remains in charge of the Williams drawing office.

Head has also invested heavily in good equipment - the team built its half-scale windtunnel in 1991, years before any of the other F1 teams even thought of such a large-scale facility - and this year has seen an expansion in the team's research and development department - including the hiring or two new aerodynamicists. The department moved into a purpose-built three-storey building alongside the main factory at Grove in the middle of the year. This building houses the 165-ton windtunnel which last April was cut into three sections and transported by convoy the eight miles from Didcot to Grove.

The windtunnel move and recommissioning was due to be finished in mid-July of last year but delays meant that the aerodynamicists did not get back into action until early August, which put the FW19 project a little behind schedule.

Although the FW19 was delayed, many of the components of the new car have been run in recent months in the back of the team's FW18B winter test car - which was built to ensure the new Renault engine was fully-tested and reliable before the start of the new season.

The engine changes have given the Williams team's 20 design engineers the opportunity to introduce some major changes at the rear end of the car. The low crankshaft of the Renault has meant that the transmission of the Williams has also been lowered and made more compact and this has allowed the team's aerodynamicists to produce a much tidier flow of air over the rear of the car. The new transmission has already run hundreds of kilometers in the back of the FW18B and should therefore be reliable as soon as testing begins.

With many of the mechanical components having already been tested, it is now down to whether the new aerodynamics work well. In an effort to make up for downforce lost because of the regulations changes restricting the rear winglets, the team has concentrated on gains from detailed design. Particular attention was paid to the flow of air into the engine and Williams designers have come up with a very different concept this year which has given good results in the windtunnel. The study of airflow inside bodywork in F1 is a very difficult one to master and involves the use of advanced computational fluid dynamic software programs which simulate different airflows. Williams has been developing its CFD capabilities each season and has some of the most advanced simulation programs in F1.