After an exciting winter for Williams, the FW35 has failed to deliver on its promises. The team have slipped behind the likes of Force India, Sauber and even Toro Rosso and now, Williams are supposedly considering a switch back to their 2012 specification exhaust, in an attempt to correct the issues which have plagued the new car’s performance.
Emphasis has been heavily upon the exhausts this season, with the static regulations hampering development of other areas. Up and down the paddock, team’s have stated that in order to succeed this season they need to fully understand the coanda effect. However, this is a concept which Williams seem to have struggled with.
Their dire start to 2013 has seen Pastor Maldonado fail to finish in both races, while rookie Valtteri Bottas has not earned a single point for the team. With Williams struggling, Marussia have sensed a chance to edge ahead and have come very close on two occasions with Jules Bianchi behind the wheel. Clearly, Williams need to revise their package and Technical Director Mike Coughlan believes that the answer to their issues lies in exhaust configuration.
When speaking to ESPN, he stated: “It’s understanding Coanda. It’s grip and we need to go away and get a more consistent platform for the driver. We’ll be in a position quite soon where if we don’t nail it we’ll use Friday’s as test sessions. We’re of the opinion at the moment that a FW34-type of car would be faster. I don’t think we’ll go back to an FW34, but we might go back to an FW34 style of exhaust system and treat Fridays as tests across cars.” McLaren are famously in a similar position at the moment. However, they have revised the MP4-28 and are in the process of redeveloping the suspect areas. Williams will inevitably take heart from the excellent progress that McLaren have been able to make in a short period of time.
Coughlan defended the FW35, emphasizing its potential; “We feel there is lots of potential to unleash. As soon as you have a situation where there is a loss of downforce on corner entry, the driver is suddenly a bit spooked and he just corners at a low potential. So even if you can show him he’s got a lot more grip the problem is that he’s understeered in, he now has oversteer and he’s then trying to protect the rear tyres. So we’ve given the driver a very difficult platform to use. We still believe we have fundamentally a car capable of being in the lower regions of the top ten. At Sepang we were close but we ultimately fell short.”
Williams will be well aware of falling into the same trap which captured them in 2011. Undoubtedly the team will be working hard at the factory to redevelop aspects of the car. It may well be that the FW35 is fitted with a new exhaust package by the time the paddock arrives in China.