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What's behind Williams' unique F1 sidepod hole

The design of sidepods has been the standout differentiator between Formula 1 cars this season, with each team taking a slightly different route.

Williams FW44 floor cut

Giorgio Piola

Such variation is a big shift compared to what we saw over the last few years, but it's for good reason.

That's because, from an aerodynamic perspective, teams are having to bridge the gap created by the loss of the aerodynamic furniture, like bargeboards, that surrounded the sidepods of the previous generation of cars.

Without being protected by an array of deflector panels, fins and flow conditioners that the last regulations permitted, teams have taken to reshaping their sidepods, and in some cases reorienting the internal radiators, coolers and electronics within them to help accomplish this.

The most fascinating aspect of this is that rather than all of the teams having come to a similar conclusion during their CFD and windtunnel studies, we have quite a delightful smorgasbord of solutions.

One of the most interesting solutions on the grid comes from Williams, which has largely stuck to the pre-regulation change script, opting for a very short, ramped sidepod.

However, there is an interesting twist - a cavity in the upper section of the sidepod which provides airflow, captured in the main inlet, a route directly through to the rear surface of the sidepod.

Williams FW44 open vs closed sidepod

Williams FW44 open vs closed sidepod

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This unusual design has been made possible by Williams' approach to the placement of the upper side impact spar (SIS), which, like the car's predecessor, sits in the low-slung position but also pretty far rearward when we consider the inlet position (red arrow).

And conversely, where many of its rivals have housed the lower SIS within the floor, Williams has opted for a higher position within the sidepod, which results in the shrink-wrap blister (white arrow, main illustration).

Perhaps more interesting than the cavity itself is that the team has also thought about the possibility of running the car with it closed off, as it did during the first day of testing.

That can be done with an interior panel installed in the top section in order to push the airflow down into the inlet below (right inset).

It's worth noting that the compact layout of the FW44's sidepods is only possible because the team has also opted for more of a centreline cooling approach, not only resulting in a larger airbox to gather up airflow but also a more bulky engine cover.

Williams FW44 engine detail

Williams FW44 engine detail

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

This will result in more weight being housed slightly higher up, but Williams appears to be happy with the centre of gravity trade-off that the aerodynamic gains facilitate.

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Besides, it is not the only one to have traded space this way, with numerous teams using more saddle-like cooler arrangements above the power unit over the last few years.

In Williams' case, this does seem to be a little more extreme though. For whilst most have settled with one cooler being perched above the power unit, Williams has them in a chevron pattern overhanging both sides.

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