As in the previous season, also in 2021 Williams, Alfa Romeo and Haas share the last three positions in the constructors’ standings, but in a completely reshuffled order, reflecting how each team is the protagonist of a different path from its rivals. Haas consciously opts to sacrifice the 2021 championship, given the already complicated technical framework at the end of 2020, concentrating its resources on the new technical cycle. Alfa Romeo, on the other hand, is the author of a notable leap in performance during the winter, placing itself closer to the center-group than to the back of the grid, but it is Williams who expresses the best progression during the year.
Already during the 2020 championship Williams invests a single token for development, without ever revealing the area affected by the changes. The remaining token is never spent again, which is why the 2021 FW43B is identical in structure to its predecessor from the previous championship. The car is equipped with the new Mercedes power unit revised in the intake system, a feature that involves a different design as well as a new installation of the plenum, the volume from which the cylinders cyclically suck in the air for combustion. With the exception of McLaren, the shape of the new plenum shines through the hood of the other single-seaters driven by the units of Brixworth, namely Mercedes and Aston Martin, but on the Williams 2021 this aspect is not perceptible from the outside. In fact, the Grove team maintains its own technical identity, breaking away from the concepts of the Mercedes school and believing in its own design philosophy. The hood is profoundly renewed compared to the 2020 specification, with the lower part of the bellies characterized by a more squared outline. The same fairing sidepods of the side radiators feature an accentuated downward inclination to direct the flows adhering to the surfaces towards the rear (1), encouraging the extraction of air from the diffuser and increasing the generation of load from the bottom. Overall, however, the hood appears extremely bulky (2), conspicuously bulkier than the competition, suggesting some difficulties in cooling the internal components.
Grove’s technicians work intensively on the aerodynamic look during the winter, a considerable commitment considering the last position in the 2020 World Championship that would have prompted many other teams to focus entirely on the 2022 project. In the comparison between the FW43B and the previous version, it transpires how the management of the flows that hit the car is completely revised starting from the front end, where it stands out a new front wing characterized by a more elaborate main profile and an extension of the upper profile. The flow deviators and other aerodynamic structures in the center of the car near the side radiators are also updated with respect to 2020. The result of this work is a car that is particularly sensitive to the wind, a feature sought after to have a more effective single-seater in conditions. neutral climatic conditions.
During the season the FW43B is not provided with particular aerodynamic updates, however managing to express a continuous growth thanks to a better understanding of the car by the team which leads to the definition of more effective set-ups and strategies. Williams reaches maximum form in the central part of the championship, a period in which he places himself in front of Alfa Romeo in the performance hierarchies and even going so far as to undermine the competition from the center of the group. The skills of George Russell contribute to collecting important placings in qualifying, the constancy of which, however, attests to the progress of the single-seater. Among the results on Saturday stands the eleventh place in the Grand Prix of Styria, improved in the ninth place of the Grand Prix of Austria, an occasion in which Williams even qualified for Q3 with medium tires excluding the two Ferraris with the same compound. The progression continues with the eighth place on the grid at Silverstone and, after the negative parenthesis in Budapest, a choice of set-up with greater load by betting on the rain yields the front row in Belgium, accompanied by the twelfth place in qualifying for Nicholas Latifi. At Zandvoort Russell finished eleventh on Saturday, but the mistakes of both drivers prevented the team from realizing what they had built, with the car potentially able to enter Q3 again. Finally in Russia, in wet track conditions, George Russell climbs to third position in qualifying, being among the first to mount slick tires in the final, a choice that grants him a precious extra lap to warm the tires before the attempt. decisive.
In the race, the Grove team conquers the points in Budapest and Spa, in two Grand Prix races characterized by extraordinary circumstances, but the team also enters the top-10 also in Monza and Sochi, always managing to exploit every opportunity. One of the best performances of the season, however, is that of the Austrian Grand Prix, a circumstance in which Russell is eleventh under the checkered flag, after having tried to defend tenth place with his teeth from the assaults of Fernando Alonso, at the end of a race without external variables. The progress compared to 2020 is tangible, considering that the qualifying mapping of the Mercedes power unit contributed to the Q2 placements in the previous championship, no longer usable in 2021 with the single mapping rule for the entire weekend.
“Having captured those first points in Budapest showed everyone that we can maximize the package “, explains George Russell, “maybe venture more to find a little more performance and reap a better result. We take advantage of the inertia of the moment and now we do things the right way ”. Among the other positive elements to underline in Williams’ season, the specific aerodynamic package developed for the Monza race stands out, including new front (bottom) and rear wings, a job not done in the 2020 edition and almost unexpected by a cross-country team. long focused on 2022. “This year we brought a new Monza specific rear wing“, says Nicholas Latifi. “It was one of our weaknesses in the past, how slow we were on the straight; therefore, we have developed something new to make sure we are fast on the forehand. At the same time, however, we are very lacking in the corners […]”. The package for the Brianza stage therefore becomes an expression of the team’s mentality, no longer concerned solely with surviving the current season, as happened in 2019 and 2020, but intent on enhancing the car and seizing every opportunity to accumulate experience.
However, at the same time in Monza the team found a performance below the expectations of the package developed for the Italian trip, throwing the spectrum of poor correlation between simulation tools, wind tunnel data and the runway. The limited aerodynamic updates during the season are in fact one of the main unknowns for the future of the team, which in 2021 has few opportunities to verify the representativeness of its aerodynamic simulation methods, the same ones used to give life to the 2022 single-seater. The FW43B moreover, it continues to highlight deep gaps in the corners, not associated only with aerodynamics, but also with the mechanical grip guaranteed by the suspension group.
In 2022, the Grove team will extend its partnership with Mercedes which will also use the transmission, classified by the regulations as a transferable component. Williams will thus switch to a gearbox with a carbon fiber outer casing, while until 2021 the team was the only one on the grid to use an aluminum alloy metal structure, a significant leap forward in terms of compromise between weight and stiffness, the latter also crucial in terms of suspension kinematics rear. The new car will no longer see George Russell at the wheel, but will be driven by another young man not new to Formula 1, Alex Albon, as well as by Nicholas Latifi, who has expressed significant improvements in 2021 and who will guarantee the team a solution of continuity. . The prerequisites for continuing to climb from the bottom are all there, but as always, only the track will decide how much the potential will be converted into concrete results.
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