Williams launched the FW29 at its home base of Grove, near Oxford in the UK, on February 2nd and presented its new identity with title sponsor AT&T. The FW29, which features dark blue and white livery, is a development of last year's car and features the zero keel design but there are some differences to the chassis. The engine and exhaust areas have been improved to combat the problems Williams had in 2006, along with a lower and narrow top for aerodynamic efficiency.
"The other prominent differences from the FW28 include large chimneys expressly for cooling at the season's first three races and a narrower engine cover spine," said technical director Sam Michael. "At the rear of the car, a twin pillar configuration supports a lighter and lower drag rear wing, now featuring FIA-mandatory slot gap separators to prevent deflection and a lower and wider rear impact structure as required by regulation."
Williams had a difficult time in 2006, beset by reliability issues, and only managed eighth in the constructors' standings with 11 points. Team principal Frank Williams is not to be discouraged. "Without question, 2006 was not our finest year but I am delighted to see how the entire Williams workforce has pulled together and redoubled its efforts over the winter," he said. "It is how you perform in adversity that really counts."
This season Nico Rosberg is joined by the team's former test driver Alex Wurz to complete the race line up. Rosberg debuted with Williams last year and his early performances attracted some attention. As the season went on the young German struggled a little but he's learned from his rookie year and is looking forward to a better time in 2007.
"The experience from last year is going to help me significantly this season," he commented. "The F1 environment is completely unique and I have learnt how to handle all of its various elements now. In the past weeks everyone in the team has been very positive and put great effort into the new car, so I think we can be optimistic about a much improved season ahead of us."
Wurz debuted in F1 with Benetton in 1997 and stayed with the team until the end of 2000. He then took up a test role with McLaren and in 2005 he stood in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya at Imola and finished fourth, but was promoted to third when the BAR-Honda drivers were disqualified. He joined Williams as test driver in 2006 and made his mark in the Friday practice sessions in the third car.
"Although I have done thousands and thousands of Formula One kilometres in the last couple of years, I simply haven't had enough of the real stuff -- racing -- so I can't wait for the season to start," said the Austrian. "There is a really high sense of motivation in the whole team ahead of the coming season and of course I am very proud to be part of the AT&T Williams team."
Supporting Rosberg and Wurz in 2007 are test drivers Narain Karthikeyan and new addition Kazuki Nakajima. Karthikeyan debuted in F1 in 2005 as a race driver for Jordan then moved to Williams as tester in 2006. Nakajima raced in F3 in Japan and Europe and was seventh overall in the Euro F3 series in 2006. He will compete in GP2 this year.
Patrick Head, Williams' director of engineering, summed up the team's approach to 2007. "Of course we start every project we undertake with the ambition of being the best, whether in engineering or marketing terms and indeed we approach every race with the sole ambition to win. But we are not in the business of predicting the year ahead as that requires me to speculate about the likely performance of our rivals."
"All I can say is that as an organisation we exist to race and everyone in the company has shown a singular sense of purpose over the winter and so we look forward to Melbourne with anticipation".
A new addition to the team will be Rod Nelson, formerly Fernando Alonso's race engineer at Renault. Williams confirmed that Nelson will join on March 1st as chief operations engineer. Also reported to be joining Williams from Renault is aerodynamics man Jon Tomlinson.
The FW29 is scheduled to be on the test track at Jerez next week, starting Tuesday 6th.