ANALYSIS: Williams forge their own path with FW44 design
After teasing us with a generic car to show the team’s new livery, the real Williams FW44 broke cover later in the day in a shakedown at a wet Silverstone. Mark Hughes takes a closer look.
Highly distinctive sidepods
This is a massively differentiated design, particularly around the FW44's sidepod and engine cover. It would appear the Williams designers have concentrated much of the cooling systems up towards the front of the sidepod (and given it big radiator inlets there) but then shrink-wrapped the sidepod as tightly as possible so that it slims down dramtically further back.
The pods are shorter and more heavily ramped downwards than any other 2022 design seen so far. The engine cover inlet is also unusually large, suggesting that the cooling route for the intercooler is through there. This has enabled a dramatically cut-back sidepod lower down.
Rather than creating an undercut, once it is behind those big radiator inlets the lower bodywork almost dissolves away, creating a big channel along the side for the airflow to make its way between the rear wheels and the tunnel exits.
The relatively high front wing visually accentuates just how much priority is being given to feeding the underbody venturi tunnels.
The wing elements on the car at Silverstone were relatively flat and very simple in profile, though we’d expect to see more cambered elements for use on higher-downforce tracks.
The bottom wing element stands proud of the tip of the nose, as seems to be common – but not universal – with this year’s crop of cars. This will help the flow to attach to the underside of the nose more cleanly, again optimising that flow to the leading edge of the floor and the tunnel inlets.
This year, Williams take the Mercedes gearbox (previously they made their own) and the associated hydraulics, but still design and manufacture their own suspension.
That whole area is highly visible on the Williams courtesy of the pared back bodywork. Compared to, say, the AlphaTauri, the area atop the venturi ramps sits naked adrift of the sidepods, underlining the very different approaches taken with cooling routes.
This one should give a good air pressure differential between the air flowing out through the tunnel and that travelling over the top, which should help enhance the speed of underbody airflow.
The FW44, which hopefully will go as well as it looks, represents yet another highly particular interpretation of the new regulations.