Williams kicked off the launch season today, January 5th, with the presentation of its 2004 challenger at Valencia in Spain. A new front profile design is a major feature of the FW26, along with the new BMW P84 engine, gearbox and differential.
Williams kicked off the launch season today, January 5th, with the presentation of its 2004 challenger at Valencia in Spain. A new front profile design is a major feature of the FW26, along with the new BMW P84 engine, gearbox and differential. Naturally both Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were present to unveil the car, as well as all the major figures of the WilliamsBMWF1 outfit.
Teammate Montoya was equally positive in his comments: "We had a great deal of anticipation about last year's car, and it turned out to be justified anticipation," said the Colombian. "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."
The 'radical treatment' of the front design attracted much comment. There is a short nose cone and the front wing main plane and associated assemblies are extended forward. There is also a twin keel monococque, which will aid airflow over the front of the car and improve aerodynamics all the way to rear wing.
"It will be immediately evident to onlookers that a high degree of innovative design has gone into the FW26," said designer Gavin Fisher, who worked alongside chief aerodynamicist Antonia Terzi and the structural design team. The car has narrower sidepods, possible after the revision of the cooling system, which will also aid aerodynamic performance.
"There has been a great deal of anticipation on our part about this new car," added Fisher. "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."
Williams had an unsteady start to the 2003 season and it took until mid-season before decent results started coming in. For 2004, the team was determined not make any mistakes: "In 2003 it became evident that we suffered performance-wise as a consequence of launching our car relatively late on in the winter," explained chief operations engineer Sam Michael.
"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,"
"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," explained BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen. "Bigger and heavier engines compromise power. Minimising these losses while still guaranteeing the increased endurance are the goals we have worked towards."
Team principal Frank Williams was straight to the point in stating his goals: "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."
"We have acknowledged our shortcomings of 2003. In 2004, we must be competitive from the off if we are to realise our potential. I have every confidence that the team has all the elements necessary to win in 2004 -- we must simply seize the opportunity."
Williams also acknowledged the contribution of its sponsors and partners; Michelin for tyres, HP for providing much the team's computer needs, and Petrobras for fuel development. The FW26 will have its initial laps later this afternoon at Valencia and will then head to Jerez on the 7th January for testing until the 13th.
FW26 technical specifications:
Transmission: WilliamsF1 semi-automatic
Chassis: Carbon Aramid epoxy composite, manufactured by WilliamsF1
Cooling System: Water and oil radiators
Brakes: Carbon Industrie carbon discs and pads operated by AP calipers
Wheels: O.Z: 13 x 12 front, 13 x 13.7 rear
Cockpit Instrumentation: WilliamsF1 digital data display
Steering Wheel: WilliamsF1
Driver's Seat: Anatomically formed in carbon/epoxy composite material with Alcantara covering
Extinguisher Systems: WilliamsF1/Safety Devices
Front Track: Maximum allowance
Rear track: Maximum allowance
Weight: 605 kg including driver and camera
BMW P84 engine:
Type: Normally aspirated V10
Cylinder angle: 90 degrees
Displacement: 2,998 cc
Cylinders: Four valves per cylinder
Valve drive: Pneumatic
Engine block: Aluminium
Cylinder head: Aluminium
Oil system: Dry sump lubrication
Engine management: BMW