George Russell, Williams, Albert Park, 2019

“Fundamental” problem with Williams car will take “months” to fix

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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Williams has discovered a “fundamental problem” with the design of its FW42 but won’t be able to fix it for several months, according to George Russell.

While the car lacks downforce compared to its rivals, Russell indicated the team has also discovered a specific problem it needs to address.

“There is one fundamental [problem] which I don’t want to discuss publicly. We understand what that is but it doesn’t mean that we can wake up on Monday morning and rectify it.

“To change something so fundamental will take months of development and work in the simulator, the designers working out how to do it. But that’s what needs to be done at the moment and unfortunately we’re looking at a number of races before we’re going to be able to fight.”

Russell qualified 1.3 seconds behind the next-slowest car on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix. He believes that when the problem is fixed Williams will move significantly closer to its rivals.

“I think once we’ve solved that fundamental [problem] there’ll be a big leap. We’ll probably still be at the back of the grid but with a chance to fight rather than at the moment we don’t really have any hope because we’re too far behind.”

[mpuzweeler01]However team mate Robert Kubica was cautious about how quickly the teams’ fortunes could be transformed.

“I don’t want to put numbers because last year I think we knew even earlier what was [the] fundamental problem of the car and for the whole year it stayed more or less the same.”

Kubica said the team is “all in line with feelings, with where we have to work [on the car].

“But probably because I’m more experienced I will never say it will take two or three months. I think for now no one knows. I hope it will take only two or three months but I cannot say, I don’t know.”

Williams deputy principal Claire Williams admitted today the team has started the season even further off the pace than it expected to.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 61 comments on ““Fundamental” problem with Williams car will take “months” to fix”

    1. Yeah, I want to be ‘optimistic’ and give them a couple of months, but since we heard that last year already, I have to go with Kubica: let’s hope they are able to fix it this time. Seems that over the years Williams has built up quite a stack of hidden platform flaws that need flushing before they can improve.

      Wait, so does that mean that just in pace, but in time too, they are really even behind where they were come Australia last year? Oh, man. Wish the people working there some luck. At least their new rookie seems to be doing all he can.

      1. ‘Deja vu all over again.’

    2. I know everyone is excited for Kubica but so far, hes only complained a lot, crashed, and got out qualified by his “less experienced” teammate

      Hopefully He does well in the race.

      Which to be honest, I’m not sure how much more experienced can he be considered, with his F1 experience from 9 years ago, compared to Russel’s more recent experience in the lower category. Plus an unknown arm…

      That being said, Kubica will need to do a lot better than his teammate to satisfy the hype and expectation.

      1. Hopefully He does well in the race.”

        I fear his driving-like-a-broken-arm will take out an innocent competitor in the race…

    3. I find it really hard to understand how they could make a car with a “fundamental” problem again! Did they forget how to make an F1 car after all those years that they are competing?

      And if Paddy Lowe is so incompetent what was he doing at Mercedes? His arrival seems to be the time when everything started falling apart.

      1. And that he replaced Pat Symonds, who I think did a great job there.

      2. And if Paddy Lowe is so incompetent what was he doing at Mercedes?

        I cannot recall any specific impact he had at Mercedes. All the initial successes came out of Brawn’s hands, and not sure if they would have fared any worse if Lowe never joined them. Lowe always seemed to be Toto’s sidekick who gave him the numbers to undermine Brawn.
        Lowe undoubtedly has some tremendous skills, but taking the ultimate lead in developing a car in a large organisation is probably not one of them.

        1. @coldfly Spot on and if you recall the terrible Mclaren car that appeared as he left that team.

    4. About what, 8-9 months?

      1. @johnmilk – more like 5-6 months. Then it’ll be “We’re focusing on the 2020 car”, and they’ll write off this season.

    5. Well, this is a really disappointing and depressing bombshell! We already knew they were off the pace, but were hearing from the pre-season test that the car was much more stable and drivable and should serve as a better platform to build on and find some of that missing pace. Given their rush to get the car ready, there was good reason to believe that there could be plenty more parts in the pipeline that would start to deliver, and that the drivers might be holding back a bit due to not wanting to damage the car (for lack of spare parts).

      But now we hear that this car has a “fundamental problem”? Again? I believe I’m right in thinking that they never revealed what the “fundamental problem” was with last year’s car and I guess we won’t find out about this one either. Is this year’s “fundamental problem” different from last year’s? Is it a result of trying too hard to correct last year’s?

      Anyway, this is just really sad to see unfolding before us.

      1. @harrydymond, Williams never explicitly stated what the problems with their 2018 car were, but they hinted that there was a problem with flow detachment as the car pitched under braking, resulting in the centre of pressure shifting erratically and causing unpredictable shifts in the handling balance.

        Lowe did also indicate that there were problems with partial stalling of the rear wing when the DRS flap was shutting – the spins that the drivers had in Silverstone being an especially dramatic example of that problem, with the rear wing pretty much completely stalling in that case.

        Asides from that, there were rumours that the 2018 car also had major problems with poor internal airflow through the sidepods, with localised pockets of air stalling within the sidepods and causing problems with components overheating.

        The thing is, this is not the first time that Williams have had cars with fundamental problems – on the contrary, pretty much every single car from 2013 onwards has been flawed in at least some way. They were able to mask some of the problems on their cars from 2014 to 2016, but it was part of the reason why they slipped back from 2014 onwards – it’s a disappointment to hear the current car is potentially more flawed than first thought, but also not that surprising.

        1. Thanks for the informative post.

        2. It seems to me their fundamental problem is they don’t have a driver capable of identifying their fundamental problem. ;)

    6. “…if Paddy Lowe is so incompetent what was he doing at Mercedes?”

      He was taking the plaudits when they did well, and tending to blame others when they failed to do well…

      Has it ever been established whether he chose to leave Merc because of a Williams offer… or was he pushed (and perhaps saw it coming…) and then received an offer from Williams…?

      1. He had almost no or even no gardening leave time, which was strange! He left Merc and right away joined Williams.

        1. BlackJackFan, the indication is that the final decision was his, but the relationship between himself and Mercedes was probably gradually starting to unwind at that time.

          He was coming to the end of his original contract with Mercedes at the time, and it sounds as if the talks between himself and the rest of Mercedes’s management about an extension ended up dragging on for some time, in part because of their focus on the 2016 WDC battle. Meanwhile, Williams were looking for somebody to “steady the ship” given Symonds was on the way out, so that seems to have lead to Lowe and Williams starting to talk to each other and eventually striking a deal.

          @f1lauri, there was a suggestion that it might have been part of a mutual deal between Williams and Mercedes, since Mercedes were negotiating with Williams over Bottas’s contract at a similar time. In return for Williams agreeing to relax a few of the terms on Bottas’s contract, Mercedes in turn seem to have agreed to cut short Lowe’s gardening leave – that probably explains why Lowe was able to move across so quickly.

      2. Of course it’s been established.
        He was due to take a much bigger role at Williams, but certain ego’s have got in the way of that.
        The problem with the Williams team is right at the very top.

        1. Thanks… but none of this answers my question, or even addresses it… ;-)

      3. Paddy lowe wanted a huge pay increase since mercedes had been so successful. Mercedes told him that wasn’t happening.

    7. Russell . . . believes that when the problem is fixed Williams will move significantly closer to its rivals.
      But, presumably, not past them…

      “I think . . . there’ll be a big leap. We’ll probably still be at the back of the grid…”
      Oh… so that’s all right then…

      Kubica: “. . . last year I think we knew even earlier.”
      What, before Melbourne…!?

      1. Last year, the apparently knew after the first half a day of testing that the car had fundamental issues @BlackJackFan

      2. BlackJackFan, it sounds as if the drivers realised that the 2018 car was a disaster after just a handful of laps in the first pre-season test, and a number of the trackside journalists also noted that the car looked like it had very unpredictable handling.

        From that Kubica has since said, it sounds as if the biggest problem was for the drivers to try and persuade the designers back at Williams that the car was a disaster, as it seems that the design team initially insisted that the problems were simply down to the drivers or to set up issues rather than an underlying problem with the car.

        1. Thanks anon – I had forgotten that. It just didn’t seem possible, when looked at objectively… and makes the whole thing patheticaly tragic…!

      3. I’m pretty sure once Williams turned up at Barcelona last year for testing the first time they send the car out they probably knee they had a problem

    8. Once is a mistake, but for it to happen again is almost like sabotage…

    9. simple fix, let the bottom teams do some track days.

    10. Poor Kubica, so many people root for his comeback. For this…

      1. @paulk True, it’s really a tricky situation. I wonder if things keep going this way if he’ll eventually get out of there as he did with Bykolles or if he’ll see the season out since it is, well, what he’s been working for for the past 8 years…

    11. Really weird for this to be happening for a second time in a row, if you ask me. I don’t know, but maybe a bit more transparency would be better for them rather than keeping it all behind doors and leaving all sorts of theories to float around. It might even be able to get them some compassion from fans and other teams because this way it just seems silly and amateurish (more than already is).

      For it to take months to fix, what could it possibly be? Could it be something related to the monocoque? Sure it is tough enough to have passed the crash tests and be racing already, but maybe they messed up its design compromising greatly the aero design of the entire car? It’s the only part I can think of that has to be made months in advance and is really tricky to change midseason.

      Regardless of the technical problem, the inability shown to correct the mistake from last season shows me that they never quite understood what the real problem was in the first place. It does put Paddy Lowe’s competence in dim light and to a certain extent the rest of the management at Williams, something which has already been well-documented here on this site.

      I remember seeing a comment here suggesting that no one on their right mind would want to pick up Williams at this point and try to right the ship, but I immediately thought of Vasseur, who went to Sauber when it also was in a very, very difficult conjuncture. They desperately need someone of his calibre and with his no-nonsense, pragmatic approach. Where would they find such a person now and, perhaps most importantly, is Claire willing to acknowledge it?

    12. The stop watch readings are the fundamental problem.

      They have no deeper understanding than that.

    13. Somebody should quietly take the Fw42 out the back and shoot it. It will end the suffering.

      1. Somebody should quietly take the the whole team out the back and shoot it. It will end the suffering.

        ftfy

        1. Except Kub and Rus, poor guys deserve so much better.

    14. Lewisham Milton
      16th March 2019, 13:08

      They’re just sandbagging…

      1. best comment…..period.

        1. Agree, comment of the day

    15. I think it’s possible to deduce where the problem may lie.

      It’s not peripheral aerodynamic parts, as they can be redesigned and bolted on, so front and rear wings, barge boards, brake “drums” etc. that can all be fixed… by copying somebody else if necessary.

      Looking at pictures of the cars, the Williams looks unusually “fat” in the airbox area (though it could be the paint job).
      This makes me think it’s a packaging problem, meaning they can’t get the bodywork out the way of airflow to the rear wing; take a look at the photo at the top of this article here
      and the one of Lewis taken from the same angle
      look through the halo, there is much less obstruction with the Merc.

      My concern is this car needs a full repackage, which means a new chassis, and crash tests etc. This brings us to the months or longer that the drivers are talking about, they need to start again.

      1. Further to my comment above, looking at the 2 pictures again, the Williams is MASSIVE. You can see far less of the rear tyre, the thing needs to go on a serious diet, convinces me even more they need a B spec chassis fast.

        Williams

        Merc

        1. @johnnik – nice comments and illustrations.

          1. Yep thats nicely illustrated. The Williams really does look fat and ponderous in that photo when directly compared against the Merc.

        2. Really good links – appreciate that.
          I wonder if any of the media will pick up on this to do a more in depth analysis of the car from different angles.

        3. Thanks, @johnnik. Enlightening!

    16. Better to start working on the 2021 car? (for FormulaE)

      1. You jest, but they might actually do well there. Williams’ engineering side has had a significant presence in FE (definitely in the gen 1 cars, not sure if its still applicable) so it might actually help them to be there. Not to mention the healthier budgets.

      2. By 2021 FE might be the premier series!

    17. Didn’t they say there was a ‘fundamental problem’ with the car last year that they failed to fix? Long year for them then.

      Genuinely concerned they won’t see out the year.

    18. Well, you have eight and half months to rectify and cure whatever it is that’s holding you back.

      1. I sure hope they make it that long. This is scary stuff for a Formula 1 team to go through 2 years in a row.

    19. Williams barely scored points last season. I expected they would take risks with the car design. Very tight packaging, marginal cooling. A conservative car is not taking them anywhere.

    20. Fundamental design flaws… For a team that has been in the sport for 40 years, they sure have weak fundamentals.

    21. Thomas Bennett (@felipemassadobrasil)
      16th March 2019, 20:08

      Lads, we’ve brought the 2013 chassis.

    22. The fundamental problem being it’s a rubbish car?

    23. The fundamental issue is that team williams is no longer capable of designing and building a properly functioning formula 1 car.

    24. This is basically the end of the road for Williams I would think.

    25. Time to retire, Sir Frank?

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