Alex Albon, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Williams discovered damage to cake tins caused ‘huge tyre degradation’

2023 F1 season

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Williams team principal James Vowles say his team understand why their two drivers suffered “huge amounts” of tyre wear during the Belgian Grand Prix.

Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant were the only drivers who needed to pit three times during Sunday’s race at Spa-Francorchamps, which ran without any Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car interventions.

Albon ran as high as seventh in the early laps but faded throughout the remainder of the race, eventually finishing in 14th. Vowles admitted it was a disappointing result for the team.

“We went there with high hopes,” he said in a video released by the team. “We thought we would have a package that would really suit that track.

“There were moments in the race where we were absolutely on merit fighting forward against our competitors and it was tremendously exciting, up until about lap 16 and then it inverted. We started going backwards, quite clearly, relative to others.

“We were overtaken on track by Ocon and then the rain fell and it inverted one more time and we started to become quick. But as the sun really came out and the track warmed up to 31 degrees we suffered huge amounts of degradation – at the time not understood, but now understood as I talk to you. That led to us ultimately having to do a three-stop and falling back against our competitors – ultimately, we come away disappointed.”

Vowles explained the team’s tyre wear problems were caused by damage to the brake drums on both cars which appeared only during the grand prix and not in any of the prior sessions.

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“What caused the degradation issue wasn’t anything that we would have learned in any of the practice sessions – it’s actually a problem that happened in the race,” he explained.

“At the end of the race when we took all the wheels off, you have carbons surrounds which different teams call different things – they can be called ‘cake tins’ or ‘nozzles’ – but really they’re trying to control the flow of the very hot brake disc temperature into the tyre. What you want is really to get rid of all that warm air and push out the back of the car.

“But our cake tins were broken – probably during a pit stop, but it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly where.”

The team is confident this damage affected the performance of their cars, said Vowles. “I’m fairly convinced that’s part of the reason why we suddenly had very significant degradation and why the beginning of the race looked almost so different to the end of the race and why we had to go to a three-stop.

“These changes are huge in terms of what it does, not just aerodynamically – clearly, we do a lot of work to make sure the air is going where we want it to go – but also in terms of temperature control of the rear tyres.

“It looked like the first stint was okay. The second stint was just about okay. And then we started to get into trouble. And then when the rain came, which cooled everything down, suddenly the car came alive again.

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“I think it’s very clear when you work back from it, actually what happened was we were hampered by that – both cars – and it’s quite significant as a contribution to why we suddenly went backwards.”

Williams had no opportunity to identify the problem before the race, said Vowles. “Unless that [had] happened in one of the three practice sessions and therefore we saw it and caught it, it’s unlikely. This really did happen within the containment of the final race.”

Vowles explained that the team opted for a low-downforce set up to make the most of their car’s naturally high top speed, but said that their drivers struggled in the twisty middle sector as a result.

“The downforce level you choose at Spa can be very significant – more so than, I think, most of the circuits,” he said.

“You can see if you take the wing off you’re very quick in sector one or sector three – we often had purple sector ones as a result of it. But exactly to that point, you have to accept that’s going to have other compromises.

“In many regards, it becomes easier because you make your time up on the straights. But as you go through the corners and especially through sector two, you will damage them more and degrade them more as a result. And that’s the fine trade-off and balance. But, as previously indicated, there was another car problem that really was contributing far, far more than these details we’re talking about.”

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2023 F1 season

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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9 comments on “Williams discovered damage to cake tins caused ‘huge tyre degradation’”

  1. Coventry Climax
    4th August 2023, 11:30

    Let’s hope this was indeed the cause and that they solve it, such that it won’t happen again.
    Their Spa opportunity is lost however.

    1. I look forward to Monza for Williams. They are going to have some wild top speeds I imagine.

  2. A pretty fascinating technical detail honestly. I wonder how often something like this happens and the other teams don’t reveal the cause in the hopes it happens to other teams.

  3. So they never broke these carbonfibre encasrments ever before in pitstops amd now they did on both cars ?? Or did they just mount the wrong ones on both cars

  4. Am I the only one who completely missed the point of the headline and thought “how the hell did they run over a cake tin? Are the fans at the track crazy??” Hahaha.

    Later I read it properly and I think it’s a very insightful article, well done.

    1. Hows bout a picture of a “cake ‘tin'”? I can’t imagine a REAL “cake tin (Sn)”.

  5. I know they’ve been celebrating their 800th GP at Grive but putting cake tins on the car is taking the festivities a bit far.

    1. Grove, not Grive. Fat fingers again. Or maybe fut fongers.

      1. Coventry Climax
        7th August 2023, 17:25

        Dusn’t mitter. It’s fanny ole they sayme.

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