Williams admit images show their floor ‘clearly lacks detail’ compared to rivals

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Williams team principal James Vowles acknowledged pictures of their car’s floor which were revealed in Spain show where they are lagging behind their rivals.

However Vowles pointed out the images did not offer an entirely accurate comparison to the Red Bull and Mercedes floors which were exposed in Monaco.

The underside of the FW45 was seen after Logan Sargeant crashed at the high-speed turn 14 during the final practice session. “Obviously those have been compared to photography taken of our competitors just a few weeks ago,” Vowles said in a video published by the team.

“I think one thing to point out is they’re a little bit deceptive. What’s happened here is it’s very focussed on that rear diffuser ramp, unlike the other photos that perhaps focussed more on the floor and the mid-floor where you can actually, within the regulations, have more detail.”

However he admitted some of the teams’ rivals have been able to achieve higher degrees of sophistication with their floors. “We are clearly lacking detail relative to our competitors,” said Vowles.

“But you wouldn’t have needed the underside of the floor to know that, you can see that from the times. That’s fundamentally a feature of balance characteristics and the car’s performance and downforce as well at the same time. And a lot of that is being generated by the floor.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monaco, 2023
Mercedes and Red Bull floors were revealed in Monaco
Williams cannot simply replicate its rivals’ designs to improve the performance of its car, said Vowles.

“Understanding what your competitors do by getting an image of it and simply copying it won’t help you,” he explained. “It may give you an instantaneous leg-up, an understanding of where you should be moving forward, but if you don’t understand the science and the reasoning behind it and the flow dynamics, you’ll just have a moment in time rather than an idea of how to consistently develop to become not just as good as them, but better.

“Furthermore, whatever you’ve seen on a competitor is at least six to eight weeks out of date, and where they are now is further forward. So the clues behind it or the key behind it all is actually understanding why they develop the floor in the way that they have and what can we learn from it and apply to where we are today to advance our learning and understanding.

“That is going on all the time. But what you can’t do is go away [with] some deep-rooted methods and systems that you need to actually understand how to generate downforce in an efficient manner for the car you have. So our prioritisation is [to] learn from others where we need to but make sure we carry on developing on our build cycle the way we know we’ll develop over time into a faster and faster car.”

Vowles indicated the team plans to bring new parts for its FW45’s floor over the next month. “We will introduce upgrades sometime over the next three races or so, potentially in one go or spread out across those. Some of them you’ll see, some of them perhaps less visible.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
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    8 comments on “Williams admit images show their floor ‘clearly lacks detail’ compared to rivals”

    1. The Williams floor was barely visible, though.
      Only the edges, so nothing like in Monaco when picked up with high cranes rather than more conventionally JCBs or other similar recovery vehicles.

    2. There were other photos showing a surprisingly plain underfloor.

    3. We are clearly lacking detail relative to our competitors

      Whether you have detail or not is less important than having a floor which efficiently produces downforce over a range of speeds. When you look at nature you see many aerodynamic shapes that are very efficient but which, at a casual glance, also look very simple. I suspect the best floor designs will also end up being what looks like simple designs (although they won’t be simple). Indeed, when I looked at the Red Bull floor it seemed to me to be far simpler than I was expecting.
      The interesting thing is Red Bull and Mercedes came up with their floor designs even though they have less wind tunnel hours available to them than Williams do, so they aren’t producing their designs by trail and error. They have sound theories as to how the air behaves in the tiny fraction of a second it is underneath the car and design their floor based upon them, so they hit the ground running – when they do test the floor in the wind tunnel they are getting the results they want at the first attempt. This could explain James’s comment “… if you don’t understand the science and the reasoning behind it and the flow dynamics, you’ll just have a moment in time rather than an idea of how to consistently develop to become not just as good as them, but better.
      As I’ve said before, the first rule for fixing things is you need to know how a system is supposed to work before you can fix it.

      1. James Holden
        8th June 2023, 7:36

        An entire article about a Williams floor and the only picture of the floor is that of a Mercedes.

      2. Maybe James should hire 1 of those Mercedes engineers who build Mercedes floor to understand why Willems floor doesn’t work very well.
        Red Bull has a old Aero Master-expert so he can give a design idea to the developers and don’t have to try several floors to look if it works this is why they aren’t so handicapted by the restrictions.

    4. Coventry Climax
      8th June 2023, 2:49

      If you don’t know in what way it’s broken, why and how, you can’t fix it.

      But what does that mean? Williams have a lesser understanding of the why and how of aerodynamics. Which is logical, given where they’re coming from, given the ground lost over the last decades.
      It also means that when they do start improving their floor, they might make some decent steps, as the start is always simplest, but extracting the last bit is always the most difficult.
      Will they get there over time? That literally implies improving faster than your competition. They do seem to have left the dead certain positions 19 and 20, and have moved a bit further up the grid, but they still have a huge way to go. They’d need to establish themselves as a consistent top 10 team first. As yet, they haven’t.
      On the other hand, the FIA is doing all they can to slow down and impede the faster teams. (Which they shouldn’t, as that’s not F1, to my opinion.) Who knows what they’ll come up with next?
      To exploit opportunities of the next regulation set would also require thorough understanding of all the why’s and how’s, so Williams have less of a chance there too, compared to the current top teams.
      There is one way to quickly gain required knowledge though: buy it. Hire expert personnel.

    5. The floor of the Williams looks to lack a distinct kicker point. Why does this matter? It matters because a distinct section change drives a distinct point of lowest underbody pressure and hence is a tool to drive the basic aero balance of the car front to rear. I’m guessing the relationship of that point to C of G is a critical design choice, moving the centre of pressure of the underside from rear to front drives the car from inherently stable to unstable. The limit of this technique is currently demonstrated by the latest generation of fighter jets that have front canards that are controlled by a computer that literally keeps them from stalling instantly and falling out of the sky, Typhoon for example. It’s aerodynamically unstable.

      Does the Williams use the front and rear wings to achieve balance to a greater extent than those cars where the designer has already dictated this via the underbody pressure profile and the centre of gravity? Is the Williams more sensitive to dynamic pitch?

      As shown by Mercedes’ straight line speed in the 2021 Brazilian GP, and rumours of stalling the diffuser via a clever ‘collapsing’ rear suspension geometry, the rear of the car has relatively untapped potential for top speed gains. To those of us trying to understand what the teams are doing it’s frustrating that the press photographer’s pictures are a good 95% of the front of the cars, virtually ignoring the rear. I imagine the team’s own photographers take a more technical approach to pictures of their opposition.

    6. isthatglock21
      8th June 2023, 20:19

      I would honestly love to know what Williams have spent their copious wind tunnel allocation time on. Probably stood in the line making funny faces with high speed air blowing or flying kites. If it worked like those environmental credits companies can sell if they don’t use them Williams would’ve made a killing. Clearly they have no use for excess CFD/Wind tunnels allocations

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