Williams chief technical officer Pat Symonds says the FW38 has been designed to improve the shortcomings of the last year's car with a particular focus on low speed grip and performance.
Despite finishing a comfortable third in the F1 world constructors' championship in 2015 the performance of drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa noticeably dropped off at the slower circuits. Both drivers endured pointless outings at the Monaco and Hungarian Grand Prix – the slowest average speed circuits on the calendar.
Symonds says Williams had been aware of its weaknesses with the FW37 largely before the 2015 season even began and those areas are where the British team has targeted its developments for the new car.
“At Williams we are honest about our mistakes and try to learn from them,” Symonds said. “Just as in the design of the car we always analyse strengths and weaknesses, so we do with the team. This has led to several operational changes for 2016 which, although not particularly visible from the outside, should see the team better able to cope with the many variant scenarios that racing will inevitably throw at them.
“The FW37 was a pretty effective car and so we concentrated on understanding the areas where we could improve it without losing the attributes which made it effective. It is no secret that the low speed performance of the FW37 didn't match its high speed performance so a lot of time was spent looking into why this was and subsequently making changes, which we hope will improve the situation.”
Symonds also explained the concept work on the FW38 began in mid-January 2015 – before the FW37 had even turned a wheel – to analyse where improvements were needed. The Williams chief says last year's design acted as the base point for the FW38, with the new car looking remarkably similar to its predecessor, but key elements such as the monocoque and gearbox receiving a more thorough technical revision.
“As we started running the FW37 we could see more clearly the design directions we wanted to take with the next car and at the same time started laying out the basic architecture such that critical path items would hit their design release targets,” he explained. “The monocoque and gearbox, for example, fall into this category as both need considerable time, not just in design but also in structural analysis.”
Symonds confirms the Mercedes power unit will be '12% louder' due to the extra turbo wastegate exhaust and is optimistic the 2016 tyre regulations will make races less predictable but feels it won't cause a radical shake-up.
“One strength we take into 2016 is stability,” he added. “It is easy to underestimate the power of this but with the same driver pairings and continuity in the engineering team we hope to be up to speed quickly – something particularly important with only eight days of pre-season testing.”