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Williams unveil radical looking FW26 05 Jan 2004

Williams FW26

The Williams Formula One team unveiled its 2004 race car, the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26, at the Valencia circuit today (Monday). After a ceremonial presentation for assembled press, the inaugural laps will be completed by team drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya later this afternoon.

"I have tested some of the new elements of the FW26," commented Schumacher, "And individually, they all have been a real step forward, whether the engine, the new gearbox, or all the other smaller but none the less significant components. So I am really fascinated to see how all of this works together, and it would be fair to say that my expectations are very high."

Schumacher's enthusiasm was matched by his team mate, Juan Pablo Montoya: "We had a great deal of anticipation about last year's car, and it turned out to be justified anticipation. This season, there is an even greater degree of expectation about the potential of this car, and the great advance the team has made is to bring the whole validation process forward by a significant amount. I hope the car will be quick from the off, but now we have the benefit of a clear two month test programme in Spain before the first race."

No sooner than the FW26 had been unveiled than the commentary about its radical treatment of the front design profile began. The FW26's Chief Designer, Gavin Fisher commented, "It will be immediately evident to onlookers that a high degree of innovative design has gone into the FW26."

The FW26 features a distinctively short nose cone, with the front wing main plane and associated assemblies mounted on extended 'tusks'. The startling interpretation of the front profile has been conceived in tandem with a twin keel monocoque design, aiding air flow both under and over the front geometries of the car, and improving global aerodynamics right through to the rear wing of the FW26. The front profiles of the car are augmented by a narrower sidepod footprint, enabled by revised cooling packaging, all assisting aerodynamic performance.

The aerodynamics have been conceived under the supervision of Williams' Chief Aerodynamicist, Antonia Terzi, working in tandem with the Chief Designer and Williams' structural design specialists to meet and exceed stringent structural requirements demanded by the new chassis concept, as well as the FIA's crash test demands.

Prior to the car conducting its inaugural laps at the Valencia circuit, Fisher Commented: "There has been a great deal of anticipation on our part about this new car. It has challenged us throughout its development and there is certainly a sense that today is a more significant launch day than in previous years."

Sam Michael, the team's Chief Operations Engineer explained the decision to launch the FW26 early in 2004: "In 2003 it became evident that we suffered performance-wise as a consequence of launching our car relatively late on in the winter. Refining the car took some time, and as a consequence of this (as well as other factors), we didn't win a race until Monaco, seven races into the year. The reason we are here unveiling the FW26 in order to bring our test programme forward really doesn't need any more explaining," he said.

As well as visually marking a step change in aerodynamic treatment, the WilliamsF1 BMW FW26 also features a multitude of new major sub assembly designs. At the heart of these changes is the all-new BMW P84 powerplant allied with a new gearbox and differential.

BMW in Munich completed a rigorous design and validation process to comply with the new FIA regulations that have effectively doubled an engine's lifespan to 800km. Implicitly, these new regulations would normally mean an increase in weight and packaging size, but BMW's engineers have worked energetically to ensure the most competitive solutions. "If an engine has to have a longer service life, especially the components that are highly challenged, mechanically and thermally, must be designed to be tougher. Bigger and heavier engines compromise power. Minimising these losses while still guaranteeing the increased endurance are the goals we have worked towards," explained BMW Director of Motorsport, Mario Theissen.

Following the FW26's launch, a major test programme with the new chassis will commence on Wednesday January 7 in Jerez until January 13. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team Principal, Frank Williams said, "Our ambition can be nothing other than winning most races, steal Ferrari's crown and add another Championship title to the record. Having any less ambition at the start of the year would be wrong."

Check back later in the day for comments from the drivers on their first impressions of the FW26.