Williams was surprisingly able to score points in Belgium. Chief Engineer Dave Robson explains the reasons for the increase in shape. The Briton also reveals why the car is so vulnerable to gusts of wind and what the further development plan for the FW44 looks like.
Before the summer break, Williams had not scored eight points in a row. But in Belgium the knot finally burst again. Alexander Albon raced to ninth place under his own steam in qualifying. Thanks to the many engine penalties, this result was converted into sixth place on the grid on Sunday.
In the race, the Thai couldn't quite confirm his good pace. The hotter temperatures resulted in excessive tire wear. Because the Williams was driving with less downforce than the competition and can therefore quickly slide in the corners, the Williams drivers suffered more than their opponents.
Albon had to look in the rearview mirror early on and let some competitors go. But in a heroic defensive battle, the 26-year-old secured at least one World Championship point. At the finish five cars were breathing down his neck just five seconds apart. "That was one of the toughest races of my F1 career," breathed the pilot afterwards.
Williams fast on straights
Good top speed was the key to Albon being able to keep his opponents behind him. "It's no secret why our car is so fast on the straights. It just doesn't produce as much drag and, by extension, not as much downforce," explained Chief Engineer Dave Robson. "Tracks like Spa, where we can choose our level of downforce, obviously suit us better than tracks like Budapest, where we have to pack all the downforce we have."
The technicians deliberately played top speed at Spa, as Robson revealed. "In the twisty second sector we had the slowest car. That's a consideration that we deliberately made. We didn't think we could be overtaken in the second sector. And if we did, then only by a much better car."
The Williams engineers suspected that, in addition to the appropriate track characteristics, the technology directive for the underbody could also have helped. According to Robson, Williams didn't have to change anything on the car to comply with the rules. "We don't know how badly it affected others, but maybe that played a role. In any case, we didn't expect such a good pace in relation to the others beforehand."
FW44 reacts sensitively to wind
It also helped that there was hardly any wind in Spa. The previous races have shown that the FW44 reacts particularly sensitively when there is a stronger wind. The Grove factory is still investigating the exact reason. The only thing that is clear is that the dog is hidden somewhere in the aerodynamics.The Williams massively loses downforce when the flow is disturbed by gusts.
"If we knew exactly what the problem was, we would have solved the problem by now," Robson grins, a little tormented. "One thing is clear: the more downforce you produce via the individual elements, the more susceptible you are to gusts of wind. We still have to work on that. Since we've had problems like this in the past, it could also be due to the way we drive the car to design."
Until the end of the season, the drivers have to live with this characteristic of their cars. According to Robson, no major upgrades are planned: "We have almost completed the development. If something else comes up now, it's only because we are forced to act because of a specific problem. Otherwise, the work in the factory is already complete until next year aligned."
Chances of scoring points will probably only open up for the Williams drivers on fast circuits like Spa. Apart from Monza, there aren't many of those left on the rest of the calendar. According to Robson, there will be no special aero package for the high-speed battle in Italy. "We run a modified Spa wing there. If you consider the cost cap, that's not a bad solution." In the end, the drivers will probably have to get the coals out of the fire again.