Williams has impressed F1’s eagle-eyed technical experts with an innovation aboard its new FW35.
Although designer Mike Coughlan’s Coanda exhaust solution will have to be removed from the 2013 car, respected German correspondent Michael Schmidt reports on Friday that a clever brake duct solution is fully legal.
The British team probably got the idea from Red Bull, who were ordered by the FIA to remove a similar solution from the title-winning RB8 last year.
The governing body ruled that Red Bull was using the brake ducts as an aerodynamic aid, by channeling airflow through the wheel with the rim, hub and nut all playing a role.
But Auto Motor und Sport’s Schmdit said Williams’ version is legal, crucially because the exit holes for the airflow are stationary, meaning the layout cannot be deemed a banned moveable aerodynamic device.
Williams have been told by the FIA that the exhaust solution for their FW35 car is not legal.
It was already believed a similar solution for the Coanda-effect exhaust on Caterham’s 2013 car definitely falls foul of this year’s rules. Williams’ chief designer Mike Coughlan said in Barcelona on Tuesday, where the team’s new Renault-powered car was revealed and tested for the first time, that he was confident the FW35 complied.
In fact, the two solutions were very similar, but the Williams one more cleverly exploited a loophole about aerodynamics-influencing apertures.
The FIA’s Charlie Whiting was at the Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday, and according to Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt, “it was rumoured Williams had got the FIA’s blessing” before revealing its solution.
“It may be a technicality,” Mercedes’ Ross Brawn is quoted as saying, “but if you read the rules word for word, Williams is on the safe side.”
But Schmidt reported: “This is not the case.”
Schmidt even quoted Whiting as saying both the Caterham and the Williams solution indeed “violate” the rules.
A Williams spokesperson confirmed: “The team spoke with the FIA this morning, which is when they gave us their view.
“The team are now seeking further clarification on this and a decision as to whether this design will be carried forward will be made before the first race.”
Williams on Tuesday completed the 2013 grid by finally launching its new FW35. Every other team got their cars up and running recently at Jerez, triggering many rumours and whispers about the reason for the Oxfordshire team’s delay.
Technical boss Mike Coughlan insists Williams simply wanted to spend more time developing the new car at the Grove base. And he said the location of the first test was another reason.
“As a test track, Jerez is not very meaningful — you can really only do system or reliability checks. The serious testing starts here in Barcelona,” he is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.
The publication’s correspondent Michael Schmidt said the FW35 is “not a sensation”, but there are some details on the front wing and exhaust “not seen” elsewhere in the 2013 field.
Indeed, he said Coughlan’s Coanda exhaust solution enters “the grey areas of the regulations”.
Caterham has similarly raised eyebrows with its 2013 solution, and Coughlan on Tuesday admitted he is one of those who thinks the green car might not be legal. But he told Auto Motor und Sport his solution for the FW35 “adheres to the rules”.
The FW35 is yet to see the light of day, but it will almost certainly feature a ‘vanity panel’ rather than a stepped nose.
Alone amongst the rest of this year’s field, Williams has delayed the debut of its 2013 car until Barcelona later this month, choosing instead to run with last year’s car at Jerez.
But already up and running is the tweaked 2013 livery, while the 2012-specification FW34 also appeared noticeably different for another reason in Pastor Maldonado’s hands on Wednesday.
Brazil’s Globo pointed out that the FW34 was fitted with a smooth nose, unlike the unseemly ‘step’ that featured throughout last year’s championship.
This year, the FIA is allowing teams to use a ‘vanity panel’ to conceal the regulated height difference between the monocoque and nosecone, but some teams – notably Lotus and Caterham – have opted to keep the stepped feature.