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Williams chief technology officer Paddy Lowe: 'All problems can be solved'

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Interview with Williams technical director Paddy Lowe
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H you a clearer picture of what's wrong with the car?

Lowe: We have circled the problems. The new front wing did what we expected it to do. But this is just a construction site. As you start digging, you will find more and more problems. We have to make up a lot of ground. Now there is also the pressure of how much energy we can still put into the current car and how much into next year’s. The rule change for 2019 is significant. In the meantime, we have to endure the pain until a solution is found.

What exactly is the problem?

Lowe: Mainly the aerodynamics. Of course, you never have enough downforce. But it's more than that. The platform lacks stability. We've fallen behind since last year.

If you look at the Williams like that, then nothing seems to be wrong. You haven't taken any excessive design risks?

Lowe: We have a very ambitious cooling concept. You may be able to tell by the strong undercut of the side boxes. It's bigger than many other cars. But that has its challenges inside the car. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to take advantage of it yet.

What was wrong with the front wing?

Lowe: I want to don't go into detail. The front wing is one of many components that we are looking at. We hope that we can make some more changes to the car in the first races after the summer break. But that won't be half of what we need. Nevertheless, we hope for a better second half of the season before we concentrate fully on the 2019 car.

How do you explain that it works quite well on some tracks like Baku and Monaco?

Lowe: The car is not terrible everywhere. It has a couple of good properties too. The car prefers slow corners with short radii. Unfortunately we had a few tracks in the summer where exactly the opposite was the case.

Are you getting the most out of your tires?

Lowe : I think we understand the tires quite well now. After five years with Pirelli tires, there should be hardly any gaps in understanding.

What is the lesson you learned?

Lowe: It is stillnot over. We can talk about lessons at the end of the season.

Did you ever have such a difficult situation in your Formula 1 time?

Lowe: At McLaren in 2009, it was similar. We had fought for the title with Ferrari until the end of 2008 and only looked into the 2009 car late. Other teams had invented things like the double diffuser. During this time we got to know the limits of our wind tunnel. The new regulations have made this deficit clear to us. We were nowhere at the start of the season. In the second race in Malaysia we were right at the back of the grid. But we still turned the tide and won two races in the second half of the season. We won't succeed this year. The situation is not directly comparable, but we should learn from it that you can pull yourself out of the swamp again if all parties work on the problem in a targeted, disciplined, calm and united manner. In the end, it's a technical problem that we have to solve. All technical problems are solvable.

How great is the temptation to write off the year 2018 and concentrate on 2019 early?

Lowe: It sure is a temptation. But giving up is not in the team spirit. We need to understand what is wrong before we move on. Otherwise we'll build in the same bugs again.

Completely new aero rules apply next year. Will today's solution be tomorrow?

Lowe: That will be transferable. This is not about a specific component that will be available in a different form next year. It's about a concept.

Would your problem be easier to solve if you had experienced pilots?

Lowe: It is better for any team if it had two multiple world champions. But we can't have that. Our problems have nothing to do with the inexperience of our pilots. You do a good job in a difficult situation. The car wouldn't be better if we had other drivers.

Sergey Sirotkin did not feel comfortable in the cockpit for a long time. Is he too big?

Lowe: That has nothing to do with his size. We have had problems with the seat belts for a while. It sounds like an easy task, but it took us much longer to solve this problem than we thought. That was quite a distraction for him for a while. Now everything is fine again.

How big are the rule changes for 2019?

Lowe: Quite big. Bigger than 2017 with the wide cars. The narrow cars operated by the same laws as the wide ones. The front wing characteristics had hardly changed. The only effect of this rule change was that it gave us more space for aerodynamic elements, which of course we used. The 2014 rule change affectedmainly installing the new engines. So it wasn't comparable either. In 2009 we had a massive rule change. The one from 2019 is about three quarters of the size.

The goal in 2009 was to make overtaking easier. At that time you were on the overtaking committee. From what you know from the 2019 rules: will the project succeed in making overtaking easier?

Lowe: I am optimistic. You can never be sure. In 2009, engineers immediately found an antidote. The front wing end plates directed the air past the wheels outside instead of inside. That created new overtaking problems. Today we know that. We researched it scientifically and understood it better. The new rules prevent this effect. It's a shame it took us 9 years to come to this conclusion.

But the Y250 vortices will remain?

Lowe: There are always some kind of vortex produced. This is the toad we have to swallow. These cars are built to run as fast as possible. Even if we could stop the Y250 vortices, other vortices would appear elsewhere. I can promise you: the Y250 vertebrae will be preserved. But Nikolas Tombazis has tried everything to prevent us from inventing new eddies in the area outside the wheels. I think he did a pretty good job of that.

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