Lance Stroll, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Williams knew it was in trouble on lap one in testing – Lowe

2018 F1 season

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Williams realised it had a significant problem with its FW41 from the moment the car first ran in pre-season testing, chief technical officer Paddy Lowe admits.

The team’s car has been slower than its predecessor in three of the five race weekends so far this year.

“From the minute this car ran it was clear there was some issues we had to deal with, running at this exact track,” said Lowe during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. “We haven’t yet brought anything that solves those so we shouldn’t expect it to be any better. But we will do in due course.”

RaceFans understands the team will not be able to fully address the problem until the German Grand Prix, round 11 of the championship.

“There are issues which we understand – we think – we can never guarantee anything in this business,” said Lowe. “The good news about that is that as you uncover issues and are able to solve them it gives you greater hope for the future. That’s within this year, not writing off this season.”

Williams’ slump in form comes at a difficult time for the team as it is seeking a replacement for title sponsor Martini, which will leave the team at the end of the season. Asked by RaceFans about the difficulties their current form presents for selling sponsorship, Lowe said he takes responsibility for the situation the team is in.

“There’s no real answer to that other than to accept we haven’t done a good enough job. I haven’t done a good enough job in making a right level of progress, I’ve been with the team 12 months and there are things that we should’ve responded to earlier which we haven’t.

“Of course it makes it very difficult commercially, that’s the sport we work in, and you have to recognise what you’ve got to do and go and do it.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 50 comments on “Williams knew it was in trouble on lap one in testing – Lowe”

    1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
      17th May 2018, 18:18

      So basically Kubica will be in the car in Germany?

      1. So basically did you take this from nowhere?
        And after all, is Kubica able or not to grab the steering wheel or this is not required to drive a F1 car?

        1. I assume if he is able to lap 4 tenths faster than the 2 official drivers, then he may then well be able to grab the wheel after all.

        2. Have you not been following testing? There are certainly no problems with his driving!

      2. So thats under the category of changes that Lowe knew about but failed to make haste of.

        1. This is something I am baffled they have not sorted yet. Kubica appears to be faster than both of their other drivers and has a wealth of experience that would be invaluable in helping to fix the issue they have. I would swap Sirotkin and Kubica around. Sirotkin can then learn from Kubica and would still be involved but they could then get a faster driver in the car and get better feedback on what the driving issues are.

          1. Williams know that and I’m sure they would have loved to offer Kubica a full drive, but unfortunately Sotkin simply brought more money! Hopefully there might be a performance clause that swaps them around very soon.

      3. I’m taking this as “if the race drivers do not convert the promise we see in the package for Germany into improvement, then Kubica is likely to be in the car in Spa – and maybe Rowland too”

    2. How can a team get it so wrong!!

      1. @Peter Good question, LOL.

      2. I think hiring Paddy Lowe led them to make fundamental changes to the car, even though the new regulations were still fresh. Possibly a case of changing too much, too fast when their understanding was less than prefect. It probably hurts them a lot letting Massa go, I feel he could lead the development better given his experience.

        I know that people (me included) would like to see Kubica bad, but in the situation they are in it would probably hurt his reputation more, as it would be very hard to make a successful comeback when you have the worst car in the grid.

      3. I think its an outcome of the team having to pick a specific development direction (e.g. slippery car vs. grippy car, long vs. short car), and investing the teams limited resources in progressing that direction. When they realize its wrong, that’s the pre-season test, and they’re unable to quickly change to a different development direction (due to both limited funds, and limited test opportunities). That essentially puts the team on the backfoot for the season, while they try and salvage something.

        Now, one might ask why can’t they just use the 2017 car. While a sensible and justified question, some of the regulations have also caused the cars to fundamentally change (e.g. the mounting points for the halo, as well as updated crash test norms as a result of this). So the best they can do is probably use the earlier car as a reference to help them steer their remedial actions in 2018.

        The other question that might come up is why did they attempt a radical redesign, one that has seemingly backfired. Well, Williams were obviously driven by the need to improve their constructors standing, as seen by the recruitment of Paddy Lowe. And as a result of that remit, they seem to have embarked on a course of a larger redesign instead of incrementally updating their 2017 car. And this – in my opinion – is why Lowe has tacitly taken responsibility for Williams’ current woes.

      4. Mickey's Miniature Grandpa
        17th May 2018, 19:22

        I bet I could do a worse job.

      5. It’s very simple. Lack of thorough understanding how F1 car works. Although F1 industry involves very clever and educated people, they’re not cleverest on this planet. People of broad technical understanding are very rare, people like Adrian Newey, Ross Brawn and few more. They’re kind of people who will turn any team into winning machine. Others are, most of the time, guessing game participants. To cut the long story what Williams folks don’t understand in spite of their great experience is: 1) The axis of roll and how CoG on empty and full tank influences roll characteristic of the car 2) They don’t comprehend that axis of roll is formed by front axle roll center and rear axle roll center 3) The roll characteristic direct influence on aero, especially the diffuser – the roll might increase the rake under lateral acceleration or decrease it and produce undesired effects because the floor rolls with the car. Yeah, it’s the part of the car, some people still guessing about it… It’s a very complexed job to design a good F1 car but what they did is below all standards of good engineering. I’m appalled!

        1. It’s very simple. Lack of thorough understanding how F1 car works.

          That doesn’t sound very simple.

          1. I’m with Keith on this. I don’t think it’s simple. I also think that with testing so limited, what you show up with is heavily dependent upon the quality of your engineering software to simulate how the car will perform. To me, that’s a much a factor of the size of your budget as it is related to the talent of your people.

            1. They needed only one lap to find out what they did. It says it all. Keith, Ross Brawn once described F1 car as a simple machine. What he mant is that principles involved in the design are simple. Implementation is not. However, when you miss fundamental principles you’re in deep deep shtook.

          2. It’s simple to say. If it was simple to do, then F1 would never need to worry about how to fill its vacant team spots ever again…

        2. I think we’re all forgetting how bad the RBR car was at the beginning of 2017 and how long (and presumably how many $) it took to get it back up to speed.

          If the great Adrian Newy’s team Can get it wrong (and they did) then it’s not unreasonable that Williams can. The difference is that Williams don’t have the budget to recover anywhere near as quickly as RBR did, and they took 1/2 a season.

          1. The problem of RBR was wind tunnel calibration. That’s not a problem that F1 TD should be bothered with. Someone in the aero dept should have known that changing the size of wind tunnel model changes interaction of air flow with the tunnel as well. Nothing to do with Adrian mate. Besides, when they discovered the issue they were quickly back on track. Your argument is like Peter Burling should be bothered with maintenance of the winches on his sailboat. He’s skipper man! Same thing with F1 TD. He’s a skipper of the engineering design crew.

            1. Whilst the 2017 car is perhaps a less appropriate comparison, Newey did come up with a few cars that were total disasters.

              Perhaps one of the more high profile examples was the McLaren MP4/18, which was the car that McLaren had originally intended to use in 2003. There were at least two failed crash tests (some sources suggest at least three failures), constant problems with the engine and gearbox overheating that could never be rectified, multiple heavy accidents during testing – possibly because the constant overheating problems were so severe that they were causing the suspension arms to buckle – and chronic unsolvable reliability issues. In the end, that car famously never raced because Newey could never sort the problems it had, with Ron Dennis eventually having to order him to abandon that car and restart from scratch.

              It’s successor, the MP4/19 – which was an evolution of the MP4/18 – began life as a pretty poor car as well – not only was it uncompetitive, it was also fairly unreliable to boot and proved to be pretty troublesome until it went through a fairly major redesign.

            2. I’m glad you’ve mentioned MP4/18 and MP4/19 story. Firstly, it was a period when Adrian contemplated quiting the job completely. However, I rate someones success by everything he’s done, not couple of failures. I’m not sure you’re aware what was the nature of issues on these cars. Norbert Haug, chief of Mercedes’s motor sport activities at the time said that the car has CoG to low. It’s purely mechanical aspect of the car. Adrian Newey is an aerodynamicist and these kind of problems might result from lesser focus on mechanical aspects of the car delegated to specialists in that area of development. He learned the lesson and never made the same kind of mistake again. Now, fifteen years after, with analysis and design methods improved tremendously, we have a car with CoG under the axis of roll. Couple of years ago Bob Smedley says in Monaco that Williams’ problem in qualifying is solved by putting 80kg of fuel on board. What do you think 80kg of fuel does to CoG? Do we have to be rocket scientists to make a sound conclusion? I feel sorry for Dirk de Beer because this is the second time the car he’s done a great job working on aero turns out to be a pig ( Lotus E22 – great concept, rubbish car ). Williams is trailing this problem for long now and I hope they’ll be successful in tackling with it properly. No need to hassle aero guys.

        3. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
          18th May 2018, 9:00

          They have open positions, perhaps you can give it a shot!

          1. Do they mention how much sponsorship you need to bring for each position :p

    3. I knew Williams would be nowhere when I saw their driver lineup. According to Williams’ engineers Kubica was significantly faster than both SIR and STR at Montmeló.

      1. Not only faster but just as important – actually able to improve the car!

        1. I’m not a fan of the Williams Sunday driver line-up, but there is a lot wrong with the car itself.
          Therefore, using an experienced driver who can give good feedback is maybe one of the most important ‘investments’ they should do.
          I’m not even sure if Kubica (out of F1 for quite some time) is the best person for that.

      2. Never doubt the value of a driver that can correctly interpret and explain what the car is doing. Love him or hate him Jacques Villeneuve was the best at interpreting what the car was doing. Every year at BAR, he would bitch about how the chassis was flexing and making the car suck, by the end of the season, BAR would admit he was right. Rosberg was another great engineering based driver who could interpret the car. This is a must have, even if its your reserve driver.
        Point is, this years drivers are stuck with a bad car. That is not their fault. It WILL take more time, because of their inexperience, to work through this. The rate of development in F1 is crazy. If they hired JEV or Buemi to just test the car and give feedback, I dont know if it would be any better than the current drivers, who have had lots more seat time as well as simulator time. The 17/18 cars are a whole new breed of downforce levels.
        All these teams have actual supercomputers now. Think about that for a minute. They should be able to design a car just on CFD by now, Virgin tried and failed what, 8 years ago? The tech should be developed by now. Williams need to take step back and go back to basics. Otherwise, they will be the Tyrell of this era.

        1. More reason to have Kubica in the car…

        2. Sirotkin has a good grounding in engineering: he graduated from Moscow Automobile and Road Construction University in 2017 with a degree in race car engineering.

          1. Well perhaps they should put him in the design department then… ;-)

            Seriously though and engineer is not what is needed. An experienced race driver will give better feedback on what the car needs to do, where the car appears to be weak and what is needed performance wise in order to fix the problems. The engineers then work out what they need to do to meet that requirement. Remember it is highly qualified engineers that have got them to this point in the first place.

          2. Russian road construction engineering? Even Putin takes a truckload of safety measures at a low speed to open a new road :p

    4. Paddy Lowe has absolutely been found out..

      He led McLaren down the garden path in his latter years with the team and to be honest, one never really felt that he was a driving force at Mercedes in the way a tech director should be, moreso a small cog in an already unstoppable machine.

      And now, at Williams, he has been found out.

      1. … and now his ex-Mclaren buddy rumoured to be joining him. You know, the guy responsible for all the slow Mclaren cars over the years….

        Poor Williams.

      2. I have always thought this. When Mercedes hired him, I was like, why? He’s a bit player, not a leader. Good engineer, sure. Lots of experience, sure. Technical director? hardly.

    5. I think this shows the stupidity of the complete private testing ban in F1.

      F1 must be the only sport where practice, try-outs and testing is banned. Imagine if Premier League players were banned from training, testing or practice. Or maybe professional snooker players being banned from the table until the first event of their season.
      It wouldn’t make sense, would it?
      Should we consider a return to open private testing – but one that doesn’t allow the richer teams to thunder around day after day? What about allowing 1 day of private testing for the WCC team, two days for the second place team, three days for the third, etc etc. It might help level the playing field and avoid the current Williams problem.

      1. Think of the costs involved. That model may mean Merc get one day of testing and Williams 10, but could low funded teams bear that cost, even if it brings some much needed clarity and performance?
        Think of the freight charges, extra personnel costs etc.

        1. @keithcollantine I understand and agree, but factory testing isn’t anything like the same. Viz the opening sentence of your article.

          Williams realised it had a significant problem with its FW41 from the moment the car first ran in pre-season testing, chief technical officer Paddy Lowe admits.

          I should have added the words ‘out of season’ to my original assertion about testing.

        2. @HeMan I understand about the costs etcetera, perhaps I should have added the words ‘up to’ to my private testing proposal. In that way, the less affluent and successful teams could design their private testing schedule according to the resources.
          I’m looking for ways in which the less successful teams can catch up to the others and in which they can avoid the awful realisation that’s being described in the article. If they were allowed to run private testing, the shortcomings of the new car might have become apparent and they may have been able to rectify the situation before the official pre-season test days with all the other teams.

      2. @nickwyatt

        F1 must be the only sport where practice, try-outs and testing is banned.

        It isn’t banned. They just had a two-day test.

        And they can do an enormous amount of testing – of a different kind – in their factories, whether on chassis rigs, power train dynos or simulators.

        1. I think one of the issues is that the testing is too late. By the time they get to put the car on track it is already too late to make any significant changes. If they find out the car and simulator are not aligned then that is their season pretty much over.

          I also can’t see why they can’t have a test at each race weekend (I know they have practice but that is still under significant rules and they still have to use the power unit allocation it is not a true testing period but perhaps they could turn P1 into such a thing?). It would add very little cost. I think @nickwyatt has a point. When I was an athlete I would train every day. I would be working on starts, block positioning, psychology, power, fitness etc every single day in preparation for the races. Now athletics is not a technological sport and I would have thought it is even more important in F1 than any other.

          1. lee1, private testing is fairly expensive – I have a recollection that, a few years back, the teams revealed that the reason why they were holding that collective pre-season test was because the cost of holding that test was around €3 million, and even the larger teams were baulking having to pay seven figure sums to hold a private test session (hence the move to collective tests that allowed them to split the costs).

      3. This is a very good idea to give the smaller teams an option, not a requirement, to test and learn. Should be implemented and the cost taken from Liberty in the spirit of American NFL draft system.

      4. What about allowing 1 day of private testing for the WCC team, two days for the second place team, three days for the third, etc etc.

        As someone who always disliked the idea of a success ballast….

        (that said, to be fair I guess it sounds viable enough. Would still do more to “kill” F1 than the halo though for me. Then again I guess where does that leave Q2-tyred top-10 starters?)

        1. I am totally against success ballast as well (or any gimmick impact race day itself).
          But some ‘testing credits’ for the lower teams could be interesting.
          You might even be able to do it during the Friday sessions (no extra cost). Less successful teams can use the full 2 sessions, whereas the more successful ones have less time, and carry more unpredictability (that’s not a ‘ballast’ to me) into the race to spice it up.

    6. Lyle Clarke
      18th May 2018, 5:11

      In terms of results, Paddy Lowe has gone from the best team to the worst. Depressing.

      1. Only way from Mercedes is down.

      2. Maybe that’s a major reason he is struggling. He was one of the key players at Mercedes but no the one guy who was responsible for it all. You going a team like Williams which have a fraction of the resources and facilities of Mercedes and you start struggling to deliver.

        I still think he’s a solid hire for Williams, but he’s just got it wrong this time around. It happens to them all. Allison failed to deliver at Ferrari as well. So it’s not completely unrealistic that it just didn’t work out this time. I think how they recover from this situation will give us a good idea of Lowe’s ability as a technical director. He does have massive challenges though, especially considering he has two clueless drivers to get feedback from.

    7. I suppose we will have to see what their mid-season updates to the car bring, but I get the feeling the only way for Williams to keep going at a reasonable level is for Mercedes to accept them as their B-team. That way, they might get some better drivers too…

      1. @adrianmorse

        It would be a sad state of affairs if we see Williams, a team with a richer legacy than Mercedes in F1, become a Mercedes B team.

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