As the TV cameras cut to the Williams garage during the opening segment of qualifying at Silverstone on Saturday, the expression on Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams’ face said it all. Within the opening few minutes she’d seen not one but both of the team’s cars slide into the gravel – and an underlying aerodynamic issue has now been identified as the cause.
Lance Stroll was the first of the Williams drivers to hit trouble, spinning off at the end of the Wellington Straight and beaching his FW41 in the gravel, necessitating a red flag. The session had barely got going again when Sergey Sirotkin repeated the trick at Stowe in the sister car, and though he was able to get going again, both drivers were eliminated in the opening stage for the sixth time this season.
Having investigated what happened, Williams were quick to rule out driver error, saying both spins were caused by a new aerodynamic ‘phenomenon’.
“We have a phenomenon which we have not seen all year, or indeed ever before, whereby the DRS activation intermittently causes a complete loss of aerodynamic floor loading which does not recover at the entry to the subsequent corner,” explained Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe.
“In the case of both spins, the cars entered the corner with no load in the floor which had obvious consequences. We came to this event with a number of new bodywork items which we evaluated during FP1 and FP2.
“This new DRS-related phenomenon was seen only once in FP1 on one of the cars but was incorrectly diagnosed to be related to a particular configuration which we chose not to carry forward into FP2 and for qualifying and the race. We must now understand exactly what change in the cars caused this phenomenon which is entirely related to the use of DRS.”